King Lear Act III, Scene 5: Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act III, Scene 5: Summary and Analysis

Acting as an informant against his father, Edmund convinces Cornwall that Gloucester is guilty of treason. Determined to have his revenge, Cornwall now reasons that Edgar’s plot to kill his father was not entirely due to his brother’s “evil disposition” but was, in fact, provoked by Gloucester himself. Bellying his evil motive, Edmund produces Gloucester’s supposed letter as evidence that he has been supplying secret information to France. Edmund invokes the heavens to witness his regret that he should have detected his own father’s treason. Cornwall rewards Edmund with his new title as Earl of Gloucester and urges him to find his father so that he can be apprehended. In an “aside” to the audience, Edmund voices his wish that he might find Gloucester “comforting the King,” which would augment Cornwall’s suspicions. He then turns to Cornwall, assuring him of his loyalty to the kingdom in spite of the conflict it will cause between him and his father. Confident that he can trust Edmund, Cornwall assures him that he will love him as his own son. (Better than Edmund’s own father).

We again see the development of the subplot in this scene in which Edmund uses Gloucester’s letter as evidence of his guilt. Unlike Edgar’s, Edmund’s disguise is spiritual, rather than physical, as he hides behind an innocent facade, hoping to gain undeserved power and wealth at others’ expense. Cloaking his deception in glossy language, Edmund laments the fact that he must “repent to be just.” The irony is clear as Cornwall puts his complete trust in Edmund, promising to help him bear the loss of his father by offering himself as “a (dearer) father.”

Cornwall is obviously being gulled by Edmund which becomes even more apparent in his “aside” to the audience. In his depravity, Edmund guilefully demonstrates his disloyalty to both Cornwall and Gloucester. “If I find him comforting the...

(The entire section is 498 words.)