King Lear Act 2, Scene 4
Lear arrives back on the scene. Seeing Kent in the stocks, he asks who had done such a thing to his messenger. When he hears it was Cornwall and Regan, he once again unveils his rage, calling the act "worse than murder." (line 22)
Little else is heard from the king. He goes to seek the source of the injustice and leaves the stage. Lear's exit gives the Fool a chance to talk to Kent, who wants to know why the king's posse has been cut. But the Fool, dodging questions, answers in riddle, giving warning of a forthcoming storm.
The king returns with Gloucester in tow, complaining that he cannot seem to find Regan and Cornwall. Lear begins to boil, his anger lashing out more than ever before. But suddenly, after spitting out curse after curse, he stops, pauses for a moment, and then considers an alternative. For the first time, Lear is giving someone the benefit of the doubt. He thinks maybe the two are ill, and that is why they didn't appear right away when summoned.
But before pity can be had, the king's fury triumphs once again. He screams that he will break down the door of Cornwall and Regan if they do not appear instantly. He sends Gloucester off with the message.
With that, and hardly even a moment to spare, Gloucester returns with the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. The sides spare greetings. Lear launches immediately into his story of Goneril's mistreatment. Yet Regan is hardly pouring forth with pity. She gives polite words, but it's easy to detect her ice underneath. She tells him it is Goneril she believes, and that there are reports of riots from the king's entourage. Lear should go apologize to Goneril, Regan says.
He mocks her by kneeling down and asking feigned forgiveness from an imaginary person. Regan orders him to quit the nonsense. Yet Lear's anger is building. He complains once again that Goneril has treated him like a louse. He rips into a diatribe of curses on Goneril. Regan stops him. When rash, Lear would surely say the same of her. She reminds him of this. Lear denies the claim and kisses up to her a bit.
Oswald enters the scene, reminding Lear that he still doesn't know who put Kent in the stocks. But suddenly Goneril enters the scene and stands alongside Regan.
Finally, the brazen Cornwall admits it was he who sentenced Kent to the stocks. On top of that, Regan tells the king that he must return to Goneril. Lear is furious at both of them.
Not surprisingly, he bids a final farewell to Goneril, who cut his entourage in half. He tells Goneril he can live without her because he still has Regan.
But Regan isn't exactly siding with her father. She agrees with Goneril that Lear does not need a full retinue. The two sisters, in fact, don't think their father needs any attendants at all. And now the king is at an all-time low point, having to defend himself to his daughters.
Lear takes a moment to pity himself, saying he is a poor old man as full of grief as age.
He exits the stage with a final cry. But it is difficult to pity his anguish. Gloucester tells the girls a storm is cooking outside, and that they shouldn't let their father be out alone. But the girls don't care. They say all of this is his fault, and they order Gloucester to keep Lear outside. Cornwall echoes the order, this time to bar the door shut. Goneril and Regan are equally hard to pity at this point, with their true colors emerging, showing no pity for their father.