ACT III – Scene.i
The raging storm continues, and Kent meets a gentleman who tells him that
King Lear wanders about with only his Fool as companion.
Seeing that the gentleman is a trustworthy person, Kent tells him that there is a growing mistrust between the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall. The King of France has learnt of the way in which King Lear has been treated, and proposes to invade England in order to provide Lear with some protection. Kent tells the gentleman to travel to Dover and tell the loyal subjects there how their King has been made to suffer. He gives the gentleman his ring, and if he should meet Cordelia he should give her the ring.
Kent goes on with his search to find Lear.
Shakespeare uses a familiar device in the form of a storm to signify the
growth of evil, and also to show that order is giving way to chaos. It also introduces an element of supernatural into the proceedings.
The fact that we learn that the King of France is well acquainted with
Lear’s plight shows that he has spies abroad in England.
Kent establishes that the gentleman he has met can be relied upon, and he
sends him to Dover in order to contact Cordelia to show that he (Kent) is active and still loyal to her father.
Some light is introduced into the proceedings for the audience, as there is
now a hope that the tragic Lear may be rescued, and that the forces of evil may be destroyed.
The gentleman provides Kent with a vivid description of Lear and his fight
against the elements. The King is “contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters above the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury and make nothing of;”
Shakespeare provides a descriptive vision of Lear ranting and raving on the
heath, shouting at the storm, pulling at his hair, and again refers to this common theme of sight “eyeless rage”. We have already covered Lear’s inability to see the repercussions in dividing up his Kingdom.
He failed to see through his two oldest daughters’ false flattery. Gloucester failed to see the villainy in Edmund, and so on.
Shakespeare prepares the audience for what is to transpire in later scenes.
At this stage in the play, we group together Regan and Cornwall, Edmund,
Goneril and Albany as the evil characters. We have no evidence to indicate that Albany is any different from his co-conspirators.