King Lear By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 2

Summary

The setting is a field between the British and French camps. Cordelia, Lear, and their forces move toward the battle. Edgar enters, looking for a safe place for Gloucester to wait out the conflict. After placing Gloucester in a sheltered spot, Edgar leaves, and the sounds of battle are heard. In a few moments, Edgar returns and orders Gloucester to follow him to a more secure spot because Lear's forces have lost, and the king and Cordelia have been taken prisoner.

Analysis

Edgar echoes a common belief of Shakespeare's period when he says "Men must endure" (V.2.9). Patient suffering was a key part of seventeenth-century life, a fundamental belief of Christian doctrine. Within this context, the Book of Job was not just a part of the larger biblical text; it was instead, an element of every man's life. Job's trials were thought to be an actual historical account, written by Moses and designed by God to facilitate the acceptance of suffering as necessary for a later reward with God. In short, a belief in patience through suffering created the way to greater happiness and glory with God.

Job's suffering increases with his willingness to suffer; and still, he only responds, "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:9). Even when Job can bear his suffering no longer, he refuses to curse God. Instead, he curses the day of his birth. Job's patience with his loss and pain is tremendous, and clearly this serves as a model for Edgar, who has borne his trials with patience. Eventually, even Job begins to question why he must suffer, and in turn, he is chastised by God and reminded of God's glory: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" (Job 38:4). The reflective man, willing to suffer, reminded by patience of the reward from God, finds an expression of his glory in Job's text. Although the setting for King Lear is pre-Christianity, its influences are clearly seen in the way Edgar reminds his father that they must endure.

Glossary

good host shelterer, entertainer.

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