King Lear Questions Act 4

What does Edgar mean when he says “the worst is not so long as we can say ‘this is the worst'”? Edgar expresses his belief that as long as a man can think that his fortunes are at their lowest point, the man can sink even further. Only when one is dead can he or she be at the “worst”.
How does the following statement by Gloucester contribute to the theme of sight and insight: “I have no way and therefore want no eyes, I stumbled when I saw”? Gloucester has now fully realized how foolish and superficial he acted when he was still in control of his life. He knows that when he was healthy and still had eyes, he was “blind” on the inside and unable to distinguish between human goodness and evil. Thus, he “stumbled” and lost everything, because he banished his good son, Edgar and believed the lies of his scheming son, Edmund. Gloucester regrets not having evaluated his son’s character more closely, according to their behavior. Gloucester feels lost not because he does not have any eyes, but because he has judged his sons wrongly and made a sever mistake when he banished Edgar.
To what degree does Gloucester attribute influence and power to fate and the gods? Where in this scene does his belief become obvious? Gloucester claims “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.” He believes that the gods, or supernatural influences, determined the fates of human beings. According to Gloucester, the gods arbitrarily decide each human being’s fate. The gods are playing with human life as if they were little boys torturing flies. Playing with humans is merely a sport for the gods.
What can be inferred from Gloucester’s las comments about his attitude toward fate? Gloucester wants Edgar to take him to a cliff near Dover so that he can commit suicide by jumping to his death. Gloucester is disillusioned and willing to take fate into his own hands; he is no longer willing to have the wheel of fortune turn any way it chooses. He will turn the wheel himself and end his life. He still believes that he is powerless in the face of the gods or fate and fortune, but he is willing to commit suicide to end his dependence on the arbitrary power of the gods.
What climactic moment might Gloucester’s lament about the capriciousness of the gods signify? Gloucester has reached the point of utter hopelessness. There is no hope of help from fellow human beings, and there is no hope of help from the gods whom we are mere playthings.
What does Albany’s reaction to his wife’s treatment of her father reveal about his character? Albany is appalled by Goneril’s actions. He feels that Goneril and Regan have mistreated their father and shown him nothing but disrespect. He states “What have you done? Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform’d? A father, and a gracious aged man… have you madded.” Clearly Albany is a good man. He did not know his wife was capable of such horrible behavior, and he feels that lear deserves respect and dignity.
What climax has occured between the end of the previous scene and Albany’s condemnation of his wife’s actions? The fact that Albany has changed from being an ally of his wife and her sister, to opposing them. This is the first sense of redemption in the play, the first glimmer of hope after Gloucester’s utter hopelessness in the previous scene. When Albany hears of Cornwall’s death, he claims that the gods do provide justice, not the mere random suffering Gloucester lamented earlier.
How are Goneril’s feeling toward Edmund portrayed in this scene? Goneril appears to develop a lustful longing for Edmund. She gives him a token of her love, and, with a kiss, makes him her confidante.
What attitude toward her husband does Goneril display when she calls him a “milk-liver’d man”? Goneril does not have any respect for her husband. She believes that she is a weak human being that does not dare to assert his power over others.
What is Albany’s reason for not attacking Goneril? Albany is extremely angered with Goneril and outrage with her actions. However, he does not attack her because she is a woman, and he considers it unfit for a man to attack a woman physically. He states “howe’er thou art a fiend, a woman’s shape doth shield thee.”
What news about the Duke of Cornwall does the messenger reveal? The messenger reports that the Duke of Cornwall is dead. He was killed by the servant who attempted to keep him from blinding Gloucester completely.
What does Albany learn about Edmund and what is his resolution? The messenger informs Albany that it was Edmund who brought about Gloucester’s capture. He explains that Edmund not only allowed but encouraged Cornwall to pluck out Gloucester’s eyes. Albany vows to avenge Gloucester’s fate. Since the Cornwall, who blinded Gloucester, is already dead, he will likely pursue Edmund in order to avenge poor Gloucester.
How does the relationship between Goneril and Regan change as the scene draws to a close? Regan and Goneril, who have previously schemed together against their father, now seem to turn on each other. Due to her growing infatuation with Edmund, Goneril becomes jealous of her sister, whom she suspects of wanted Edmund for herself. Now that her sister’s husband is dead, Goneril fears that Regan will take advantage of her widowhood and lay claim to Edmund.
What effect does Shakespeare create by having the French king return to France and leaving Cordelia in Dover to command the French troops? The approaching battle will essentially be between the three sisters. What seems like a major political, international conflict still boils down to a family crisis.
What information does Kent seek from the messenger? Kent wants to know why the King of France has returned to France, and who is left behind in his place to fight against Britain. He is particularly interested in finding out how the letters he sent to Cordelia were received. Kent is eager to ear that Cordelia was moved when she heard about her father. He is relieved to ascertain that Cordelia is not as evil as her sisters but, indeed, a loving and caring daughter to her father. This is what Kent believed all along, and he feels reassured by the reports he receives from the messenger.
What is Shakespeare suggesting when he has the Gentleman describe Cordelia’s crying as: “she shook / the holy water from her heavenly eyes”? Cordelia’s honest love for her father – especially contrasted with her sister’s betrayal – has elevated Cordelia to that status of a revered saint.
How does Kent reconcile the differences between lear’s daughters? How does he explain their different behaviors? Kent attributes the different behaviors of the three daughters to the influence of the stars. He claims “it is the starts, the stars above us, govern our conditions, else one self mate and mate could not beget such different issues.” Looking at the stars for answers is the only way for Kent to explain how three daughters, who are so different from one another, could have been born to the same parents.
Why does Lear refuse to see Cordelia? Lear is ashamed of his past actions. He regrets the way he has treated Cordelia, and he feels unworthy to be in Cordelia’s presence.
What does Cordelia promise for any help anyone can offer her father? Cordelia offers all of her material possessions to anyone who has a cure for her father’s afflictions.
According to Cordelia, what is the ultimate reason for the French army’s attack? Cordelia states, “No blown ambition doth our armies incite, but love, dear love, and our aged father’s right.” Cordelia explains that Britain must be invaded in order for the King of France to defeat Regan and Goneril. It is Cordelia’s sole purpose to avenge the treatment her father has received at the hand of her sisters. She cites love as the only ambition that drives her forward. Cordelia now makes good on her initial promise to love her father “accoring to her bond” that she uttered in the opening scene of the play/ To her heart-felt words, Cordelia now brings decisive actions. She will defend her father’s home with the help of the French army.
Why does Shakespeare decide to have the King of France return home and leave Cordelia as the major force opposing her sisters? Dramatically, sister is pitted against sister historically, the play was put on before English audiences. As much as they may have hated Regan and Goneril, it would have been difficult for this type of audience to watch a French king defeat an English monarch, even a bad one. In addition, the theme of revenge can be resolved with more force if Cordelia is intimately involved.
Why does Regan consider it to be necessary to find Gloucester and kill him? Regan believes that the blind Gloucester will arouse sympathy for himself and hatred against the conspirators wherever he wanders.
Why does Regan want to open the letter her sister has written to Edmund? Regan is jealous of her sister. She does not want Oswald to deliver the letters Goneril has written to Edmund. She knows that Goneril does not love her husband, and she is afraid that, if Edmund receives Goneril’s letters, he will serve Goneril and become her lover. Regan, however, wants Edmund for herself. She claims that Edmund is better suited for her because she is a widow, whereas her sister’s husband is still alive.
How does the dialogue between Regan and Oswald in this scene reveal Oswald’s character? Oswald is revealed as an extremely opportunistic an power-hungry character. He immediately sides with Regan once she promises him a reward for finding and killing Gloucester. Oswald is not interested in right or wrong. He only wants to gain material goods by siding with the most powerful party.
What is Gloucester’s intention upon reaching Dover? Gloucester intends to jump off the cliff and kill himself.

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