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Shakespeare: King Lear

17. Act 4, Scene 2: Goneril, Edmund and Albany

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through Act 4, Scene 2, in which tensions begin to boil over between Goneril and Albany. In particular, we focus on: (i) the burgeoning relationship between Edmund and Goneril; (ii) the play’s moral clarity, i.e. the clear distinction between the ‘good’ characters (e.g. Kent, Edgar, Cordelia) and the ‘bad’ characters (e.g. Goneril, Regan, Edmund); (iii) the figure of Albany, including his famous speech on the evil of which humanity is capable (“Humanity must perforce prey on itself, | Like monsters of the deep”, 50-51).


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 4, Scene 2: Goneril, Edmund and Albany [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Act 4, Scene 2: Goneril, Edmund and Albany." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Feb 2019,

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