King Lear Contents
- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Social / political background
- Religious / philosophical background
- The Theatre
- Act I
- Act II
- Act III
- Act IV
- Act V
Act 3 scene 2
Synopsis of Act 3 Scene 2
Lear raves at the heart of the storm, cursing his daughters. He calls on the elements to destroy him and refers to himself as ‘a despised old man’ and says that [his] ‘wits begin to turn’. Kent appears and pleads with the king to take shelter in a nearby hovel. The Fool predicts that there will be serious disruption for England, whatever the future brings.
Commentary on Act 3 Scene 2
The scene is dominated by the storm, which is both real and an encapsulation of Lear’s madness and energetic anger. Lear’s attempt to command the elements is ironically counterpointed by Psalms 29:3-9 (with which Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar) in which the storm is a metaphor for God’s power, whereas here Lear is the victim of the elements
There is an intense irony that in his madness Lear sees the world and its injustices much more clearly than he did when he was sane. Similarly Shakespeare later develops the idea of ‘seeing’ more clearly when rendered blind.
Blow … crack … drenched … drowned … singe … rumble … cataracts … hurricanoes … horrible … foul … executing etc.: The combination of verbs, nouns and adjectives in this scene lend it a terrifying energy. It is not surprising that for many readers and audiences this scene is the poetic and dramatic heart of the play.
drench’d our steeples: the pointed spire on a parish church was the highest building for miles around in Shakespeare’s day, consequently emphasizing the depth of the flood Lear calls for.
Crack nature’s moulds: The image of cracking the moulds that produced life carries the idea of total destruction. Once a mould is broken, then nothing can be created from it again. The natural order therefore comes to an end.
A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man: This is an entirely lucid summary of Lear’s current state. As the storm rages, Lear is able to ‘see’ his condition with arresting clarity.
The cod-piece that will house / Before the head has any: A codpiece was a prominent padded covering over the penis, often used as a euphemism for it. The Fool is pointing out the dangers of sexual urges overtaking rationalism (as Regan and Goneril are soon to discover).
The man that makes his toe / What his heart would make: The Fool indirectly criticises Lear, hinting that Lear has put his trust in his evil and worthless daughters rather than in the honest and loyal Cordelia.
I am a man more sinned against than sinning: Lear compares himself with the list of wrong-doers he has just mentioned. They have plenty of crimes to hide and must be warned that they will suffer for their misdemeanours eventually. Lear has committed relatively few crimes and yet he is being made to suffer now.
The art of our necessities is strange: As a king, Lear would never have entered such a place as this hovel. Now necessity makes the hovel desirable. The idea of making vile things precious is related to alchemy whose best-known aim was to turn base metal into gold (see Alchemy).
Albion: The ancient name for Britain, as used by the Romans and Greeks.
This prophecy Merlin shall make: The wizard in the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The Fool steps into the world of Shakespeare’s contemporary audience, commenting that he cannot quote Merlin because in the world in which the play is set, Merlin has not yet been born.
Investigating Act 3 Scene 2
Why does Lear call upon the storm to produce disorder?
What is wrong with the world as it is?
How does Lear think about himself in the scene?
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. 3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, Glory! 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. 11May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
1Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. 2Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters. 4The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 5The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. 6He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. 7The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire. 8The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory. 10The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever. 11The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
Area with its own church, served by a priest who has the spiritual care of all those living within it.
1. Term for a worshipping community of Christians. 2. The building in which Christians traditionally meet for worship. 3. The worldwide community of Christian believers.
A more pleasant way of expressing something distasteful or unpleasant, usually about death or sex.
A precursor of chemistry during the Middle Ages and sixteenth century. The most important goal of alchemists was to turn lesser metals into gold and silver.
A magician or mystic
Legendary British warrior King of the late fifth and early sixth centuries.
The table in Arthurian legend around which King Arthur and his knights gathered.
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