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Who is Cornwall in Shakespeare's King Lear?

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crazi424 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 8, 2011 at 11:45 AM via web

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Who is Cornwall in Shakespeare's King Lear?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 8, 2011 at 8:08 PM (Answer #1)

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The Duke of Cornwall is a minor character in this excellent tragedy and is Regan's husband in the play. Obviously he has profited greatly from the half given to Regan of Lear's kingdom. However, he shows himself to be a ruthless and greedy character. When he discovers the presence of the French in England, he senses that his wealth and land is threatened and single-mindedly attempts to discover everything he can about French intentions and whether they are aided by any English. His thoughts of treachery are spurred on by the letter that Edmund shows to Cornwall. Cornwall of course at this point shows his true, savage nature, bringing in Gloucester to be tortured for what he knows about this letter, having his eyes gouged out. The evident enjoyment that Cornwall takes in this process creates one of the most disturbing and chilling scenes in all of Shakespeare, as Cornwall gouges out first one then the other eye of Gloucester on stage:

Fellows, hold the chair.

Upon these eyes of thine I'll set my foot.

As he gouges out the second eye, he says, "Out, vile jelly!" Clearly the way in which Cornwall tortures Gloucester displays his true savage and evil nature. So outraged by his master's behaviour, one of Cornwall's servants challenges him and wounds him mortally.

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