Act 2 scene 3

Synopsis of Act 2 Scene 3

Edgar has evaded a search party, having overheard that he is now an outlaw. He decides to disguise himself as a wandering lunatic, taking the name ‘Poor Tom’.

Commentary on Act 2 Scene 3

Edgar will be another disguised character. He tells the audience in this soliloquy that he will transform himself into a Bedlam beggar. Between them Kent and Edgar encapsulate humiliation, nakedness and madness, thus preparing the way for what happens to Lear himself.

Bethlem HospitalBedlam beggars: These were inmates of the asylum for the insane of St Mary of Bethlehem ('Bedlam') in London. Such beggars typically stuck sharp objects into their bodies in order to attract attention and in an attempt to persuade passers-by to donate money to them. Such a beggar was often referred to as a 'Tom o' Bedlam'.

That's something yet; Edgar I nothing am: The word 'nothing' is always significant in this play, following Cordelia's use of it in Act 1 Scene 1. Although Edgar could mean simply that he is so disguised that there remains nothing about him that is like Edgar, it also reminds us that in this play the sense of identity of many of the characters is extremely fragile and subject to sudden change.

Investigating Act 2 Scene 3...

  • Edgar transforms himself into a naked madman. What dramatic effect does this have?


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