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Act III, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis

On the heath near Gloucester’s castle, Kent, braving the storm, immediately recognizes the King’s Gentleman. He informs Kent that the King is “contending with the fretfrul elements” with only his Fool to keep him company. The Gentleman reports that Lear roams bareheaded on the stormy heath, striving to “outscorn...the wind and rain,” as his loyal Fool desperately tries to comfort him.

Kent quickly realizes the Gentleman is one whom he can trust. He discloses to him rumors of a division between Albany and Cornwall, though it is still not out in the open. The King of France, Cordelia’s husband, has sent his spies to attend the households of Cornwall and Albany as servants. Under their surveillance, quarrels and plots between the two houses have been reported and news of their abusiveness to the King has reached France. Kent thinks “something deeper” also may be brewing. France’s secret invasion of England’s “scattered” kingdom is imminent. Kent asks the Gentleman to go to Dover to disclose to its citizens the “unnatural” treatment of the King. Assuring the Gentleman of his noble birth, Kent gives him a ring to hand to Cordelia whom he will most likely find in Dover. He explains that she will confirm Kent’s true identity. The two then part ways, searching for Lear in the storm and agreeing to give the signal when he is found.

This scene functions to inform us of Lear’s struggle against the elements on the stormy heath. The loyalty of the Fool who accompanies Lear is reminiscent of the previous scene where the Fool confirms his constancy and allegiance. When others “leave thee in the storm,” he says, “I will tarry, the Fool will stay.” Attempting to ease the King’s sorrows, the Fool “labors to outjest/ His heart-strook injuries.” If the fool’s candid jesting about Lear’s lack of good judgment as a father and a king has been annoying at times, one can only stand in awe of his loving care and devotion to the King in the worst of all possible situations, the storm on the heath.

In this scene we hear further...

(The entire section is 552 words.)