Discuss the importance of Act 3 in King Lear Essay

Published: 2021-07-19 14:40:06
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One of the hallmarks of Shakespeare’s great tragic plays is his method of making Act 3 a spectacular, explosive and often violent part of the play in order for the play to reach an effective climax. Fittingly Act 3 is often the last act before the interval showing Shakespeare’s intentional craftsmanship. King Lear is no exception, with act 3 proving to be very eventful and an explosion in terms of tension built up in the previous two acts. Noticeably this Act is particularly violent, set in the context of a storm, the characters behaviour is startlingly different with dramatic consequences.
Shakespeare does this purposely for a number of reasons and it’s justifiably the reason why Act 3 is so significant and effectively so. Part of the success of this act is the fact that it is set in the context of a storm. As all elements of a play including the weather are very important in creating an atmosphere, especially visually, The fact that Shakespeare chose to use the storm in a type of Pathetic fallousy, reinforces the idea of violence and right from the beginning hints that the tension which is coming to a head will be unleashed in this act.
One of the key events in this act is most defiantly the meeting of Lear and Edgar; this event takes place in the wild surroundings of a hovel on the heath. The meeting of these two characters causes Lears madness which has been threatening to arise, to be unveiled as he mirrors Edgar’s violent and unsettling behaviour as he feigns being a Tom O’ Bedlam, and by the use of violent language “blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! his decline into madness becomes clear. Also in this Act it is noticeable that the Importance of the fool and his role in the play seems to decline and by the end of the act he disappears all together. This is so significant as throughout the beginning of the play the fool has remained an important aid to Lear providing a clear insight into situations and being the only character to see each character for what they are.
During this act The Fools act of being a fool becomes less and less obvious and nearing the end of his appearance he says “this cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen” as he realises that Lear is losing his sense of reality. The Fools disappearance symbolises not only the end of Lears clear perspective but also signifies that true identities of characters now being revealed. The climax of this act is the blinding of Gloucester and killing of a servant, a part in the play, which has made King Lear famous.
This occurs in Gloucester’s own castle and is infiltrated by Cornwall and Reagan. Not only does this signify a start to more violent acts in the play but it also brings the undertones of evil into the forefront of the plays plot. Because violence in any kind has not been witnessed before at all in this play the sight of two characters being killed provides a very exciting and thrilling end to the first part of the play. These are the main ways in which Act 3 is significant but only by the use of violence and violent undertones have these been so successful.
A violent storm and violent language highlighting Lear’s madness. And pushing the fool from the play, and a gory and extremely violent scene revealing the true nature of two of the plays most important characters, swell as importantly the use of a storm to remind the audience of the Power of nature and influence of the Gods in this play. As mentioned before the use of violence reveals the true evil nature of Regan and Cornwall but it also moves the plot on effectively in a number of different ways, the storm effectively “clears the air”.
Not only is Lear revealed as Truly mad but even in his warped state of mind by meeting the devastated Edgar he realises his wrongdoing against Cordelia and seeks to make it right. Regan and Cornwall, as well as concreting there characters as evil through their violence, also learn of what Lears plans are through Gloucester’s torture. Also because of the violent scene at the end of the play, Cornwall is fatally injured which gives the chance for the story between Edmond and Regan to develop.
Not only this but because Gloucester is blinded, Edgar is enabled to reunite with his father and learn of his brothers plot. Violence was necessary to achieve these developments in order for the play to come to a satisfying conclusion. Looking at Act 3 purely as a function in the play, it is easy to see why this has been made such a violent act. Firstly and importantly as well as moving the plot on Act 3 provides one of the key elements of any great dramatic play. Violence being one of the ingredients as well as action and romance.
Act three also dissolves the unnecessary characters. Cornwall is no longer needed as he has fulfilled his dramatic function, by highlighting Regan’s violence and blinding Gloucester and similarly the Fool is not needed anymore. The Fool has illustrated Lears fall from sanity and is no longer required as Edgar has almost taken his place. Very simply this act also establishes the theme of evil and violence that will continue until the end of the play and marks the beginning of such dramatic acts as well as clearly dividing the play into two parts, the build up and the resolution.
Overall Act three is clearly a very pivotal Act in this play as it is the act that simultaneously resolves and creates new tension and twists in the plot, and this is only done with such impact because of the undercurrent and at times explicit violence used by Shakespeare. This method used by Shakespeare not only adds to the plays excitement but also is almost necessary to ensure that the plays themes and the overall effect that Shakespeare intended are clearly shown. In this play the use of violence especially in Act three reinforces this theme of evil, which had been underlying in the previous scenes.

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