King Lear | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 1

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play King Lear.

King Lear | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



Edmund and an acquaintance named Curan discuss the fact that Regan and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall, will be at Gloucester's castle that night. They also gossip, relating how Cornwall and Albany are feuding.

After Curan exits, Edmund continues to speak of how this news fits with his plans, as his father, Gloucester, is ready to arrest Edgar. When Edgar enters, Edmund warns him that their father is coming, and he convinces Edgar that they must pretend to fight. Edgar leaves, and Edmund cuts his own arm with his sword. When Gloucester enters, Edmund then claims his brother has fled after trying to draw Edmund into his plot to murder their father. Gloucester issues a death sentence on Edgar.

Cornwall, Regan, and their servants enter. Gloucester confirms the rumors of Edgar's treachery. Regan blames Edgar's change in character on his associating with Lear's knights. Cornwall praises Edmund for acting like a good son and promises to punish Edgar severely if he's caught.


When Curan and Edmund take the stage, they do so from different directions, indicating that they come from different places. This suggests how widely discussion of the current political upheaval has spread. When Curan leaves the stage, he leaves the play as well, which manages to further suggest a disordered kingdom; people who are intimate with the nobility are simply vanishing. The content of their discussion matters as well. When royalty or nobility clash, everyone is affected.

Edmund's manipulation of his brother and father comes close to genius. When he says to Edgar, "Pardon me. / In cunning I must draw my sword upon you," his request for "pardon" is meant to deceive. How could someone so polite be a villain?" Edmund's decision to wound himself and then call for his father's help is similarly convincing. Who else but an attacker could have drawn blood?

Regan, though, is a close second in manipulation, as she manages to tie Edgar's supposed change in character to her consuming issue, the behavior of Lear's knights. Although there is no indication that Edgar is spending time with these men, Regan manages to trace all upheaval in the kingdom back to Lear.

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