King Lear


William Shakespeare

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King Lear: Act 4, scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
In the French war camp, Kent asks a Gentleman about Cordelia's reaction to the letter that he sent in 3.1. The Gentleman reports that she was moved to deep pity for her father and rage against her sisters. Kent states that "the stars above us govern our conditions" (39), because there could be no other explanation for how siblings could be so different from each other.
Kent, like Albany in 4.2, still has faith in the power of the heavens. However, he uses it to explain the (otherwise inexplicable) differences between Cordelia and her siblings, not to guarantee order.
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Kent then explains that Lear is in the camp and is occasionally sane. However, he adds, Lear refuses to see Cordelia out of shame at "his own unkindness" (51) and at having given her "dear rights to his dog-hearted daughters" (55). Kent asks the Gentleman to come with him to see Lear, explaining that he must remain in the strange disguise he has adopted for some time yet.
Like Gloucester in 4.1, Lear has been moved by the extremity of his situation to see his children for what they are. For him, as for Gloucester, insight required a kind of blindness—here the metaphorical blindness of madness.
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