Analysis: King Lear, Act 2, Scene 1
In the Great Hall of Gloucester’s castle, Curan and Edmund discuss tension between Cornwall and Albany.
Cornwall and Regan are soon to be expected at the castle and Edmund decides to use this to his advantage. Edmund calls his brother Edgar down from his hiding place and tells him to escape. He implies that Cornwall and Regan are as enraged with him as Gloucester.
Edgar and Edmund stage a mock fight, when Edgar flees Edmund deliberately wounds himself blaming Edgar for his injuries. Edmund tells Gloucester that Edgar was trying to involve him in a plot to murder him. Gloucester is fooled and says that Edgar will be caught and executed along with anyone who helps him. Edmund lies, saying that Edgar told him that no one would believe his story because of his illegitimacy.
Cornwall and Regan arrive, Gloucester praises Edmund for being loyal and disinherits his son Edgar. On hearing the story Regan believes that Edgar may have been encouraged to kill his father by Lear’s riotous knights.
Goneril’s letter detailed the knight’s misbehaviour. Regan has no intention of housing them hence her visit to Gloucester. Regan asks for advice about how to answer the letters she has received and Edmund promises to serve Cornwall.
Analysis: King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2
Kent, disguised as Caius, and Oswald meet outside Gloucester’s castle. Kent accuses Oswald of being a coward. Oswald does not recognise Kent and does not understand his aggression towards him. Kent challenges Oswald to a fight and Oswald screams for help.
Edmund, Cornwall, Regan, Goneril and their servants all come to assist. Edmund tries to break up the fight but Cornwall finally manages to stop it. Kent says that Oswald’s face offends him, he also insults Cornwall.
Kent is placed in the stocks as punishment and maintains that this is degrading treatment for someone on the King’s business. Gloucester tries to defend Kent but Cornwall is resolute. Gloucester tries to excuse Cornwall for his behaviour but Kent says that he will ‘sleep out’ his punishment. Alone on stage, Kent reveals a letter he has received from Cordelia. In it she explains that she wants to right all the wrongs done to her father since her banishment.
Analysis: King Lear, Act 2, Scene 3
Edgar is alone in the countryside. He has been hiding in a tree since he overheard he was proclaimed a criminal. He knows he can’t flee England as the seaports and town gates are guarded and his father’s men are hunting him down. Edgar decides to disguise himself as a beggar by knotting his hair and covering himself in dirt and wearing only a blanket. He will call himself Poor Tom.
Analysis: King Lear, Act 2, Scene 4
The Fool mocks Kent; Lear cannot believe that Regan and Cornwall would shame his servant in such a way. Regan and Cornwall left home on receipt of Goneril’s letter. Lear fears he is becoming hysterical with sorrow and decides to look for Regan himself.
Lear returns with Gloucester, angry that Regan and Cornwall have said that they are sick and cannot speak with him. Lear thinks they are trying to trick him and gets angry when Gloucester tries to defend them. Lear then decides to be patient and believe his son in law’s story for the time being.
The Fool talks about idiotic kindness; using an example of a cook who tries to make an eel pie without killing the eels.
Regan and Cornwall arrive, Kent is set free. Lear can barely speak, but hopes Regan is glad to see him. Instead she tells her father that he should accept his age and frailty and be led by others. She suggests that he go back to Goneril and apologise.
Lear presents himself on his knees and offers himself ‘satirically’ as a poor old man begging for food and shelter. Regan is unmoved as Lear tells her about her sister’s treatment of him. Regan says that Lear will be just as judgemental about her but he denies this. Lear then demands to know who put Kent in the stocks.
Goneril arrives as Cornwall admits to putting Kent in the stocks. Lear says that Regan is going to accommodate him. Regan tells Lear to go back to Goneril and get rid of half of his knights. Lear refuses, fearing he is losing his wits, he insists on staying with Regan and keeping his knights. When Regan refuses to house her father, a bewildered Lear tries to explain that he gave his daughters everything they have.
Goneril and Regan argue that Lear should have no knights. Lear threatens to have revenge on his daughters. A storm starts, Lear is agonised he shouts, ‘O Fool, I shall go mad’ despite refusing to weep this declaration betrays his attempts at stoicism. Lear storms out.
The sisters allow their father to leave and justify their actions by agreeing that the house is too small to accommodate Lear’s followers. Gloucester had followed the King out and returns with the news that he is in a ‘high rage’. Gloucester tells the group that he is concerned about the King’s well being and that he is out in desolate countryside with no protection from the elements. Gloucester wants the group to call him back but they say that he needs to suffer the consequences of his actions. Regan tells Gloucester to lock to doors because the Kings followers are dangerous. Lear is locked out in the storm.