King Lear Act III, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act III, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis

Taking Edmund into his confidence, Gloucester informs him that Cornwall and Regan have taken over the use of his castle, castigating him for attempting to help the King. They have forbidden Gloucester to seek any aid for the King and adamantly prohibit him to talk about him.

Edmund responds as his father expects him to, expressing surprise at such actions which are most “savage and unnatural.” Gloucester tells Edmund there is division between the Duke of Cornwall and the Duke of Albany. He asks Edmund not to divulge the dangerous contents of a letter he has received containing the news of a power ready to avenge the injuries done to the King. The letter is presently in Gloucester’s closet under lock and key.

Instructing Edmund to cover for him at the castle in case Cornwall asks, Gloucester resolves to find the King and help relieve his misery. He tells Edmund that he has been threatened with death for taking the King’s part and warns him to be careful.

Left alone, Edmund immediately decides to inform the Duke of Cornwall of all that his father has told him, including the contents of the letter. With his eye on his father’s title as Duke of Gloucester, Edmund intends to expose him to Cornwall and, thereby, gain advantage over his own father.

This short scene functions as an interim to the actions of Kent, Lear, and the Fool on the heath. It allows the trio enough time to reach the hovel in the next scene and keeps the audience abreast of the most recent developments in the subplot.

If there has been any doubt thus far in the play, this scene reveals Edmund’s complete depravity. His cunning deception and betrayal of his father establishes him as an evil character in the play. Adept at covering his guilt, Edmund reacts appropriately to Gloucester’s account of Cornwall and Regan’s treatment of the King which is “Most savage and unnatural.” But the minute Gloucester’s back is turned, he decides to expose his father to Cornwall. Edmund is an opportunist and will...

(The entire section is 538 words.)