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King Lear | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scene 6

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 3, Scene 6 of William Shakespeare's play King Lear.

King Lear | Act 3, Scene 6 | Summary



Gloucester, Lear, the Fool, Kent (in disguise), and Edgar (in disguise) are in the hut. Gloucester leaves for a while. Edgar seems to rave; the Fool continues to comment on the situation. Lear at times answers the Fool, but at other times he spins off into despair. Lear holds a mock trial for Goneril and Regan, and Kent plays along. The Fool does too, but Edgar is so moved by the king's suffering he's afraid he'll start crying and give away the fact that he is not mad.

After "trying" his daughters, Lear calls for them to be dissected to see what is wrong with them. Lear finally goes to sleep. When Gloucester returns, he begs them to get the king moving toward Dover. There's a plot to kill him, and even half an hour's delay would be too long. Kent and the Fool help the king flee with Gloucester, leaving Edgar alone in the hut.


Lear's mad mock trial and dissection of his daughters causes Kent and Edgar to turn away. Edgar must stay in disguise or risk his life, but he's so moved by the sight of Lear trying his daughters, he almost breaks character by weeping openly.

The sequence—trial followed by dissection—underscores Lear's emotional pain. Early in the play, he trusts his own judgment of his daughters' actions and characters. Now he turns to the legal profession and then to natural philosophy (what a modern audience would call science) for help in understanding them. This is an attempt to reassert reason and logic on Lear's part. He is in the process, after the mental "storm," of regaining his faculties.

The scene ends with another wise reflection delivered by a pathetic figure alone in a field. Edgar comments that when a man sees that those who are superior to himself have the same problems, it makes him almost forget his own misery. He says that the person who suffers alone suffers the most and that companions in sorrow help alleviate grief.

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