King Lear Act 4, scene 2 Summary & Analysis
New! Understand every line of King Lear.Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Having traveled from Gloucester's—now Edmund's—castle, Goneril and Edmund arrive at Goneril's palace. Oswald emerges, reporting that Albany is "changed" (2.1.4) and that everything that should upset him pleases him. Goneril, irritated, tells Edmund that he should not meet Albany at this time. She gives Edmund a sign of her favor and kisses him. Edmund exits, swearing that he will remain faithful to her until death. After he has gone, she laments that her "fool" (i.e. her husband) "usurps [her] body" (35).
Goneril, who has spurned the ties of duty between parent and child (and, indeed, sibling and sibling, allowing Cordelia to be taken away) now proceeds to disrespect and violate the bonds of love and duty connecting husband and wife.
Albany enters and denounces Goneril (and Regan) in scathing terms for their mistreatment of their father: "Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?" (49). Although Goneril tries to shut him up by calling him a coward, he persists, calling her a devil, and says that if Goneril were not a woman he would tear her to pieces.
As Lear was forced to come to terms with his daughters' cruelty, now Albany fully recognizes that of his wife. Like Lear (and Kent to Oswald), he describes her and Regan's misdeeds in animal terms.
However, a servant interrupts them, bursting in with news of Gloucester's blinding and that Cornwall has died of the wound he received from his servant. Albany, who had not known of Gloucester's blinding, cries out that Cornwall's death is proof that the gods exist: "this shows you are above,/ you justicers" (95-6). Goneril, however, is worried that the widowed Regan will now seduce Edmund from her. She hurries off to answer the messenger's letter.
Albany, like Lear, still obviously sets some stock in divine justice and natural order. Goneril, however, is absorbed only with her own selfish and lustful concerns: her sexual desire for Edmund.
Left alone with the Messenger, Albany asks whether Edmund is with Gloucester. The Messenger explains that it was Edmund who informed against him. Albany vows that he will thank Gloucester for his love toward Lear and will revenge his lost eyes. He summons the Messenger to give him more information.
Like Kent and Gloucester before him, Albany is now willing to risk himself, making his purpose vengeance and the restoration of a just political authority and order.