Scene Analysis: Act 2 Scene 4

This scene marks end of the beginning of the play. Until now, no one has completely revealed their hand to Lear. In this scene, Lear is forced to face the fact that his authority and power has been stripped from him. As a result of this, he begins to tip into madness. As Lear begins to understand that his daughters are stripping him of everything he has known, his language changes and he attacks them with language that is vicious. There are a lot of references to “animal qualities”. As the scene unfolds, a storm begins to brew outside and in a dramatic end, Lear declares he will go mad due to the nature of the treatment he is receiving and heads into the storm. Goneril and Regan ensure he is closed off from the safe confines of the castle.

Using the questions above each screenshot as a guide, analyze the following quotations from Act 2 Scene 4 of King Lear. 

When he is told that Regan and Cornwall put Kent in the stocks, Lear battles with Kent about it. Look into the use of the aullsion below and explain why Lear might swear on Jupiter and what this could reflect about his conception of his own power as King.

The next screenshot is the moment when Lear begins to believe that Cornwall and Regan have put Kent in the stocks. Notice the harsh nature of the language- what is Lear comparing Cornwall and Regan’s actions to? How can this help us to understand how insulting this is to Lear?

Again, the next quote should help us to understand the power Lear use to posess. Why is he asking so many questions? What tone does this develop for his character?

Below, we see the full realization that Lear comes to after Goneril and Regan tell him they will not allow him to keep his train. He appeals to nature, to the gods and finally storms off into the stormy night. At this moment, the storm outside reaches a new crescendo. Note down any possible connections between the storm and Lear. Transcribe the passage below.

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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