King Lear | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scene 7

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 3, Scene 7 of William Shakespeare's play King Lear.

King Lear | Act 3, Scene 7 | Summary



At Gloucester's castle, Cornwall, Regan, Goneril, and Edmund take the stage, accompanied by servants. Cornwall announces that the French army has landed and sends servants to find Gloucester. Oswald enters, and he informs them that Gloucester has helped the king escape to Dover. Oswald, Edmund, and Goneril leave. The servants bring Gloucester in and, at Cornwall's order, tie him up. When interrogated, Gloucester says he helped the king escape because the two sisters treated him so badly that he felt he must protect Lear from what they might do in the future. In response, Cornwall gouges out one of Gloucester's eyes and stomps on it. One of the servants tries to convince Cornwall to stop. After Regan sneers at the servant, he launches himself at Cornwall. The two fight, and the servant wounds Cornwall. Regan kills the servant. Cornwall gouges Gloucester's other eye out. In pain and despair, Gloucester calls for his son Edmund. Regan adds insult to injury by telling Gloucester it was Edmund who betrayed him. She has servants drive the now-blind Gloucester into the night.

Cornwall leans on Regan as they exit the stage. The servants who are left behind talk about how unjust their lord and lady are and how badly they are acting (another reflection on the Greek Chorus concept). They decide to follow Gloucester to help take care of him.


Many people die in King Lear, but this is by far the most brutal and disturbing scene. Gloucester has done nothing except remain loyal to the man to whom he swore loyalty. In response, the conspirators choose to torture him in a public and gruesome fashion. Earlier in the play, the ambiguity of the secondhand—and conflicting—reports about the actions of Lear's knights make it possible for the audience to feel a moderate degree of sympathy for Regan and Goneril.

However, the blinding of Gloucester ends any sympathy an audience has for the sisters. As for Lear's daughters, it is Goneril who says, "Pluck out his eyes," and Regan who, after the first eye is out, says, "One side will mock another. Th' other too." These are the women who earlier claimed to love Lear profoundly and completely. This act of literally removing vision (an extreme "cataract" reference from earlier) is an attempt to keep their behavior concealed from the wider realm.

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