Book Notes Act 2, Scene 2 Notes from King Lear

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King Lear Act 2, Scene 2

Kent and Oswald, the two servants, meet outside the Gloucester castle. Kent attacks Oswald here, all the while showing courage and loyalty to his faction, while Oswald cowardly runs from Kent's attack, begging for mercy.

Oswald's cries are so loud that the entourage emerges from within the castle. Edmund draws his sword to cease Kent from advancing, but Cornwall is the one who takes control of the situation. Gloucester stands close by and defers to Cornwall.

Cornwall tries to discover the root of the argument between Kent and Oswald, and Kent's rude replies indicate just how distraught he really is. He labels Oswald as something made by a tailor of sorts, meaning if you take away his clothes, there is nothing substantive beneath. Kent is angered by Oswald's poor treatment of Lear and his willingness to serve the out-of-favor Goneril.

But Cornwall doesn't care about Kent's motives. He decides to sentence Kent to the stocks. Despite Kent's insistence that he is the king's messenger, Cornwall persists.

Regan, vindictive as ever, adds to the sentence. She is concerned what Goneril will do once she gets word that her servant, Oswald, has been ill-treated.

Once everyone leaves, Gloucester is along in the stocks with Kent, though he doesn't recognize him. Ironically enough, he takes pity on the stocked Kent, purely because he is unaware of the man's identity. Gloucester decides he will ask for the poor stranger to be given leniency. Kent plays up his impoverished look, because he recognizes the potential for his release.

Kent, alone now, reveals that he has a letter from Cordelia and says:

"Fortune, good night; smile once more; turn thy wheel!" (line 165)

"Fortune" or fate was often considered to be like a wheel, changing from good to bad then back again. Kent, obviously at the bottom of the wheel, hopes his fortune continues its upward trend after hearing of his possible release.

Topic Tracking: The Natural Order 7

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