Reading Response: King Lear Act 4
How it works
In act four of King Lear the readers see the aftermath of the blinding of Gloucester. Edgar, who at this point is walking around naked, stumbles upon his blinded father. Gloucester has lost all hope in himself and the gods, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods; / They kill us for their sport” (4.1.40-41).
Shakespeare seems here to be reinstating his theme of darkness and desperate with this loyal follower of King Lear losing all hope and faith in the world. Yet, he also shows the love between a father and son, when Edgar pretends to throw Gloucester off a cliff and claims that he is alive because the gods wanted him to live, “Therefore, thou happy father, / Think that the clearest gods, who make them honors. / Of men’s impossibilities, have preserved thee” (4.6.98-92). This small, but meaningful scene brings back a sense of love and hope for the readers and characters. Shakespeare is showing the characters that love is a constant driving force during hard times, it a matter of appreciating the ones you love. Readers also see the divide in power between Goneril and Regan, stemming from the death of Cornwall, Albany grown distrust in Goneril and both women’s desire to have an affair with Edmund.
How it works
Albany turning his back on Goneril shows readers that even bad characters have a chance to right their previous wrongs. He calls her out for the evil that she had done to her father, even though it doesn’t phase her, “O Goneril, / You are not worth the dust which the rude wind / Blows in your face” (4.2.38-40). Shakespeare is bringing up the idea of justice being the divine force in the the play. Readers also get to see Cordelia since her first appearance. We get to see the love Cordelia actually has for her father, unlike her two sister. She sends her men out in a frantic search to find King Lear. Her love for her father is so different from the cruelty we see from Regan and Goneril.
Cordelia was willing to dispatch an army to help save her father, “Therefore great France / My mourning and importuned tears hath pited” and that the reason was out of pure love for her father, “But love, dear love, and out aged father’s ”(4.4.28-29;31). Right before Cordelia men find King Lear, we see that he has reached a new peak of madness. This doesn’t stop her from wanting to help him. This scene plays off of the scene between Edgar and Gloucester, hinting to the readers that justice is the root of fate in the play. That ones love and willingness to do what is right will be the thing that conquers against the misjustice in the play.”