King Lear | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. (2016, August 10). King Lear Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/

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Course Hero. "King Lear Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed May 29, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/.

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Course Hero, "King Lear Study Guide," August 10, 2016, accessed May 29, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/.

Act 4, Scene 7

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 4, Scene 7 of William Shakespeare's play King Lear.

King Lear | Act 4, Scene 7 | Summary

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Summary

Cordelia, Kent, the doctor, and some servants take the stage. Cordelia opens the scene by acknowledging Kent's character: "O, thou good Kent, how shall I live and work / To match thy goodness?" She urges Kent to take off his disguise, but Kent says he needs it to finish his duties. Servants carry the sleeping Lear onstage. Cordelia talks to Lear while he's sleeping. Lear wakes, and he is still disturbed. Eventually, Lear recognizes Cordelia, saying, "If you have poison for me, I will drink it"—because she has cause to be angry with him. The doctor pronounces him largely cured. Lear, Cordelia, and the doctor exit, leaving Kent and one of the gentlemen onstage. The gentleman shares news with Kent: Cornwall is dead, and Edmund is leading his forces. He also shares false reports about Edgar being in Germany. Both men then leave.

Analysis

This scene confirms Cordelia's wisdom in consulting a doctor. This is also one of the very few instances in any of Shakespeare's works where a physician (or "doctor of physick" as they were known) is employed. This again shows changing attitudes toward a reliance on science, and that science and logic are "good" compared to the passions and aggressive nature of human beings. Lear may not be fully recovered, but his madness breaks. Her public praise of Kent shows she is an accurate judge of his behavior, something her father was not at the beginning of the play. The scene also shows how fully humbled Lear is, as he calls himself "very foolish" and offers to drink poison.

This scene also functions as a quiet and at times amusing interlude between the pathos of Gloucester at Dover and the rush of action that is about to come in Act 5.

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