King Lear Act 1 Scenes 3-5 Summary

     Scene three begins with Goneril speaking to her steward, Oswald, about her father's behavior while living in her house. He has been a rude guest as he and his many knights have become riotous; therefore, she informs Oswald that he and the other servants should behave badly right back to Lear. If he doesn't like it, Lear can just go live with Regan instead. Goneril plans to write a letter to her sister explaining the situation and requesting that her sister support her in her attempts to elicit better behavior from Lear.

     In scene four Kent returns to Lear, in disguise, to attempt to befriend him once more in order to continue to advise the King whom he so admires and knows could use his guidance. Lear accepts this stranger as part of his staff; then he asks for his Fool to come entertain him. First, he speaks to one of Goneril's knights who mentions that his daughter has noticed his lack of kindness, which makes Lear angry. Next, Oswald insults Lear by referring to him as his lady's father, so Lear hits Oswald, and Oswald leaves. When the Fool shows up, he is able to insult Lear by telling the truth because his position allows him to say whatever he wants. He mixes his wisdom in amongst his ramblings, so Lear does not notice that he is being made fun of. The Fool often claims he speaks of nothing, which is a motif of the play as that is the word that initially got Cordelia in so much trouble. Goneril finally emerges with her husband to speak to her father, and Lear calls her ungrateful. Albany, the opposite of his wife with his calm disposition, tries to placate Lear, but Lear continues to berate his daughter. Eventually, Lear decides that he would rather go live with Regan as Goneril suspected he would. Goneril runs to Oswald to make sure that her letter reaches Regan before her father arrives.

     In scene five Lear speaks with Kent and his Fool and shows the first trace of regret for the way he treated Cordelia. The Fool tells him several riddles and insults the King by saying he should have become wiser before he became older. Lear then starts to question his sanity, which connects to another motif in the play, madness, to end act one.

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