King Lear: Act 2, Scene 2 Summary and Questions

Kent arrives at Gloucester’s castle, still disguised as a peasant, with a letter for Gloucester. He meets Kent, who doesn’t recognise him. Kent begins to abuse Oswald calling him, “A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three suited, hundred pound, worsted stocking knave…”

Kent draws his sword and urges Oswald to do the same, before attacking him. Oswald cries for help and Regan, Cornwall and Gloucester enter and ask for an explanation. Kent replies rudely to them and Cornwall orders for him to be punished in the stocks.

Gloucester is against this punishment as he says it will be seen as a sign of disrespect to Lear that his servant is being treated in this way. The rest disagree and say he deserves it for treating Goneril’s servant this way.

With Kent left by himself, he reads a letter from Cordelia, who hasn’t be seen since the first scene and she says that is going to find some way to help improve the conditions in Britain from her home in France.

Questions:

  1. Why does Cornwall want Kent to be punished?
  2. Gloucester is against this punishment as it will be seen as a sign of disrespect to Lear, why do you think Cornwall and Regan are content with the punishment?
  3. What does Cordelia say in her letter to Kent?
  4. How has Shakespeare juxtaposed the family situation of Lear’s with Gloucester’s?
  5. What do we learn about Kent in this scene?

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