ACT IV – Scene.iv
(In the French camp near Dover)
Cordelia learns from a messenger that her father is nearby. She now
commands the armies of her husband and she waits to face the English army.
She learns that her father is a weird sight dressed in weeds and flowers. She consults with her physician to ask whether her father can be cured. He is confident that with care Lear can be returned to sanity.
Cordelia describes her father as “mad as the vex’d sea, singing
aloud;” She sends her troops to find him and bring him into her care. We hear that the King suffers from no ordinary madness, but a madness befitting a King, which not only invokes pity, but
The decking of oneself in flowers has particular symbolism, each separate flower or weed symbolizing the numerous torments suffered by Lear. The King wishes to project an image of wildness and freedom, hence the wearing of flowers representing his chaotic state of mind.
This theme of wearing weeds and flowers was quite common and there are
examples of this in both Richard II and Hamlet. Sometimes the weeds represent evil, but in this case they represent the madness of the King, and he no doubt wore the Cuckoo Flower also aptly named the Bedlam
Cowslip, which is a fairly common weed in this part of England.