Act III. Scene I. - A Heath.
The King of France may well invade England. Kent
sends a messenger to Cordelia to keep her aware of King
Amid lightning and storms, Kent and a Gentleman discuss
Lear's situation. We learn that the King of France is
planning to invade. We also learn of the growing conflict
between the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall.
Kent entrusts the Gentlemen to head for Dover where
he is to report on Lear's suffering to allies and subjects
of France already in England. Should he see Cordelia,
a ring given by Kent will let Cordelia tell the Gentlemen
who Kent is.
Act III. Scene II. - Another Part of the Heath.
King Lear: "a man / More sinn'd against than sinning."
Lear braves the elements against a storm, no doubt
symbolic of his tortured soul...
Lear cries out to the elements, "Blow, winds, and crack
your cheeks! rage! blow!" (Line 1). The Fool suggests
by riddle that Lear seek shelter. Kent enters and Lear
continues to torture himself to the elements, famously
saying "I am a man / More sinn'd [sinned / wronged]
against than sinning" (Line 58). Kent announces that
he has found a nearby hovel that will serve as shelter.
They enter and the Fool ends the scene in riddle.
Act III. Scene III. - A Room in Gloucester's
Edmund: "The younger rises when the old doth fall."
Gloucester lets slip to his traitorous son Edmund
that the army of France is poised to invade, guaranteeing
Gloucester's own future suffering. We learn more
of a potential conflict between Regan and Goneril, centering
on their husbands...
Gloucester and Edmund talk. Gloucester reaffirms the
growing animosity (hatred) between the two Dukes. Gloucester
is not happy that when he wanted to leave Goneril and
Regan to mourn Lear's plight, they denied him use of
his house, and told him not to in any way help Lear
(Lines 1-7). We learn that "There is division between
the Dukes," signaling further potential division
between Regan and Goneril (Line 8).
Gloucester now makes the mistake of trusting Edmund,
telling him of a letter locked in his closet. They explain
that Lear's suffering will be avenged by a foreign power
(France) already on English soil.
Gloucester tells Edmund to speak with the Duke to distract
him, telling Edmund to say he is sick if called upon.
Edmund now alone, realizes he has an opportunity to
betray his father for personal gain when he says "The
younger rises when the old doth [does] fall" (the younger
himself rises, when the older, his father Gloucester
falls), (Line 26).
Act III. Scene IV. - The Heath. Before a Hovel.
King Lear: "Is man no more than this?"
Lear is eventually brought out of the elements.
Lear explains that its physical torment upon him distracted
him from the pain his daughters have given him. Edgar,
Gloucester's legitimate son, makes his appearance,
disguised as "poor Tom."
Battled by the elements, Lear is troubled by his daughters:
"This tempest will not give me leave to ponder / On
things would hurt me more" (this storm will not give
me leave or allow me to be distracted, to think about
things like my daughters that would hurt me more), (Line
The Fool enters the hovel. Lear decides to stay out
to pray: "I'll pray, and then I'll sleep" (Line 27).
Again showing that he has gained true insight from his
suffering, Lear laments that he has not cared enough
for those "Poor naked wretches," (his less fortunate
subjects), who must endure this storm (Line 28). Lear
says he has "ta'en [taken] / Too little care of
this" (Line 32).
Edgar makes his appearance at the hovel as a seeming
madman and the Fool is reluctant to let him in. Kent
tells the Fool to let "poor Tom" as he is
known in. He describes the "foul fiend" pursuing
him (Lines 43-62).
Hearing Edgar's (disguised as poor Tom) tortured murmuring,
Lear asks if Tom has been brought to this by his daughters:
"What! have his daughters brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
(did you give them all), (Line 62). The Fool explains
that Edgar reserved or at least kept a blanket, "else
we had been all shamed" or else Edgar would be
completely naked (Line 65).
Lear asks Edgar "What hast thou been?" (what
were you) to which Edgar replies that he was once "A
servingman, proud in heart and mind;" a reference
to Edgar's earlier status before Edmund reduced him
to a criminal on the run (Line 84). Lear now famously
asks, "Is man no more than this?" (Line 100) later tearing
off his clothes to brave the elements completely naked
Gloucester enters and is dismayed at the poor quality
of the King's company (Line 146). Kent fears Lear is
losing his mind to which Gloucester responds that given
Lear's daughters betrayal this is not surprising. Gloucester
then describes the pain his own child (Edgar) has given
him. Lear agrees to enter the hovel only if his philosopher
(Edgar) joins him, finally leaving the cruel elements...
Act III. Scene V. - A Room in Gloucester's Castle.
Cornwall and Edmund speak. After implicating his father
Gloucester as a traitor against Cornwall, Edmund is
rewarded for his family disloyalty by receiving his
father's title as the new Earl of Gloucester. Cornwall
tells Edmund to seek out his father saying "he may be
ready for our apprehension" or punishment (Line 20).
Act III. Scene VI. - A Chamber in a Farmhouse
adjoining the Castle.
Lear and company find solace and safety in a farmhouse.
Lear showing signs of madness, holds a mock trial to
punish his daughters. Kent leads Lear to Dover where
he will be safe...
Gloucester leads Lear, Kent, the Fool and the disguised
Edgar to a farmhouse. Gloucester leaves to get provisions.
Lear seeking justice, arranges a mock trial for his
absent daughters, saying that "I will arraign [arrange
/ set] them [Goneril and Regan] straight" or bring
his daughters to justice (Line 23). Edgar and the Fool
are to be the judges. Edgar in an aside (private speech)
has difficulty in his role, such is his sadness (Lines
63-64). Goneril and Regan are addressed in absence or
rather as the accepting Fool says as joint-stools (these
joint-stools actually substitute for Regan and Goneril),
(Line 55) and Gloucester arrives again. Kent warns him
that Lear's wits are all but gone (Line 96).
Gloucester tells Kent that Lear's life is in danger
and that Kent should take Lear to Dover where he will
be safe (Line 98). Edgar now alone, philosophizes on
his situation: "When we our betters see bearing our
woes, / We scarcely think our miseries our foes" (when
we see our betters or superiors bearing our problems,
we rarely think our miseries to be our enemies), (Line
Act III. Scene VII. - A Room in Gloucester's
Gloucester is captured and tortured first having
his beard ripped away and later being made blind. Unable
to bear Cornwall's brutality any longer, a slave
Cornwall, Regan, Goneril and Edmund are discussing
the traitorous Gloucester. Regan wants him hanged immediately
(Line 4). Goneril suggests that his eyes be plucked
out (Line 5). Cornwall advises them to leave Gloucester
to him. Oswald enters reporting that Gloucester has
sent King Lear to some well-armed friends near Dover.
Gloucester is captured and as Cornwall insults him,
Regan tears off his beard (Line 34) Gloucester reminds
his captors of the wrong they do him when he is their
host. Cornwall asks Gloucester about the letters he
has received from France. Gloucester is silent.
Gloucester tells him that he sent Lear to Dover because
he could not bear to see "thy [your] cruel nails / Pluck
out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister / In his
anointed flesh stick boarish fangs" (your nails pluck
out Lear's eyes nor your fierce sister stick or sink
her boarish fangs into his flesh), (Line 57).
Shortly after these words are made, Cornwall takes
out one of Gloucester's eyes, telling Gloucester that
"Upon these eyes of thine [yours] I'll set my foot"
by which Cornwall means he will crush Gloucester's eyes
under his foot (Line 68). Regan tells Cornwall to remove
the second eye when a servant suddenly wounds Cornwall
in a fight; the First Servant could no longer bear his
master's cruelty (Line 70).
Despite the First Servant's death, Cornwall completes
his gruesome task. Now blind, Gloucester asks for his
son Edmund. Regan explains to him that Edmund hates
him and that "it was he [Edmund] / That made the
overture of thy treasons to us," (Line 89) or told
Cornwall and Regan of Gloucester's support for Lear
and now Gloucester realizes that Edgar was his good
son, not Edmund (Line 85-90).
Gloucester is thrown out of the castle to smell his
way to Dover. The remaining servants decide to follow
Gloucester and tend to his bleeding face, the Second
Servant fetching the "Bedlam" (Edgar) to lead
Gloucester where he wishes (Line 104).