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Analysis of chapter 1

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Introduction

Mrs. Pennington Act 1 King Lear Overview The kingdom's division as referred to by Kent and Gloucester is strange in that it is not mentioned in the context of Lear's daughters. The seeming chance this sheds on Lear's given love test provides a contrast through which to view the misplaced importance Lear is placing on words, appearance, and position. We will soon learn that Kent and Gloucester are two of the only men who could provide Lear with sound and sincere advice, therefore giving their original take of the situation with a greater significance. They have no problem with Lear's decision to divide the kingdom as he is old and is attempting to escape greater conflict after his death. Therefore Kent's revolt against Lear's actions arises not from Lear's initial undertaking but from his reaction to Cordelia. Notice too that he does not protest when Lear asks for a competition for love from his daughters or when Goneril and Regan respond in arguably patronizing, superficial words. He only strikes against Lear's rule when Lear does not notice the honesty of Cordelia's words and then moves to strip her of his love and titles. This is not only foolish but hurtful and unjust. The love test was foolish but, on the surface, harmed little. Yet, Goneril and Regan knew that it was unlikely that their sister would not compete against them if they were extravagant and appealing enough in their claims of love toward their Father. ...read more.

Middle

Suspension of disbelief must be acted on a level as many readers are moved to question Lear's decision making and early blindness toward truth. Lear has started to regress toward dementia and old age. We know by Kent and Gloucester's loyalty toward him, that he had once been more reasonable. Lear committed a fatal and selfish human error which cannot be mended without the journey and transformation he must undergo. Blindness is one of the most frequently employed metaphors in King Lear. Blindness will become a physical problem for Gloucester later in the play, but its weight is used to foreshadow and heighten this development. Lear is blind to his two oldest daughters from the first moment we meet him. However, unlike the implication that he was once a more noble man since he has the support of the sub characters, Kent and Gloucester, we are not given the impression that he ever knew well enough to previously suspect Goneril or Regan of dishonesty. They have obviously shown their true colors at some point before though since Cordelia responds in such a manner to alert us that she will not sink as low as her sisters will. For instance, she comments, "A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue that I am glad I have not, though not to have it hath lost me in your liking" (Line 231-233). Therefore, although Lear has obviously favored Cordelia, he has been blind to the ungratefulness of his two other daughters and is foolish enough to trust them with his livelihood after more foolishly disinheriting Cordelia and exiling Kent. ...read more.

Conclusion

This reflection of plot, for which the seeds are planted in Act I, magnifies the horrors of the tragedy. In this manner, blindness is one of the main symbolic and physical elements through which Shakespeare describes the horrors of ingratitude, insincerity, and hypocrisy. Goneril is represented to the audience as one of the most evil participants in the crimes taking place. This character description is illustrated through the contrast Shakespeare establishes between her and her husband. Here, Goneril also yearns for power but does not feel the need to aim indirectly for it. Albany is basically told to stay out of her way as he is too weak to know what is best. She places more trust in her servant Oswald, it seems, as she sends him off to run her important letter to Regan whereas she pushes Albany off to the side. She manipulates how her sister will act and the manner in which they will strip Lear of his property and authority. The stories she creates of Lear's riotous knights and so on are supported by nothing in Shakespeare's text. The characters in Lear's train who speak to him are well behaved, polite, and honorable. They try to protect him and Lear himself is shown well when he places the blame for Goneril's coldness on himself instead of her and her household. Therefore we exit the first Act with the knowledge of Cordelia's goodness, Lear's previous goodness and impending madness, Fool's truth telling, Edmund's plotting, and Goneril's evil. ?? ?? ?? ?? Greg Neale L6st ...read more.

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