What impact did Act 1 Scene 1 of King Lear have on you?
The first scene of the first act of King Lear had a genuinely dramatic affect upon me. This first glimpse into the world of Lear and his subordinates sets the premise for the whole play, unravelling within the first few pages, themes which I believe will become increasingly evident. The scene opens with the introduction of three characters – Kent, Gloucester and Edmund. Of these three characters the only one who seems not to have been shown in an unfavourable light yet, by this brief introduction, is Kent. This could be intentional to set It is made clear Edmund is a bastard, and therefore illegible for proper acknowledgement as the son of an Earl. Gloucester is no less tarnished as he admits he is embarrassed by having an illegitimate child (“I have so often blushed to acknowledge him..”) and also insults Edmund’s mother and, Edmund, with further ‘banter’. This makes ones opinion of a noble Earl degrade to the point where he should be also seen as a scoundrel, yet his attitudes and loyalty towards the King have not as yet been questioned. In spite of this the language is merry and seems to set the scene for a joyous event in the royal court – the division of the kingdom among Lear’s beloved daughters.
After this short interlude between the Earl’s, Lear appears and begins to make his proclamation. Lear declares that it is his intention to hand over his land and the affairs of state to his three daughters – Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Although in doing this he still clearly announces that he will remain King of England, if in title only. He has divided his realm in three and wishes his daughter’s to vie for his affection so that whoever shows with words that they love him most, will receive the most “opulent” share of the land. Lear speaks of a “largest bounty”, which when remembering the words of Gloucester from line 3 indicates that he has already decided who shall gain what share of his realm. Also with relation to the words of Gloucester we know that the best share of the land is meant for Cordelia. With his first line he shows that not even the Earl’s knew of his “darker purpose”, which was to get each of his progeny to profess their love for him. This seems like a way to build his ego, which with his pride is in abundance. Goneril is the first to speak and when she says what Lear wants to hear she is given her third of the land. Regan then speaks and is also awarded a third similar to Goneril.
... the account of the tragic downfall of two men, King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester, from power. Their ordeal stems from their own ... in the kings naked folly that he begins to genuinely gain wisdom. Gloucesters path to awareness, however, is quite different. While Lears flaw ... the Earl to realize their errors, they must first experience a great deal of pain and suffering. When King Lear decides to ...
At this point of the scene it can be clearly noticed how similar Goneril and Regan are, as Regan asks Lear to measure her worth as he measured Goneril’s. This closeness seems symbolic in a way to the close-knit coven in Macbeth, as these women seem to have underlying deceptive qualities. Before considering Cordelia’s answer to Lear, we must note her comments made during Goneril and Regan’s ‘speeches’. This is keen use of the aside speech by Shakespeare as the audience would be able to hear Cordelia’s confusion over what her response shall be and her truthful belief that her love is more ponderous than her tongue. Her indecision over what to say to her father shows really how much she does not want to offend him, but instead she does the opposite, as he cannot see beyond his pride, to her loyal words. When she says “Nothing”, she is indicating to him that he should no the worth of her love for him. The king, shocked with this appearance of ingratitude in his favourite child, desired her to consider her words, and to mend her speech, lest it should mar her fortunes. Cordelia then tells Lear that she loves him according to her station, and as much as he loves her as his daughter.
She is as she says “young…and true”. Lear is obviously hurt but it seems, due to the severity of his actions, that his pride and title have been harmed more. He disowns her and she becomes his “sometime daughter”. At this point Kent intervenes on Cordelia’s behalf knowing that Lear will regret his decision. He is warned to come not “between the Dragon and his wrath.” Again he interjects and again. At this point Lear has gone from angry to furious. He banishes Kent, one of his most stalwart supporters, from his kingdom, giving him ten days to leave or else he will be executed. Kent takes his leave but not before bidding farewell to Lear and his daughters. He says to Cordelia that what she spoke was “rightly said!” He also makes a comment to Goneril and Regan bidding them to love Lear as they have said. As Kent departs, the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy enter, not knowing what has transpired. Lear bids Burgundy to approach, whether this is deliberate or just a coincidence remains to be seen. Lear asks Burgundy what he will require as a dowry for Cordelia. Burgundy replies that what was already offered is just and that we will ask for no more and take no less than the original sum.
... of Cordelia might have. King Lear banishes Kent and says that he will have Kent executed if he dares to ever come back again. King Lear can ... to one of them as his wife. Lear disinherits Cordelia and she has to ... like a daughter loves her father and nothing more. Lear gets mad at her and calls for France and Burgundy, to give her ...
Lear counters “When she was dear to us we did hold her so, But now her price has fallen”. The he says, “She’s there, and she is yours”. Burgundy is dumbfounded as all he cared for was wealth and land not fair Cordelia. He still does not believe Lear and only after further clarification rejects Cordelia as his Duchess. Cordelia answers “Peace be with Burgundy! Since that respect and fortunes are his love, I shall not be his wife.” The King of France seems moved by this and not believing Lear to truly despise Cordelia as he says, and loving her for her beauty and honesty takes her for his queen. Lear answers, “Thou hast her, France; let her be thine”. With this everyone leaves the vicinity with the exception of Cordelia, the King of France, Goneril and Regan. The French monarch then bids Cordelia to say farewell to her kin. She calls them “The Jewels of our father” clearly still considering herself to be one of Lear’s children; regardless of his harsh treatment such is her love. The constant use of the imagery relating to jewels and precious metals is ironic as many of the characters are shaded in darkness and covered with deception. Her sisters are quick to bid her adieu, as they realise now, with their greatest obstacle removed, they can begin to manipulate Lear uninterrupted.
... directed towards King Lear and Burgundy, as being a father and a prospective husband, respectively, they should have unconditional love for Cordelia, which they ... a major contrast through these paradoxes and agrees with France. This makes Lear look as if he is doing something! SS monstrous ...
And with that the scene ends leading us to digest a variety of colourful and contrasting imagery. We see a parallel plot with the theme of Family running alongside the tale of King Lear with Gloucester and his sons, this is sure to develop. We also see the introduction of deceit from his eldest daughters, the defence of Cordelia by Lear’s friend, Kent and his subsequent banishment. Burgundy portrays the greed incarnate to man and his want for material goods. Lear is pride and the King of France is honour and compassion. Within these first few pages of the play we gain an insight into the world of Lear and the human psyche as all our mental components seem to be put on display by Shakespeare. This scene contains many emotions but has an underlying poignancy, because we know and can suspect that the tragedy has only begun.