King Lear Act 3 Analysis

Main events of the act 3:

  • Wandering around in the storm King Lear expresses his pain and desperation;
  • Kent finds Lear and takes him to find shelter in a hovel;
  • Kent sends notice to Cordelia that her father needs help;
  • The French army is already on British land;
  • In the hovel, King Lear meets Edgar dressed like a crazy poor Tom;
  • King Lear is slowly losing his mind;
  • Gloucester helps King Lear, takes him to a house on a farm and then helps him escape to Dover;
  • Edmund tells Cornwall that Gloucester helped Lear hoping to get his title and land;
  • Edmund also fakes a letter accusing Gloucester of espionage;
  • Gloucester is caught, Gloucester pokes his both eyes but is wounded by the servant who tried to protect Gloucester;
  • Regan and Cornwall tell Gloucester that it is Edmund who accused him of treason;
  • Gloucester is sorry that he believed Edmund and dishonored his loyal son Edgar.


Scene 1

Scene 2

Scene 3

Scene 4

Scene 5

Scene 6

Scene 7


Act 3 Scene 1

People present in the scene:

  • Kent – dressed as a servant of the King;
  • Gentleman from the castle.

Place of the scene: Somewhere around the castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • Kent and other servants look for Lear in a middle of the tempest;
  • Kent sends a gentleman to tell Cordelia that her father was dishonored;
  • Kent says that French army is already in British port ready to attack Britain;

Short Summary:

The storm is ravaging the heath near Gloucester castle. Kent is looking for the monarch and meets another servant. In their conversation, Kent tells the servant that Dukes of Albany and Cornwall don’t get along well. He also says that in the castle there are French spies disguised as servants.

According to Kent, the French army is on their way to Britain. Kent asks the gentleman to go to Dover and tell to the people there what happened to the king. In such way, Kent wants to notify Cordelia that her father needs help. He gives the gentleman the ring that is supposed to tell Cordelia that it was Kent who sent the gentleman to her. After this conversation, Kent heads to continue his searches of the king.


Act 3 Scene 2

People present in the scene:

  • King Lear and his fool;
  • Kent – a servant to King Lear (used to be a nobleman).

Place of the scene: Somewhere around the castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • King Lear resents the ungratefulness of his daughters;
  • Kent takes Lear to the hovel where they want to hide from the storm;

Short Summary:

The King is talking to the storm and every word of him is showing how outraged he is. There is a storm of emotions inside him, he unites with the thunder and lightning in his rage, the cold weather reminds him of his cold daughters.

The fool doesn’t like the wet weather and wants Lear to go back to the castle, ask forgiveness and stay inside. Kent finds the King and takes him together with the fool into a hovel, while he himself returns to the castle.


Act 3 Scene 3

People present in the scene:

  • Earl Gloucester – one of the nobleman of King Lear;
  • Edmund – illegitimate son of Earl Gloucester.

Place of the scene: A room in Gloucester castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • Earl Gloucester tells Edmund about French army on British lands;
  • Earl Gloucester is sorry for Lear and wants to help him return his throne;
  • Edmund wants to tell Cornwall about Gloucester’s plan to help Lear because he wants Cornwall to strip Gloucester of his land and title and give it to Edmund.

Short Summary:

Earl Gloucester tells Edmund that he is dissatisfied with the current state of things: Regan and Cornwall took over his castle and wouldn't let him even mention Lear’s name, let alone help the retired king. Gloucester feels that he has to fulfill his duty and help the king. He asks Edmund to cover for him while he is away looking for Lear.

Gloucester also notified Edmund that he received a letter in which there is news that there is a foreign army on British land. Gloucester himself was too terrified to tell the duke about it, he thought that helping the king would help the whole country. However, Edmund decides to use his father’s will to serve Lear to his own advantage. His plan is to betray Gloucester and tell Duke Cornwall everything about the letter and about Gloucester sneaking out of the castle to help the banned King Lear.


Act 3 Scene 4

People present in the scene:

  • Kent – servant of King Lear;
  • King Lear – the retired king not wanted by his two elder daughters;
  • Earl Gloucester – one of the noblemen of King Lear;
  • The fool;
  • Edgar – banished son of Earl Gloucester.

Place of the scene: Somewhere in the woods, before the hovel.

Main events of the scene:

  • Lear, Kent and the fool meet Edgar in the forest;
  • Edgar is dressed like a vagabond and pretends to be insane;
  • Gloucester takes Kent and others to a farm near the castle, he recognizes neither Edgar nor Kent;

Short Summary:

As promised in Scene 2, Kent brings the King into a hovel to get shelter from the storm. Lear wants to be left alone. For him, the potential damage of the storm is nothing compared to the damage his reputation incurred from his daughters' words and actions. Lear is set to take revenge on Goneril and Regan for kicking him out on such a night.

The fool enters the hovel the first. He sees Edgar there who is dressed like a beggar and pretends to be mad. The fool gets frightened and thinks it is some evil spirit. Edgar steps out of the hovel and tries to scare away his unwanted guests.

Edgar introduces himself as poor Tom. King Lear sees a little bit of his own tragedy in Edgar’s insanity, he thinks that Edgar (or poor Tom as he calls himself) has gone mad because he gave everything to his daughters. Seeing Edgar makes him think about nature of human desire to own things, he takes off his clothes.

The group sees a light approaching them. Edgar thinks it is a witch but in fact it is Gloucester. Gloucester doesn't recognize his son in poor Tom and is surprised how come the king hangs around such a weird company. Gloucester invited Lear to a proper shelter where he would have a warm room and dinner.

Lear says he has to talk to his philosopher (Edgar). Kent and Gloucester beg him to leave for the shelter immediately. Gloucester mentioned that when King Lear kicked out Kent, Kent in fact was right about warning the king that his decision to split the heritage in two and leave his youngest daughter with nothing was wrong. Gloucester also mentions that he relates to the king because his own son (Edgar) wanted to murder him.

Finally, Gloucester takes them all to the farm near the castle, they take Edgar with them.


Act 3 Scene 5

People present in the scene:

  • Duke of Cornwall – the husband of Regan, daughter of Lear;
  • Edmund – illegitimate son of Gloucester.

Place of the scene: Somewhere in Gloucester castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • Edmund showed Cornwall a forged letter in which Gloucester supposedly spied on Brits for the benefit of the French;
  • Cornwall gives orders to find and imprison Gloucester;
  • Cornwall gives the Earl title to Edmund.

Short Summary:

Edgar persuaded the Duke of Cornwall that Gloucester is a secret spy for French royalties. He showed him a letter that should prove it. Cornwall says that this letter made Edmund “Earl of Gloucester”.

Duke Cornwall is outraged and wants to punish Gloucester. He even says that he now knows the reason why Edgar wanted to murder Gloucester. Cornwall wants to take Edmund to Regan and gives him orders to find and arrest his father.


Act 3 Scene 6

People present in the scene:

  • King Lear – the retired king who lost his mind;
  • Kent – servant of the king (used to be a nobleman);
  • Earl Gloucester – one of the noblemen of King Lear;
  • Poor Tom (Edgar) – expelled son of Gloucester who pretends to be mad;
  • The fool.

Place of the scene: A house on the farm near Gloucester castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • King Lear loses his mind because of pain and sorrow;
  • Insane King Lear performs a scene impersonating a court hearing for the cat;
  • Kent is afraid for Lear’s safety and takes him to port Dover;

Short Summary:

Gloucester takes Lear, fool, Kent and Edgar dressed as poor Tom to the house. He promises to have everything they need to be delivered to them and leaves.

Kent and the fool see that the power of Lear’s mind couldn't stand the shock he had to live through. He is now behaving very weirdly. Together with Edgar they think they are in the court and talk all kinds of nonsense. The black cat (who Lear named Goneril) was put through the trial, accused of throwing the king out of the castle. Lear wants to make poor Tom (Edgar) one of his 100 knights.

Both Edgar and Kent are worried about the King’s wellbeing. They take the king to bed. Gloucester comes back. He brought the litter to take the king to Dover because he heard that somebody wants to murder Lear. Gloucester promises to give them guards to ensure their safety. Kent and the fool put sleeping Lear on the litter and take him out of the farmhouse.


Act 3 Scene 7

People present in the scene:

  • Duke of Cornwall – husband of Regan;
  • Regan – daughter of King Lear;
  • Goneril – elder daughter of King Lear;
  • Edmund – the illegitimate son of Gloucester that wants his title and wealth;
  • Oswald – servant of Goneril;
  • Servants.

Place of the scene: A room in Gloucester’s castle.

Main events of the scene:

  • Cornwall finds out that Gloucester helped Lear escape;
  • Gloucester is caught and brought in front of Regan and Cornwall;
  • Cornwall pokes Gloucester’s both eyes out;
  • One of the servants wounds Cornwall trying to protect Gloucester;
  • Gloucester realizes that Edmund betrayed him and is sorry that he believed Edmund’s intrigues against Edgar;
  • Gloucester is kicked out on the streets, Edgar becomes his guide and sighted person;

Short Summary:

Cornwall wants Goneril to go back home and show her husband a letter that French army is on the British land. Duke of Cornwall sends Edmund to accompany Goneril.

Oswald enters, he informs everybody that Gloucester helped King Lear escape to Dover. Cornwall says farewell to Goneril, Edmund and Oswald and wants to find Gloucester for punishment.

The servants bring Gloucester. Regan accuses the Earl of treason and her husband Cornwall gives orders to tie his hands. Gloucester reminds them that they are visitors at his castle. Gloucester tried to tell them that the letter came from an unknown person but the couple didn't believe him.

Cornwall pokes one of his eyes out. Gloucester screams for help and one servant comes to his rescue. Cornwall gets into a fight with the servant and gets wounded. Regan takes the sword and kills the servant from behind. Wounded Cornwall pokes Gloucester's second eye. Gloucester calls for Edmund to come and help him. At this points Regan tells him that it was Edmund who defamed his father and Gloucester shouldn’t expect any help from him.

Regan takes wounded Cornwall away. Two other servants stop Gloucester’s bleeding and take him outside to the crazy Edgar. Gloucester realizes that everything Edmund told him about his son Edgar was a lie.

Act 3: Analysis and Interpretation

Act three bears two distinct milestones for the audience. First of all, the king is dishonored for good and there's no way back. By letting their father soak in the storm and locking the castle doors, Regan and Goneril burnt all the bridges for possible forgiveness.

Second of all, with the news that the French army is getting ready to attack Britain, Shakespeare amplified the scale of his play. We are no longer talking about a family drama - it is a political conflict that is brewing.

In the act 3, Shakespeare slowly starts moving his characters towards Dover - the port city in the South of England. First Kent sends a messenger there, then he takes King Lear there because he is afraid for his safety. In act 4 Gloucester will want to come to Dover to commit suicide. The play moves from local grounds into the world arena, the tensions are brewing, the conflict intensifies.

In a middle of this conflict, the storm keeps brewing. The weather resembles the internal state of many characters and unified with their feelings. Battling a storm of his disappointment, Lear starts to exhibit sensitivity towards other people. While Gloucester is surprised to see Lear in the company of poor mad Tom, Lear calls him his philosopher and insists that he is taken to the farmhouse as well.

Act three finishes very dramatically: Gloucester is bleeding from losing his both eyes. But his soul is bleeding even more - he finds out that he was misled and betrayed by Edmund. In the play, Gloucester is portrayed as a cool and rational man who knows his duty and also has human compassion for King Lear. Nevertheless, even he was tricked by the villainous and coward Edmund.