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King Lear Commentary - Act II.

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Act II. Scene I. - A Court within the Castle of the Earl of Gloucester.

We learn of possible conflict between evil sisters Regan and Goneril. Edmund further manipulates Edgar. Gloucester learns from Edmund of Edgar's plan to kill him and believes it...

Edmund speaks with Curan, a Courtier. He learns from Curan that in time there may be possible conflict between the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall. Edgar enters and Edmund advises Edgar to leave, saying "My father watches: O sir! fly this place; [our father watches this place, get out of here, fly!]" (Line 22).

Edmund asks whether Edgar has spoken with either the Duke of Cornwall or The Duke of Albany learning Edgar has not. Seeing his father approach, Edmund tells Edgar to "seem to defend yourself;" (look like your defending yourself) and then tells Edgar to flee (Line 32). Edmund now draws his own blood with his sword to appear wounded (Line 34).

Gloucester arrives, wondering who the villain was. Edmund explains it was Edgar who was trying to "Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;" (convince or persuade me to kill you), (Line 46). Enraged, Gloucester wants his traitorous son found (Lines 44-63). Edmund stokes the fire by suggesting that not only did Edgar want to kill his father, but that if he were exposed, he would explain his intent away as lies (Lines 66-79).

Gloucester now wants all ports barred from his traitorous son: "All ports I'll bar; the villain shall not 'scape;" (all ports I'll bar, the villain, my son will not escape), (Line 82). Regan and Cornwall arrive and upon learning of Edgar's "loyalty", embrace (take) him as one of their own, Gloucester thanking Cornwall (Lines 87-130). Regan seeks Gloucester's advise in dealing with the now wayward and difficult Lear who has caused problems for her sister Goneril. Gloucester agrees to do what he can...

Act II. Scene II. - Before Gloucester's Castle.

Kent and Oswald fight. Kent is placed in stocks emphasizing just how little Lear's name is now respected by daughters Regan and Goneril...

Kent and Oswald are speaking. It is clear that Kent has little respect for Oswald, a man who had earlier disrespected his King. Kent describes Oswald as "A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worst-stocking knave;" (Lines 14-26).

Disgusted with what Oswald is, Kent challenges him to fight, shouting "Draw, you rascal; you come with letters against the king," (draw you rascal, you come with written letters against King Lear), (Line 39).

Edmund arrives parting the two. Cornwall, Regan and Gloucester arrive and the net result is that despite Kent's pleas for justice, Cornwall orders that Kent be placed in stocks (large wooden medieval devise that clamps a person down by the feet used for punishment).

Gloucester pleads that this not be done to no avail (success). He warns that Lear will not be happy to see his servant so punished. We learn from Kent that Cordelia is being kept abreast (aware) of current developments in England (Line 173).

Act II. Scene III. - A Part of the Heath.

Edgar now alone and disguised, describes his fate of living in hiding.

Act II. Scene IV. - Before Gloucester's Castle. Kent in the stocks.

King Lear: "this heart / Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws / Or ere I'll weep."

Showing complete disregard for King Lear's authority, Kent remains in stocks. Lear tells Regan how much Goneril has hurt him. Regan in consultation with Goneril allows Lear to stay but without a single follower. Lear decides not to stay with either daughter...

Arriving at Gloucester's castle, Lear is surprised that his messenger has not arrived (Kent) and that both Regan and Goneril have departed. Kent calls out to Lear, the Fool explaining that Kent "wears cruel garters" (wears cruel, heavy garters, a reference to Kent being in stocks), (Line 6).

The Fool then goes on to explain several different punishments. Kent explains what happened and now an enraged Lear demands to see Regan. Gloucester warns of the temper of the Duke, but Lear is not dissuaded (talked out of his fury).

Cornwall and Regan arrive. Kent is now set free. Lear makes clear his feelings about Goneril's actions, describing her as "Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture," (sharp-toothed unkindness, like that of a vulture), (Line 137). Regan explains that she cannot forget her duties.

Regan tells Lear to ask for Goneril's forgiveness. This enrages Lear. He places a curse on Goneril, and in mock beggary, explains that he cannot seek the forgiveness of one who took away half his train. Trusting Regan, he says that "thou shalt never have my curse:" (you will never be cursed by me), (Line 173). Lear now asks who placed his servant in stocks.

Goneril arrives before Lear is answered and Regan sides with her sister. Regan suggests that Lear return to Goneril since she needs time to prepare for him and to return to Regan with half his train.

Lear explains that he would rather be in open country or worse, beg at King France's throne (Lines 210-220). Lear asks her to reconsider, "I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad:" (I ask you daughter, do not make me mad), (Line 221).

Lear decides he will stay with Regan with his one hundred knights. Regan replies "Not altogether so: / I look'd not for you yet, nor am I provided / For your fit welcome" (not with all your knights yet; I was not expecting you yet, nor am I ready to welcome and host you properly), (Line 234).

Following a conversation with Goneril and Regan, Lear is allowed not one follower (Lines 239-268). Lear now despairs, asking the gods for patience towards "a poor old man," such as himself (Line 275).

Lear exclaims that he will not weep, "You think I'll weep; / No, I'll not weep: / I have full cause of weeping, but this heart / Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws / Or ere I'll weep. O fool! I shall go mad" (you think I'll weep; no I'll not weep. Though I have full cause or every reason to weep, this heart of mine will break into a hundred thousand pieces or flaws before you'll see me weep. O what a fool I was, I will go mad!), (Line 285).

Gloucester arrives informing the two daughters that Lear has nowhere to sleep. The daughters try to convince themselves that this is Lear's own fault.

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