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Act V, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis

Among the regalia of drum and colors, Regan and Edmund, accompanied by their soldiers, enter the British camp near Dover. Edmund shows concern regarding Albany’s absence. He wonders whether Albany has made a firm decision to fight the French in view of their support of King Lear. Regan is sure Albany has met with some misfortune and Edmund agrees. Jealous of her sister, Regan begins to question Edmund about his relationship with her. Edmund swears that he holds only an “honor’d love” for her and that he has never enjoyed her sexual favors. He assures Regan she need not fear that he will become too “familiar” with Goneril.

Albany and Goneril enter with drum, color, and soldiers. At first sight of Regan and Edmund, Goneril, in an aside, declares that she would go as far as to lose the battle rather than relinquish Edmund to her sister. Albany greets Regan and Edmund formally and politely. He informs them that in view of the fact that the King has many followers who have defected to France because of the cruelties suffered under the new rule, the honorable thing to do would be to fight only the imposing army of France. His quarrel is not with the King and his followers. Edmund commends his statement as nobly spoken, and Goneril agrees that domestic strife is “not the question here.”

Albany then invites Edmund to join him and his most experienced soldiers in his tent to determine the proceedings of the battle. To prevent her sister from spending time alone with Edmund, Regan insists that she go with her. Just as the entire party leaves, Edgar enters with an urgent letter for Albany. Insisting that Albany read it before he goes into battle, Edgar promptly leaves though Albany coaxes him to stay until he has read the letter.

Left alone, Edmund ponders over his dilemma. He has “sworn his love” to both the sisters and agonizes over which one to “enjoy” without offending the other. He reasons that he cannot take Goneril as long as her husband is alive and finally concludes that he will use Albany for the battle and then allow Goneril to devise a method of getting rid of him. With Albany out of the way, Edmund will be in power, and he decides he will never grant mercy to Lear and Cordelia as Albany intends to do.

In Scene 2, the alarum sounds as Cordelia and the King, marching with drum and colors, accompany the French army across the field between the French and English camps. Edgar leads Gloucester to the shade of a nearby tree where he will be comfortable until Edgar returns. He prays that the “right may thrive,” and leaves his father with a blessing. Soon after Edgar leaves, the alarum sounds within and Edgar rushes to his father’s rescue, informing him that King Lear has lost the battle, and Cordelia has been captured. Taking him by the hand, he urges Gloucester to flee from danger. Gloucester balks at Edgar’s demands, insisting that he wishes to go no further but would rather die in the field. Edgar reminds him that...

(The entire section is 1,337 words.)