Comments on Act V, scene ii

This short scene illustrates a tragic pattern characteristic of the last act. Edgar leaves his father saying, "Pray that the right may thrive. If ever I return to you again, I'll bring you comfort," briefly setting up an expectation of hope, only to have it dashed the next moment when he returns to announce that Cordelia's army has lost the battle. A similar reversal occurs in the next scene. Edgar arrives to defeat his brother in combat, and the two sisters perish, giving the momentary impression that the forces of good may actually triumph. Mortally wounded, Edmund repents and warns them of his death sentence on Cordelia, but hope comes too late, as just after Albany exclaims, "The gods defend her," Lear enters carrying her lifeless body.


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