ACT IV – Scene.iii
(The French camp near Dover)
Although the King of France commanded his forces when they arrived in Dover,
he has left and his army is commanded by his Marshall.
A gentleman describes to Kent Cordelia’s reaction on receiving Kent’s letter
providing information concerning King Lear’s status. Cordelia is appalled at the behavior of her two older sisters.
Kent tells the gentleman that Lear is nearby, but that he cannot bring himself to meet with Cordelia so filled is he with shame. The gentleman also tells Kent that the forces of Albany and Cornwall are close by. The disguised Kent informs the gentleman that he will bring Lear to Dover and then reveal his own identity.
This scene is omitted from some versions of the play and may also have been
It was politically sensitive to have the King of France on English soil with an invading army, and so Shakespeare arranges for his return to France. Shakespeare also makes it clear that although technically the Marshall commands the forces, they are in the realm in order to protect Cordelia’s father King Lear.
The importance of the scene is to make it clear to the audience that
Cordelia truly loves her father and is totally different from her siblings.
There is also an indication that the evil flowing in Regan and Goneril’s
blood is a result of supernatural influences.
This has an important bearing on the divine justice that will operate in later scenes. At this stage in the play, both Lear and Gloucester question whether any such justice exists.
Shakespeare deliberately set this play in pre-Christian Britain and so there
is still a doubt whether good will prevail over evil, and this anomaly enables the tension to be maintained.