ACT IV – Scene.v
(In Gloucester’s castle)
Oswald advises Regan that the Duke of Albany has been persuaded to lead the
English forces against the French army. He also carries a letter from Goneril to Edmund and Regan is more interested in the contents of the letter than the forthcoming battle. She commands Oswald to give
her the letter because she is aware that Goneril has flirted with Edmund. Regan reminds Oswald that his mistress is still married and that she (being a widow) considers that Edmund is reserved for her.
Regan instructs Oswald that if he should meet Gloucester, he should kill him.
Albany is persuaded to lead the armies, not because he wishes to support his
wife and her sister, but because of his obligation to defend the Kingdom against foreign invaders.
Oswald makes the comment that he considers Goneril probably a better soldier
than her husband. Perhaps Albany is using this as a ruse and may be able to avoid battle, rescue Lear, and protect Cordelia.
If he is able to achieve this, then the foreign troops will probably depart peacefully.
We note the growing suspicion between Goneril and Regan, and cracks are
beginning to appear in the evil alliance. The audience senses that evil may start to prey on evil and thus consume itself.
The Shakespearean audience is every bit as intrigued as we are at the battle between the two sisters over Edmund. Both these women are formidable, and we note that although Oswald is loyal to his mistress, he bends with the wind and obeys Regan as well. No doubt Edmund relishes the position where two women are fighting over him, but there is more to this, for the women in question are Princesses of the realm and this also legitimizes his position.
You will recall that Regan had instructed Edmund to kill Gloucester.
Now she tells Oswald the same. Hopefully he is now safe in Dover. They would obviously like to see Gloucester dead, because having him roam the land in his sorry state does nothing to promote their position.