'King Lear': Act 4 Scene 6 and 7 Analysis

In Depth Analysis of 'King Lear', Act 4 (Scene 6 and 7)

The Madness of King Lear
The Madness of King Lear. De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The plot really heats up in the final scenes of  Act 4 - Scene 6 and 7. This study guide delves into the breathtaking drama that concludes Act 4.

Analysis: King Lear, Act 4, Scene 6

Edgar takes Gloucester to Dover. Edgar pretends to take Gloucester up a cliff and believes he can cure him of his wish to commit suicide. Gloucester announces to the gods that he intends to commit suicide. He feels dreadful about his treatment of his son and thankful to his beggar companion for helping him.

He then throws himself off the imaginary cliff and pitifully falls on the ground.

Gloucester is still suicidal when he revives and Edgar, now pretending to be a passer by tries to convince him that he has been saved by a miracle and that the devil had pushed him to jump. He says that the kind gods have saved him. This changes Gloucester’s mood and he now resolves to wait until life gives up on him.

King Lear enters wearing his crown of flowers and weeds. Edgar is shocked to see that Lear is still mad. Lear is railing about money, justice and archery. He uses fighting talk saying he is prepared to defend himself against anyone. Gloucester recognises Lear’s voice but Lear mistakes him for Goneril. Then Lear appears to mock Gloucester’s blindness. Gloucester responds to Lear with pity and begs to kiss his hand.

Obsessed with social and moral justice Lear reaches the radical conclusion that he wants to defend the poor and give them power.

Lear tells Gloucester that it is man’s lot to suffer and endure.

Cordelia’s attendants arrive and Lear runs off fearing them to be the enemy. The attendants run after him. Edgar asks for news of the impending battle between the British and the French. Gloucester appears to have rallied following his encounter with Lear; he seems to realise that his own suffering is not so unendurable in comparison with what Lear is going through.

Edgar says he will lead Gloucester to a safe place.

Oswald is pleased to find Gloucester and Edgar in order that he can claim Regan’s reward for Gloucester’s life. Gloucester welcomes Oswald’s sword but Edgar poses as a country bumpkin and challenges Oswald to a fight. Oswald is fatally wounded and asks Edgar to deliver his letters to Edmund. He reads the letters and discovers Goneril’s plot against Albany’s life. He decides to tell Albany about this plot when the time is right.

Gloucester is concerned about Lear’s state of mind but wishes he could be mad to distract him from his guilt. Gloucester finds it difficult to be cheerful. Edgar goes to escort his father to the French camp. A drum roll signifies imminent battle.

Analysis: King Lear, Act 4, Scene 7

Lear has arrived at the French camp but is sleeping. Cordelia tries to encourage Kent to reveal his true identity to Lear but he says he still needs to maintain his disguise. The King is carried in on a chair as the Doctor says it is time to wake him. All the characters on stage prostrate themselves before the king. Cordelia kneels by her father’s chair hoping that her kiss will make up for some of the wrongs done to him by her sisters.

Lear wakes and is bewildered. He does not seem to recognise Cordelia who asks for his blessing. Lear falls to his knees before his daughter full of regret. Cordelia says she does not feel bitter towards him and asks him to walk with her, they leave the stage together. Kent and the Gentleman remain to discuss the battle. Edmund has been put in charge of Cornwall’s men. A bloody battle is expected.