ACT III - Scene.ii
(Still on the heath as the storm continues)
We join a conversation between Lear and his Fool.
“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts
Singe my white head!”
Lear curses the elements as he considers them to be the servants of evil,
spurred on by his two daughters. The Fool is concerned for his master’s welfare and tries to make him find warmth and shelter.
Kent arrives and Lear is persuaded to take shelter in a nearby hovel.
The disguised Earl then returns to the castle in the hope that they may gain access. The Fool delivers a soliloquy in the form of a prophecy.
Although we have watched Lear’s mental state deteriorate, he still maintains
his physical prowess. He defiantly curses the storm, impervious to the weather, whilst his Fool urges his master to take cover.
The Fool makes several cutting remarks, again reminding the onlooker of Lear’s previous poor decisions.
When Kent appears on the scene, he has more success and takes Lear to a
nearby hovel – a far cry from the palaces he will have been accustomed to.
We can also imagine what Lear was like when he was in his prime, for the
onlooker can do naught but admire Lear and the way he remains defiant, despite what he has suffered. He believes that higher powers are at work, and he shows his courage by standing up to them.
Although the Fool continues to be “a pestilent gall” by firing bitter quips at his master, we clearly see the affection Lear has for his Fool.
The scene ends with the Fool’s paradoxical prophecy, and we read,
“When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors;
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors; ''
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion:
Then comes the time, who lives to see it
That going shall be used with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time.”
This speech by the Fool provides a contrast between the real world that he
and Lear are experiencing, and the perfect world where justice and goodness prevail against evil.