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King Lear | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Scene 5

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 5 of William Shakespeare's play King Lear.

King Lear | Act 1, Scene 5 | Summary



Lear, his Fool, and Kent (in disguise) enter. Lear sends Kent to Gloucester with a letter. Lear's Fool predicts Regan will treat Lear better than her sister has, even though Regan's disposition is just as sour. The Fool continues his practice of entertaining the king while making surprisingly wise comments about the current situation. Just before they leave to get their horses, Lear openly worries about going mad.


Shakespeare uses letters in this scene for both dramatic and symbolic purposes. By choosing to send Kent, whom Lear believes he has just met, with a letter, Shakespeare shows how much Lear trusts Kent. In a way, this character trait is both touching and damning; Lear trusts too easily, and he trusts people because they say what he wants to hear, as Kent does, and show their loyalty in public, as his daughters did. The Fool here also acts as part narrator, reflecting the ancient Greek tradition of a Chorus.

Though this scene is brief, it is marked by both verbal irony and foreshadowing. If Regan has the same disposition as her sister does, why in the world would the Fool predict her treatment of the king will be better? Lear's comments about madness foreshadow his madness later in the play while also signaling that his self-awareness is growing. This is a key indicator of rising action.

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