King Lear Summary Act IV

Gloucester in realization of his stupidity against his son Edgar wishes to commit suicide. He is led by Poor Tom aka Edgar to a cliff. The Duke of Albany has a change of heart and with a tirade against Goneril and her evil ways renounces her. A messenger interrupts them with the news that the Duke of Cornwall has died from his injury after being stabbed by a servant.

Goneril and Regan’s rivalry over Edmunds grows in intensity. Cordelia is heartbroken after hearing the news regarding Lear’s predicament. She sends messengers to try and find him. Just before the battle between the French and Regan and Gonerils forces, the Duke of Albany switches his allegiance back to Goneril and Regan.

Meanwhile Edgar tricks his father into believing that he had jumped over the cliff and survived the fall. Lear is informed about the torture of Gloucester and his blindness. When Oswald tries to kill Gloucester, he is killed by Edgar instead. Oswald was carrying a letter from Goneril to Edmund instructing Edmund to murder her husband the Duke of Albany so that they could get married.

Cordelia now finds Lear who is filled with remorse at the way he has treated his daughter.

Act IV is significant in Lear’s monologue that conjures up vivid imagery with sexual overtones referring to the negative traits of women.

“Down from the waist they are Centaurs, though women all above: But to the girdle do the gods inherit, Beneath is all the fiends’;” (act iv, vi, 115)

Lear uses a lot of animal imagery comparing his daughters to animals as well as the imagery of hell

“there’s hell there’s darkness, there the sulphurous pit”(act iv, vi, 22)

 

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