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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT IV, SCENE 5

Summary

Goneril and Regan have become adversaries, both scheming to win Edmund's love. Goneril sends a letter to Edmund through her trusted servant, Oswald. Upon reaching Gloucester Castle, Oswald is met by Regan, who tries to persuade him to reveal the contents of Goneril's letter. When he refuses, their conversation turns to the state of affairs in England. He tells her that Albany is quite reluctant to take up arms against the French army. Goneril tells Oswald that Gloucester is turning people against them and that his being alive has brought unnecessary problems. Edmund has, therefore, gone to kill his father.

Regan again tries to get Goneril's letter from Oswald, but he refuses. Regan then confides that she is to wed Edmund. He has supposedly decided that Regan is the better match for him, since she is a widow. She asks Oswald to convey this news to Goneril and to convince her to act wisely. What Regan does not know is that Goneril has planned to kill Albany, becoming a widow herself; she will then be free to wed Edmund. The two evil sisters are vying to outdo each other in their wickedness.


Notes

It is not surprising that the two evil sisters have turned against one another, for neither knows the meaning of loyalty. Desperate to have the love of Edmund, Regan has planned the murder of her husband, Albany; his death will make her a widow and free her to marry Edmund. But according to Goneril, the two-faced, amoral Edmund has already pledged himself to marry Goneril, even though he has told Regan that he loved her. By creating this sibling rivalry, Shakespeare further complicates an already complex plot.

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