Study Guide

King Lear Act 3, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 1

  • Kent, still disguised as Caius, meets up with the Gentleman, who informs him that the King is still running about in a night so dreadful that even lions and bears have taken to their dens.
  • The gentleman says that only the Fool accompanies the King on his mad journey, trying to stave off Lear's madness with friendly jokes.
  • Kent then gives the gentleman a political update: tension between Regan's husband (Cornwall) and Goneril's husband (Albany) may result in a civil war, though they're keeping it hush-hush.
  • Aside from possibly having a war, both Albany and Cornwall may be united in one activity: plotting against the life of Lear, their father-in-law.
  • This has all been discovered by spies placed strategically in their houses as servants, and France (which has likely sent the spies) is even now preparing to make a move against these divided houses.
  • Kent then reveals he's actually a gentleman himself, meaning that he's of noble breeding, and not just a random guy. But he doesn't go so far as to reveal that he's Kent.
  • Kent asks the Gentleman to be a messenger for him. He instructs him to go to Dover (where Cordelia is) and report of Lear's recent ill-treatment.
  • He then gives the Gentleman his purse so the messenger will be inspired to actually do the job at hand.
  • He also gives the Gentleman a ring to deliver to Cordelia along with the message. The ring will let Cordelia know who the message is from, and then she can tell the Gentleman who he's been dealing with. 
  • As they part, Kent says, "I'll go this way, and you go that way. Let me know if you find the King—I'll do the same."