Act III - Scene III

Gloucester's castle.

[Enter Gloucester and Edmund]

Alack, alack, Edmund, I like not this unnatural
dealing. When I desire their leave that I might pity him, they
took from me the use of mine own house; charged me, on
pain of their perpetual displeasure, neither to speak of him,
entreat for him, nor any way sustain him.(5)
Most savage and unnatural!
Go to; say you nothing. There's a division betwixt
the dukes; and a worse matter than that: I have received a
letter this night; 'tis dangerous to be spoken; I have locked
the letter in my closet: these injuries the king now bears will(10)
be revenged home; there's part of a power already footed: we
must incline to the king. I will seek him, and privily relieve
him: go you and maintain talk with the duke, that my charity
be not of him perceived: if he ask for me. I am ill, and gone to
bed. Though I die for it, as no less is threatened me, the king(15)
my old master must be relieved. There is some strange thing
toward, Edmund; pray you, be careful.

[Exit Gloucester.]

This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the duke
Instantly know; and of that letter too:
This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me(20)
That which my father loses; no less than all:
The younger rises when the old doth fall.

[Exit Edmund.]


  1. The French forces have already landed, or “footed,” on English soil, and Cordelia is with them. We see here that Gloucester hopes that the French army will be able to defeat Goneril and Regan, and in doing so, restore order. Little does he know, Edmund plans to use this knowledge to his own advantage, further emphasizing that Gloucester has placed his hopes in the wrong son.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Gloucester puts his faith in the wrong son, much like Lear trusts Goneril and Regan rather than Cordelia. Gloucester’s family can be seen as a mirror for Lear’s, as both Lear and Gloucester are blind to the characters of their own children. Since the audience knows of Edmund’s ambitious intentions, Gloucester’s faith in Edmund is an example of dramatic irony.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. “Alack” is a term used to express regret, grief, or pity. Shakespeare complicates the theme of family relationships when he emphasizes that Gloucester considers Goneril and Regan’s callous treatment of their father to be “unnatural.” Their behavior goes against what nature seems to intend—that we care for the well-being of our family. Goneril and Regan’s monstrous natures they are not only cold and careless, but also inhuman—refusing even to let others help their father.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. As we’ve seen so far, the dichotomy between the fathers and their children in this play is pronounced: the fathers value fate, tradition, and order; the children (except Edgar and Cordelia) desire authority, power, and control of their own destinies. This tension works on the family level of those involved, but it also works metaphorically for the English state. If the young refuse to acknowledge and learn from the old, the social order will be thrown into disarray.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This is probably the most important line in the entire play. It expresses Shakespeare's real theme, which is that each generation inevitably and relentlessly displaces the generation that came before it and created it.

    — William Delaney
  6. Gloucester explicitly asks Edmund to keep what he is telling him a total secret. The old man does not realize he is talking to his worst enemy, who will immediately betray him.

    — William Delaney