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Shakespeare: King Lear

6. Act 1, Scene 4: Kent and the Fool

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the first half of Act 1, Scene 4, up to the point at which Goneril enters. In particular, we think about: (i) the figure of Kent, who turns up in disguise in order to serve his former master; (ii) the connected themes of kindness and kinship (“There’s a great abatement of kindness appears”, 57-8; “I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are”, 173); (iii) the figure of the Fool and his role in the play; (iv) the importance of the concepts of nothing and nothingness (“Nothing can be made out of nothing”, 130); and (v) the idea of returning to one’s roots and/or returning to the state of nature (“All other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with”, 142-3).


In this twenty-five part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s King Lear. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England. After that, we go through the play scene by scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism – and more.

We use the Arden (Third Series) edition of the play. Students using a different edition of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2019, February 26). Shakespeare: King Lear - Act 1, Scene 4: Kent and the Fool [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Act 1, Scene 4: Kent and the Fool." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Feb 2019,

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