Gentleman and servants

There are a number of minor roles in King Lear which help create a frame around the narrative of the main players. 


There are two characters, both called 'Gentleman' who are significant in preparing the audience's responses to key scenes and events. 

Lear's Gentleman

This character first appears in Act 3 Scene 1, helping Kent in his efforts to support the wandering and insane King. He conveys to Kent a vivid impression of Lear raging in the storm and striving:
      in his little world of man to out-storm 
The to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain.    
He thus creates not only the wildness of the storm, but the pathos with which we start to regard the King.
His description in Act 4 Scene 3 of Cordelia's moving response to the news of her father's suffering is full of poetic intensity. Using language full of religious imagery, it helps reframe Cordelia as warm and loving after the cool logic of Act 1 and offers the audience hope following the desperate suffering they have witnessed.

Albany's Gentleman

A different Gentleman announces the deaths of Goneril and Regan in Act 5 Scene 3. His entrance on stage crying 'Help, help! O help!' and difficulty in recounting the news adds to the final scene's growing sense of horror and hysteria.

Servants and Messenger

There are several characters designated 'Servant' in the play, all of them members of the Duke of Cornwall's household.
The First Servant ‘thrilled with remorse’ attacks Cornwall in an attempt to stop him blinding Gloucester. They fight and an enraged Regan ('A peasant stand up thus!') takes a sword and 'runs at him from behind', killing him. Later Servants 2 and 3 help the wounded Gloucester away and comment on the evil natures of Cornwall and Regan.
Together the three servants emphasise the horror that has been unleashed on the kingdom by Lear's folly in granting power to Goneril and Regan. They also have a moral function. They may be of humble status but they can recognise absolute evil when they see it and they demonstrate that goodness exists even in a world of increasing moral chaos, violence and terror.


In Act 4 Scene 2 the Messenger interrupts a discussion between Albany and Goneril with the news that Gloucester has been blinded and that Cornwall is dead. These facts draw an entirely selfish response from Goneril who fears that a widowed Regan, alone with Edmund, may thwart her own ambitions to marry the new Earl of Gloucester. 
The Messenger adds that it was Edmund who 'informed against' his father. These messages emphasise the evil that Albany now knows he must oppose. Regarding the messenger as a ‘friend’, he asks for further information so as to plan his retribution.
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