Search Menu

King Lear

William Shakespeare

Contents

Act 4, scenes 3–5

page 2 of 2

Act 4, scenes 3–5

Act 4, scenes 3–5

Act 4, scenes 3–5

Act 4, scenes 3–5

The other characters in the play discuss Lear’s madness in interesting language, and some of the most memorable turns of phrase in the play come from these descriptions. When Cordelia assesses Lear’s condition in Act 4, scene 4, she says he is

As mad as the vexed sea; singing aloud;
Crowned with rank fumiter and furrow-weeds,
With hordocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow. (4.4.2–5)

Lear’s madness, which is indicated here by both his singing and his self-adornment with flowers, is marked by an embrace of the natural world; rather than perceiving himself as a heroic figure who transcends nature, he understands that he is a small, meaningless component of it. Additionally, this description brings to mind other famous scenes of madness in Shakespeare—most notably, the scenes of Ophelia’s flower-bedecked madness in Hamlet.

These scenes set up the resolution of the play’s tension, which takes place in Act 5. While Lear hides from Cordelia out of shame, she seeks him out of love, crystallizing the contrast between her forgiveness and his repentance. Regan and Goneril have begun to become rivals for the affection of Edmund, as their twin ambitions inevitably bring them into conflict. On the political and military level, we learn that Albany’s and Cornwall’s armies are on the march toward the French camp at Dover. The play is rushing toward a conclusion, for all the characters’ trajectories have begun to converge.

Test Your Understanding with the Act 4, scenes 3–5 Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Test Your Understanding with the Act 4, scenes 3–5 Quiz

TAKE THE QUIZ
+
#

ACT 4, SCENES 3–5 QUIZ

Who is in charge of the French army?
Cordelia
Regan
Test Your Understanding with the Act 4, scenes 3–5 Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

Act 4, scenes 3–5 QUIZ

+
Test Your Understanding with the Act 4, scenes 3–5 Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

More Help

Previous Next
the Gloucester side story

by Merpandderp, April 07, 2013

to help with the side story, think of the movie Thor:

Gloucester: Odin-son
Edgar- Thor (the good brother; gets punished and illegitimate brother takes over for a while)
Edmund-Loki (evil, illegitimate son who is jealous of his brother)

MIND BLOWN. Stan Lee probably read Shakespeare

7 Comments

35 out of 59 people found this helpful

Help with the Gloucester side story

by Merpandderp, April 07, 2013

it is kind of confusing dealing with King Lear and his three daughters, and then having to deal with Gloucester. My suggestion, think of the movie Thor:

-Gloucester: Odin-son
-Edgar: Thor (the good brother who is supposed to succeed Odin-son/Gloucester when he dies; is deceived by Loki/Edmund and then gets punished)
-Edmund: Loki (the evil, illegitimate brother who is jealous of Thor/Edgar (except Loki was adopted); gets control of the throne for a while)

Hope this helps

0 Comments

9 out of 13 people found this helpful

Fathers, Sons and Daughters and a Lot of Sorrow

by ReadingShakespeareby450th, December 04, 2013

There's “a time to keep and a time to cast away." King Lear just got his times mixed up, and it gave us a great play. Finished Lear on my way to reading and blogging about them all by April 2014.

In case you're interested in a few of my thoughts on the play, visit my blog (also there, I've linked to a good production of the play that's available on the PBS Great Performances website):

http://ow.ly/rsPRj

0 Comments

4 out of 6 people found this helpful

See all 12 readers' notes   →