Act II, Scene 2
Kent, the King’s messenger, meets Oswald, Goneril’s messenger, outside of Gloucester’s castle. Oswald appears not to recognize Kent as he asks him where to tie up his horse. Kent does not take too kindly to this and unleashes a barrage of insults onto Oswald. (Probably unleashing years of bottled up contempt.) He reminds Oswald that he was the one who tripped, insulted, and beat Oswald at Goneril’s castle.
The argument gets louder and more violent until Gloucester, Edmund, Regan, and Cornwall come out to see what is happening. They repeatedly ask what caused the argument, but Kent just keeps hurling insults. Once Oswald catches his breath, he reveals that nothing happened at the castle, but Kent was the man who abused him at Goneril’s castle. Cornwall has heard enough and orders Kent to be put in the stocks. Gloucester tries to stop it because Lear will be insulted, but Regan and Cornwall don’t appear to care.
Gloucester promises to try and help Kent, but Kent isn’t too worried about his situation. It will give him the opportunity to sleep. Once alone, Kent reads a letter from Cordelia. She is aware of his disguise and knows about everything that is going on.
Act II, Scene 3
There is nowhere safe for Edgar to run or hide. He will have to completely lose himself by disguising himself as a crazy man.
Act II, Scene 4
Lear approaches Gloucester’s castle surprised that his daughter would travel so far from her home without sending back his messenger. Then, he sees Kent in the stocks. He can’t believe that his daughter would disrespect his messenger in such a way. Kent explains that he gave them the letter and they told him to follow them to Gloucesters. Once there, he met the man that had insulted the King at Goneril’s and couldn’t help but draw his weapon. Oswald raised the cry and they put Kent in the stocks. This seems outrageous to Lear and he goes inside to sort it out.
The Fool makes sure to thoroughly mock Kent for being in the stocks and get a few digs in at Lear.
Regan and Cornwall apparently won’t speak with Lear, which sends him into a rage. He can’t believe the amount of disrespect he is receiving. He tells Gloucester to give his demands to Regan or he will bang a drum outside their bedroom door all night.
Lear tells Regan all about how mean Goneril was to him. He says that she has wounded his heart with her sharp words and menacing looks. Regan can’t believe that her sister would do such a thing and suggests that perhaps Lear and his men were rowdy. If her sister had to repeatedly deal with outbursts from him and his men, then she is not at fault for asking him to shrink his train. Lear dismisses this reasoning and begs Regan to let him stay with her. She urges him to return to Goneril’s home. He is old and must be cared for. He must also allow himself to be under his daughter’s command. He insists that Goneril was cruel to him and rains compliments down on Regan for being such a good daughter.
Then, he asks who put his man in the stocks because he is sure that Regan had nothing to do with it. Before anyone can answer, Goneril shows up. Lear doesn’t even want to talk with her and gets mad when Regan takes Goneril’s hand. The two sisters try to plead their case, but Lear doesn’t want to hear it. He asks again who put his man in the stocks and Cornwall says he did and Kent deserved more.
Regan insists that Lear has to go back to Goneril’s house and dismiss half of his men. Lear would rather go to France and stay with Cordelia. Regan explains that she is not prepared to host him and he needs to go back with Goneril. He refuses and insists that he will never see Goneril again and compares her to various diseases. He’ll stay with Regan with his hundred knights.
Regan doesn’t think so. She’s not ready for his visit. Plus, fifty knights are too many. Such a large household under two commands is bound to cause trouble. Goneril doesn’t see why he can’t be attended by the servants already in the household. Regan agrees with her sister because if the King was mistreated, she could more easily deal with any issues. Seeing the problems that could happen, she says he can only have 25 knights. King Lear decides that Goneril isn’t the worst, so he should go back to her house.
Goneril doesn’t see why he even needs 25, or 10, or 5. Regan doesn’t think he needs any. Lear goes on a tirade about how even the poorest of men have some things they don’t need. He then turns his anger towards the gods for either turning his daughter’s hearts against him or at least for not helping him. He runs off into the storm and Gloucester, Kent, and the Fool run after him. Regan and Goneril decide that it’s not worth the trouble to go after him.
Gloucester returns and is very distressed. The King is just going off into the stormy night without any plan. Regan tells him not to worry about it. The King is attended by his men and needs to learn this lesson the hard way.
Act III, Scene 1
Kent speaks with a gentleman about the King. The King is wishing the storm to destroy everything, so that something may change. He’s been tearing out his hair and the Fool has been trying and failing to lift his spirits.
Kent tells the gentleman that a contingent from France has landed in England. Spies in Goneril and Regan’s household have been sending them information and now they are invading. He assures the gentleman that he is. Of a higher station than he seems. He can’t explain, but provides his ring to give to Cordelia.
Act III, Scene 2
Lear calls on the elements to destroy him and everything around him. The Fool begs him to make up with his daughters and stay in their house. Lear continues ranting at the storm and makes it clear that he finds his daughters to be worse. The Fool sings a song.
Kent approaches and comments that he has never seen such a storm and they must go inside. Lear sees the storm as the gods preparing to punish wrongdoers. Kent finds them a shelter and pleads with Lear to go inside. In a moment of clarity, Lear agrees. The Fool sees that Lear is not completely gone.
Act III, Scene 3
Gloucester cannot believe what is happening. Regan and Cornwall took over his house and forced him to abandon Lear. He simply can’t do it. He has received word that these injustices will be avenged (by Cordelia). He tells Edmund to look after Cornwall while he goes out into the storm and finds Lear.
Edmund immediately decides to betray his father and share the letter with Cornwall.
Act III, Scene 4
Kent implores Lear to enter the shelter. Lear hesitates because he is afraid Kent will do the same as Regan and Goneril. Kent promises not to. Lear realizes that the harshness of the storm is not affecting him physically because of the mental torment. He starts to think about how Regan and Goneril shunned everything he had given them. He stops himself because he will surely drive himself mad thinking about it.
The Fool enters the shelter first, but is quickly scared out by Edgar, who was there disguised as poor Tom, the mad beggar. Lear is convinced that only a daughter’s betrayal could have driven a man that insane. He asks Edgar who he used to be. Edgar rants and raves about how he was a variety of things and the sins he engaged in. He asserts that clothes are what make a man. Lear agrees and starts tearing off his clothes.
Gloucester shows up and everyone figures out who each other is, except Edgar…everyone just assumes he is some sort of crazy man. Gloucester asks Lear to return to his home. He won’t see Lear die in the storm. After much coaxing, Lear agrees to go inside, but only if he can bring his philosopher (Edgar).
Act III, Scene 5
Cornwall swears vengeance on Gloucester. Edmund plays the innocent and “laments” his father’s treachery. He’s made Earl of Gloucester and Cornwall promises to take care of him.
Act III, Scene 6
Gloucester sets the men up in a farmhouse adjacent to his castle. He promises to come back with necessities.
While he’s gone, Kent gets the pleasure of observing two mad men and a fool talk. Most of it is nonsense that vaguely relates to what is happening. The odd discussion culminates in a trial of Regan and Goneril, who are unsurprisingly found to be terrible. Kent begs Lear to go to sleep.
Gloucester returns with the news that a threat has been made against Lear’s life. Gloucester tells Kent to his Lear in a cart and take him to Dover.
Edgar reflects on the happenings once he is alone.
Act III, Scene 7
Cornwall prepares to deal with the traitor, Gloucester. He send Goneril to tell her husband that France has invaded. Regan suggests they hang Gloucester. Goneril suggests they pluck out his eyes. Cornwall tells Edmund to go with Goneril because he probably shouldn’t see what they’re about to do to Gloucester. Oswald informs them that the King, with Gloucester’s help, is on his way to Dover.
Gloucester walks in and is immediately arrested. He can’t believe they are doing this while they are guests in his own home. They don’t care and start interrogating him. They ask about the letter from France, which he insists came from a neutral party. Then, they ask why he sent the King to Dover. Gloucester tells them it was so Regan and Goneril couldn’t pluck out his eyes, or sink their fangs into him any longer. The news is met with an eye gouging. Cornwall was going to stop at one eye, but Regan advocates for taking both.
At this point, one of Cornwall’s servants speaks up because this all seems a bit much to him. Regan stabs him in the back. Gloucester loses his other eye. He asks where Edmund is and finds out he was SUPER wrong about the whole Edgar situation. Gloucester is thrown out of his house.
Cornwall is seriously wounded and Regan leaves to take care of him. The servants realize that if Cornwall dies, Regan will become completely unhinged. They decide to go help Gloucester.