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Meanwhile, Regan's still belly-aching about how she's not feeling so hot. Goneril snickers and reveals to the audience that she's poisoned her sister. Edgar rushes in dramatically at the third trumpet call, and, still in disguise, challenges Edmund to a duel. In the midst of all this drama, Regan has to be escorted back to her tent. Goneril watches happily as her sister—her evil plan to poison her sister and secure marriage to Edmund seems to be working.

In the duel, Edgar stabs Edmund in the guts. Albany tells Edgar not to kill Edmund—if he dies, Albany won't be able to throw him in prison. Goneril is freaking out because Edmund is hurt, and when Albany tries to confront her about her plot to murder him, she runs offstage. Edmund, mortally wounded, admits that he's guilty of the charges.

He wants to know the identity of the man who killed him. Edgar finally reveals himself "Edmund, I am your brother" and tells his story. He explains that roughly half an hour ago, when he finally told Gloucester he was his son, Gloucester had a heart attack from a mixture of shock and joy. Gosh, the body count just keeps rising. Then a man runs onstage screaming and holding a bloody knife.

Someone has died. The knife-wielding man reveals that Goneril confessed to poisoning her sister and then stabbed herself. Edmund admits that he was promised to both sisters. The soldiers bring out the dead bodies of Regan and Goneril, just so we can really visualize the whole thing.

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Kent walks in and asks everybody where Lear and Cordelia are. Uh-oh, says Albany. We totally forgot about Lear and Cordelia! He suddenly confesses that he ordered his captain to have Lear and Cordelia killed. If Albany sends someone lickety-split to stop the Captain, maybe they can save Cordelia from being hanged. Edgar dashes off to intervene, and everyone else onstage waits tensely to find out if he is too late. The answer to Albany's prayer is the sound of Lear howling.

The old King staggers onstage with his daughter in his arms. Cordelia is dead. Lear keeps asking for some way to check if Cordelia is still breathing—a mirror to look for the mist of her breath, or a feather that might move when she exhales. But really, Lear knows that it's too late.

But Lear brushes him off—he is too preoccupied with the death of his daughter to understand what Kent is trying to say.

Shall Never See So Much

After sacrificing everything to help the King, Kent doesn't even get the satisfaction of Lear recognizing his devotion. Meanwhile, a Gentleman enters and announces that Edmund is dead. Whatever, says Albany, who tries to address the political situation. He tells Lear that he can be king again, but no one is listening to him. King Lear by William Shakespeare. Download this LitChart! Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel.

Understand every line of King Lear. Themes and Colors Key.


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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in King Lear , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Edmund orders that the captured Lear and Cordelia be taken away to prison. Cordelia, speaking with Lear, wonders if they should ask to see Goneril and Regan.

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But Lear, delighted to be with Cordelia again, says no. He says that they will enjoy prison, where they can laugh and sing and tell old stories and mock the courtiers and their petty political gossip. He says that in prison they will live longer than "hordes" of rulers who will come and go on the whims of fortune. They exit. As they go, Edmund calls back a Captain, one of the soldiers accompanying them and hands him a letter, instructing him that if he kills Lear and Cordelia he will gain "noble fortunes" The Captain says that he will do it.

Reunited with Cordelia, Lear seems to see prison as offering the same kind of opportunity that he thought he would get by giving up power: an escape from political responsibility that will let him stand outside the usual rules of the court and be amused by it. Yet Lear's idea is based on an assumption that, as tradition and custom dictates, Edmund will treat his prisoners well until they can stand trial.

But Edmund cares only about power, not tradition, and he plays off the greed and ambition of others, such as the Captain, to corrupt them too. Active Themes. Authority and Order. Related Quotes with Explanations. Albany , Goneril, Regan and other soldiers enter to the sound of a flourish from a trumpet. Albany asks to have Lear and Cordelia brought to him so that they can be protected until they can be judged. Edmund explains that he has already sent them off. Albany reminds Edmund that he does not think of him as a brother, yet, but merely as an ally in the war.

Regan interjects that she will give him herself and her property—all he requires to become Albany's brother.


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Goneril interjects that Regan should not get ahead of herself, and the two descend into squabbling, which Regan cuts off only because she feels sick to her stomach. In brief, she tells Edmund that he can take her soldiers, prisoners, and inheritance; she here makes him her "lord and master" Albany attempts to stand up and preserve the just order of law, which Edmund has just violated in his instructions to the Captain to kill Cordelia and Lear illegally. Meanwhile, personal conflict between Regan and Goneril pushes all onstage further toward disorder and destruction.

Regan, boldly trying to seize Edmund from Goneril, completely abrogates their former sisterly bond. Fathers, Children, and Siblings. Albany cuts all off when he announces that he is placing Edmund, as well as Regan, under arrest for capital treason. Albany calls for his men to let the trumpet sound and throws down his glove: if no one appears to fight with Edmund, in order to avenge his treasons, Albany vows that he himself will do so.

As this is going on, off to one side, Regan grows increasingly sick. Goneril remarks to herself that Regan had better be sick—Goneril herself has poisoned her out of jealousy over Edmund. Denying that he is a traitor, Edmund accepts the challenge, throwing down his glove, as Regan is helped to exit. While Albany is setting the stage for Edgar's revenge on Edmund, he is also living up to his vow in 4. His gesture, undertaken out of a sense of desire to guarantee just order by his authority, takes place just as the subplot between Goneril and Regan comes to a head, breaking their sisterly bond forever.

A herald reads a declaration calling for any man who would like to declare that Edmund is a traitor to come forth. He sounds the trumpet three times. On the third sounding, Edgar enters, armed with his face covered. He refuses to identify himself: he has lost his name, he says, because of treason.

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Yet, he says, he is noble and will fight to prove Edmund a traitor. Edmund accepts. They fight. Edmund is wounded. When Edmund falls, Goneril becomes hysterical, cursing Edmund because he was not obligated by the laws of war to accept a challenge from an unknown assailant.


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  • Albany cuts her off, brandishing the letter that she wrote to Edmund, plotting against his life. Goneril shuts him up, reminding him that political power is hers, not his. She exits. Noting that she seems hysterical, Albany sends a soldier after her. Edgar initially obscures his identity because he feels le lost it, when he was disinherited by his father and forced to take on the vagrant character of Poor Tom.

    With Edgar's rightful revenge on Edmund, the tides start to turn from the lowpoint where Cordelia and the French lost their battle back toward a restoration of just order in England.

    No Fear Shakespeare: King Lear: Act 5 Scene 3 Page 17

    It is ironic that Edmund is killed because he himself is deceived by a disguise, and does not recognize his brother Edgar as his challenger. Download it! Edmund agrees: "the wheel is come full circle" Edgar then explains everything that happened. He finishes by describing how he revealed himself to his father only right before leaving to fight Edmund. Gloucester, unable to bear his mixture of joy and grief, died on the spot. Edgar adds that Kent came upon them, as Gloucester was dying, and revealed himself as having served Lear in disguise, all this time. Edgar, after revealing himself and ending the deception of his disguise, invokes the gods to explain that all the suffering that has happened is part of a just order that has now restored him to his rightful place.

    Edgar's revelation of Kent's identity furthers the process of unveilings that need to take place before all characters gain insight into everything that the audience or the gods as divine spectators have seen. As Edgar is wrapping up his story, a Gentleman runs in, crying for help, with a bloody knife. He exclaims that he has just taken it from the heart of Goneril—who, after confessing to having poisoned Regan, committed suicide.