Lear's dilemma - future of Britain & Cordelia

Tripartition of Britain - Lear's grand plan

Kent & Gloster - Lear's attitude to Cornwall

Act 1 Scene 1 - Enter KING LEAR

The flattery game - Goneril & Regan

Sharing the kingdom - a third more opulent

Lear and flattery - did he love it or hate it?

Duke of Burgundy - the dowerless suitor

King of France - in choler parted

Edmund - sectary astronomical

Duke of Albany - worthy prince

Queen Goneril - King Lear's successor?

Oswald - this detested groom

Goneril - under the influence

Regan - is she worse than Goneril?

Goneril/Edmund/Regan - unequilateral triangle

Division 'twixt Albany and Cornwall - rumour

Lear's sanity - recovery

The final tableau - Lear endures his going hence

The last word - Albany or Edgar?

Lear's recovery from madness

Doubt not of his temperance

Consider the time interval from when Lear awakens in Cordelia's presence until the Doctor tells Cordelia he has regained his sanity. If the passage is read aloud, with full regard to the trauma of Lear's waking moments, it only takes a few minutes. The rapidity with which Lear evinces his recovery is quite amazing and yet it passes through four distinguishable stages:

(1) Lear thinks he is dead

He regains consciousness in strange surroundings with music playing quite loudly. He is completely disoriented and thinks he is in some after-life. He does not recognise Cordelia.

He wakes; speak to him.
Madam, do you; 'tis fittest.
How does my royal lord? How fares your majesty?
You do me wrong to take me out o' the grave.—
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
Sir, do you know me?
You are a spirit, I know. When did you die?
Still, still, far wide!
He's scarce awake: let him alone awhile.

(2) Lear begins to realise he is alive

He asks questions, but seemingly to question himself rather than others. Note that 'Fair daylight?' is not a comment but a question, but a strange one, as Lear struggles to get his bearings. Until Cordelia asks him to do so, he has barely looked her way! And let us not forget that his eyes are not o' the best! He does not know who Cordelia is and tries to kneel before her. He has called her a spirit and probably thinks she is an angel to be knelt before.

Where have I been? Where am I? — Fair daylight?—
I am mightily abus'd. — I should e'en die with pity,
To see another thus. — I know not what to say.—
I will not swear these are my hands: — let's see;
I feel this pin prick. 'Would I were assur'd
Of my condition!
O! look upon me, sir,
And hold your hands in benediction o'er me—
No, sir, you must not kneel.

(3) Although Lear is still getting focused what he says proves he is sane

Now he tells Cordelia that he is about to say something that might sound so foolish, so ridiculous, that she might mock him. And what is this thing he is not sure about? He thinks 'this lady to be my child Cordelia.' And though he says 'I fear I am not in my perfect mind.' what he says is absolutely correct and shows he is in his perfect mind. He has recognised Cordelia and he has recognised Caius (the still-disguised Kent). In fact, the reason Lear says 'Pray do not mock me.' can only be because he has actually recognised Cordelia before utter­ing those words else why would he say them? Despite this recognition, he is thrown into doubt because, simultaneously, he sees other things in his new surroundings of which he cannot possibly know anything.

Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more, nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear, I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks, I should know you, and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful, for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.

(4) Lear knows for sure that he is sane

Once Cordelia confirms that Lear's thoughts are accurate his speech loses all elements of doubt and hesitancy and he speaks spontaneously and with confidence. When told he is not in France but in his own kingdom, his 'Do not abuse me.' has an ironic touch of a sound mind. On hearing this, the Doctor immediately realises Lear has recovered his sanity.

And so I am, I am.
Be your tears wet? Yes, 'faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.
No cause, no cause.
Am I in France?
In your own kingdom, sir.
Do not abuse me.
Be comforted, good madam. The great rage,
You see, is kill'd in him;