Act 4 Scene 5

Synopsis of Act 4 Scene 5

Oswald tells Regan that Goneril has convinced Albany to repel Cordelia’s invasion. Oswald is also carrying a private letter from Goneril to Edmund and is interrogated by a jealous Regan who demands that the letter be unsealed. She gives Oswald a token of her own passion for Edmund to be handed over with the letter. She also sends a message that Goneril should leave Edmund alone, since she wants him for herself. She adds that if Oswald finds and kills Gloucester, then he will be rewarded. 

Commentary on Act 4 Scene 5

Once again there are very close parallels between the two plots. What is happening to Gloucester reflects what is happening to Lear. Edmund now wants his father dead, just as Goneril and Regan want to kill their father. There is also rivalry between the two sisters. Regan wants to marry Edmund despite Goneril’s interest in him.
What might import my sister’s letter to him: Before the scene opens there has apparently been discussion about the letter which Oswald is carrying. It is addressed to Edmund.
In pity of his misery: There is grim irony in the idea that Edmund shows any pity at all for his father. He wishes his father dead since an old, blind man is bound to attract sympathy.
Stay with us: Although she says the roads are dangerous, her real reason for wanting Oswald to stay is that she does not want Edmund to receive Goneril’s letter, being in love with him herself.
You may gather more: Regan says that Oswald may deduce more for himself. She could hardly be more explicit about being in love with Edmund.
Preferment falls on him that cuts him off: Regan says that anyone who can destroy Gloucester will be promoted. This immediately appeals to Oswald, who is keen to please his powerful mistress.

Investigating Act 4 Scene 5...

  • Why does Regan so strongly desire Edmund?
    • How does her desire alter her relationship with Goneril?
  • How does her order for Gloucester’s death reveal Regan in her true colours?
  • How does Oswald's desire to please those in power reveal his moral blindness?
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