Act V. Scene I. - The British Camp near Dover.
Goneril: "I had rather lose the battle than that sister
/ Should loosen him and me."
Regan and Goneril put Edmund on the spot by demanding
he choose which one of them he loves. Albany decides
to fight on Regan and Goneril's side but only to
fight an invading power (France).
Edmund, Regan and various "Officers, Soldiers
and Others" enter. Unsure of Albany's loyalties,
Edmund dispatches an officer to find out.
Regan fears that Oswald may have met some harm and
fearing her sister, both declares her love for Edmund
and interrogates him on his feelings for her sister.
Regan makes this clear when she says that "I never shall
endure her: dear my lord, / Be not familiar [intimately
familiar] with her" (Line 15). Edmund tells her to "Fear
me not [trust me]" (Line 16). Goneril and Albany arrive.
Curiously, Goneril in an aside exclaims that "I had
rather lose the battle than that sister / Should loosen
him [Edmund] and me" (Line 17). Albany will fight on
the side of Regan and Goneril but only because "France
invades our land," (Line 25).Goneril and Regan support
this move, Goneril remarking that now is not the time
to ponder over "domestic and particular broils" (Line
Edgar, disguised, delivers a letter to Albany which
proves Goneril's intention to have Edmund kill her husband,
The Duke of Albany so she can live with Edmund (first
mentioned in Act IV Scene VII), (Lines 40-49). Edmund
and Albany make plans to meet the enemy. In an aside,
Edmund mulls over the competition for his love by Regan
and Goneril and the delicate balancing act he is being
forced to make (Lines 550-69) whilst commenting that
once the battle is over, Lear and Cordelia will be dealt
with, adding that they "Shall never see his pardon;"
Act V. Scene II. - A Field between the two Camps.
Edgar: "King Lear hast lost, he and his daughter ta'en."
Cordelia's forces lose to Goneril's and Regan's
army and Cordelia and Lear are taken prisoner.
Lear, Cordelia and her forces are all present. Both
forces are soon to be locked in battle. Edgar leads
his father to the safety of a nearby tree and vows to
Edgar returns and the news is not good; "King Lear
hast [has] lost, he and his daughter ta'en" (King Lear
has lost, both he and Cordelia have been taken or captured),
(Line 6). Gloucester despairs but with support from
Edgar, finds the strength to go on.
Act V. Scene III. - The British Camp, near Dover.
King Lear: "She's dead as earth."
Captured, King Lear tries to comfort Cordelia. Albany
congratulates his allies but now turns on them. Edgar
fights his brother Edmund, mortally wounding him. Goneril
kills herself and poisons sister Regan. Edgar
reveals his true identity to Gloucester who dies from
a heart unable to take both grief and joy. Albany and
the dying Edmund try to prevent Lear and Cordelia being
hanged but are too late for Cordelia. Lear howls with
pain at his loss of Cordelia. Kent is finally recognized
for his loyalty by Lear. Lear, unable to take further
pain, dies. Albany is left to restore order following
Edmund orders some officers to take Lear and Cordelia
away to await their fate as prisoners of the failed
invasion (Lines 1-3). Lear tries to cheer Cordelia up,
telling her to "Wipe thine eyes; / The goujeres shall
devour them, flesh and fell, / Ere they shall make us
weep: we'll see 'em [them] starve first" (don't
weep Cordelia, these goujeres, a French disease will
devour them. We'll see them starve first than weep),
Edmund instructs an officer to do an unspecified task
(kill Lear and Cordelia) for him, contained within a
paper given to the officer. Success will bring the officer
great fortune Edmund tells him; the officer accepts
Albany, Goneril and Regan are in discussion. Albany
comments that "fortune led you well;" (Line 42) in discussing
the success of the sister's forces. Edmund informs them
that he has placed Lear and Cordelia under guard to
await further action. Albany now begins to turn on his
allies, telling Edmund that "Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war, / Not as a brother"
Regan stands up for Edmund, but Albany will not change
his mind. Regan and Goneril exchange barbs over their
love for Edmund (Lines 68-78). Edmund explains to Albany
that there is little he can do to create peace on this
Presently, Albany announces his intention to arrest
Edmund for capital treason (Line 84) "and, in thy [your]
arrest, / This guilded serpent" pointing to Goneril.
Albany now informs Regan that since his wife Goneril
appears to be involved with Edmund, Regan may now consider
him as a husband (Lines 86-88). Albany now challenges
Edmund to fight and Regan departs exclaiming "My sickness
grows upon me" (Line 106).
A Herald enters and to the sound of a trumpet, reads
aloud a statement. It asks for anyone who challenges
the claim that Edmund "supposed Earl of Gloucester,"
(Line 114) is a traitor to speak before the third sounding
of the trumpet. Edgar enters and draws his sword. Edmund
refuses to fight such a dirty person who "looks
so fair and war-like," (Line 143). They fight, and Edmund
who did not ask for Edgar's name falls. Tellingly, Albany
wishes that Edmund will be safe.
Goneril explains that Edmund should not have accepted
the fight as by the law of arms, he was not bound to
answer him. Angry, Albany rudely exclaims "Shut your
mouth, dame, / Or with this paper shall I stop it" (shut
your mouth or with this paper I will shut it), (Line
Albany now knows of Goneril's subterfuge, describing
her as "worse than any name," (Line 157). Goneril tries
to assert that she decides the law, earning further
spite from Albany. Albany gives the letter he has obtained
to Edmund. Edmund knowing it will implicate him, asks
not be questioned on it.
Albany tells Edmund to go after Goneril, but knowing
the end is near, Edmund asks who his assailant was (Line
167). Edgar reveals his true identity now and Albany
embraces Edgar as a noble brother. Edmund explains his
suffering and that of his father (Lines 182-200).
Edgar explains to Albany how he disguised himself and
protected his father, The Earl of Gloucester. He also
explains that when he revealed his true identity to
his father, it was too great a strain for his "flaw'd
heart," (flawed, weak heart) which "'Twixt
[between] two extremes of passion, joy and grief, /
Burst smilingly" (Gloucester, his heart torn between
both grief and joy has died smiling), (Lines 198-199).
The loyalty of Kent is also mentioned. A Gentleman
carrying a bloody knife arrives. He announces that Albany's
lady (Goneril) is dead by her own hands (a bloody knife),
her sister Regan was poisoned by her. Edmund remarks
that all three of them (Regan, Edmund and Goneril) "Now
marry in an instant" (we are now all married or joined
together instantly by our deaths), (Line 230).
Kent enters to bid his King and master good night.
Albany now realizes that they have forgotten someone:
"Great thing of us forgot! Speak, Edmund, where's the
king? and where's Cordelia?" (Lines 238-239).
The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in. Edmund
remarks on the fact that one killed the other for him.
Edmund now near death, decides to do some good though
he knows it's against his nature.
He tells Albany, Edgar and Kent to "Quickly send, /
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ / Is on the
life of Lear and on Cordelia" (go to the castle with
this sword as proof of his identity, to stop Lear and
Cordelia being killed), (Line 248). Edmund explains
that an officer has the commission from both himself
and his wife to hang Cordelia in prison, and to lay
the blame for this on Cordelia's own despair since it
will look like suicide. Edgar leaves at once with Edmund's
sword before it is too late... Edmund is borne off or
Lear enters with the dead Cordelia in his arms. Howling
with pain, he wishes his daughter alive to no avail.
He makes it clear that he is not completely mad, knowing
when one is dead or not. "She's dead as earth"
he says (Line 263).
Lear explains that he "kill'd the slave"
that was hanging Cordelia (Lines 276-290).
Lear recognizes Kent and welcomes him, finally realizing
Kent's true loyalty. An Officer enters announcing Edmund's
death. Albany remarks that this news is "but a trifle
here" (Line 298), and Albany acknowledges Lear as the
true ruler of his kingdom, pledging his service to him.
Those who supported Lear, namely Edgar and Kent will
be rewarded, Albany explains.
Devastated and now completely broken, the long suffering
Lear finally breathes his last breaths and dies, still
hoping to find life in his beloved Cordelia.
Albany, Kent and Edgar remain. Albany explains that
they must now restore order to their land. Kent explains
that he cannot help in this task, for "I have a journey,
sir, shortly to go; / My master calls me, I must not
say no" (Line 324).
Albany ends this tragedy with insight:
"The weight of this sad time we must obey; / Speak
what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath
[has] borne [suffered] most: we that are young, / Shall
never see so much, nor live so long" (Line 328).