Act 4, Scene 6 Notes from King Lear

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King Lear Act 4, Scene 6

Edgar convinces his father that they have arrived at their final destination. He uses word pictures to do so. But Gloucester notices a new tone in Edgar's voice, and begins to suspect that Edgar is not really a madman:

"So may it be, indeed.
Methinks thy voice is altered, and thou speakest
In better phrase and matter than thou didst."
Act 4, Scene 6, lines 6-8

The matter is quickly dismissed. Gloucester gets ready to make peace with the gods above by throwing himself off of a cliff. He gives away all of his possessions and tells the gods that his fate is theirs. He then casts a blessing on his lost son and falls forward, fainting. He has been tricked by Edgar, though, and falls just two feet.

As Gloucester recovers from his faint, Edgar convinces him that he is indeed alive. Edgar tells Gloucester a miracle has happened, and from there the blinded earl regains a sense of spirit and faith. Edgar says: "...the clearest gods...have preserved thee" (lines 73-4). From now on, Edgar refers to Gloucester as "father" and acts less and less like a madman beggar.

Topic Tracking: The Natural Order 13

Lear enters, quite a different person now than he was in the beginning of the play. He is covered in flowers, humble and natural. He says that his royal garb and showy accessories were blinding him when he was king. He says he has gained a new vision from seeing what is real.

Gloucester is blind but hears the voice of Lear and recognizes it: "Aye, every inch a king." Act 4, Scene 6, line 107

Topic Tracking: Age 15
Topic Tracking: Vision 11

Lear then launches into a crazed diatribe about lust and adultery and how they relate to the violence that has occurred.

It's an odd scene to picture: the madman, the king covered in flowers and weeds, and a blind, suicidal earl. But in the midst of Lear's crazy diatribe emerges the essence of truth: Lear clearly now knows the difference between ornate clothing that mask evil people, and nakedness that reveals truth and integrity. With that, he begins to take off his clothes.

Lear sees Gloucester and offers his eyes to help the blind man. Lear sees that people create their own misfortunes. Momentarily, he slips back into this thoughts of revenge and thinks of his sons-in-law, whom he would "kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!" (line 184).

He refers to himself as "the natural fool of fortune" (line 188). As Cordelia's attendants arrive to capture him, he runs off, muttering words of a crazed man, and is followed by two of the attendants.

Topic Tracking: The Natural Order 14

One of Cordelia's remaining servants informs Edgar that the big battle will soon occur, referring to the assembling France and English armies. But Cordelia, leader of the French forces, promises to stay put until her father, the king, is brought before her.

Gloucester, after having contemplated his near-suicide, vows not to kill himself. He and Edgar reunite their loyalties, but soon Oswald approaches, almost giddy to have found the blind Gloucester. He has been hired to kill Gloucester and imagines the task an easy one. Oswald screams about fortune and shares why he must slay Gloucester. But Oswald doesn't know it is Edgar behind the beggar's garb--Edgar uses a cudgel to intercede and kill Oswald. Just before he dies, Oswald begs them to deliver a letter he is carrying to "Edmund, Earl of Gloucester." Those words resonate deeply with both Gloucester and Edgar. Edgar reads the letter. He learns from it that Goneril has given herself to Edmund and asks him to kill her current husband, Albany, so she might be with Edmund forever. Edgar decides to hold onto the letter. He'll be able to use it in some way for certain.

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