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"How does Shakespeare illuminate and develop character in the opening scenes of King Lear?"

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Introduction

"How does Shakespeare illuminate and develop character in the opening scenes of King Lear?" In the opening scenes of King Lear, we are introduced to many characters, all of whom are provided with an array of personalities and opinions. However, even in the early stages we see a development in these characters, in their way of thinking and how they deal with the challenges around them. The first of many of these characters is Gloucester. In the opening scene, Gloucester is portrayed as a very heartless character, especially to his illegitimate son Edmund, "I have so often blushed to acknowledge him..." Despite his brave face, we as the reader see Gloucester as being ashamed here, totally embarrassed and full of guilt. Gloucester's way of trying to hide this is by degrading Edmund, "Do you smell a fault?" The fault referred to here being Edmunds existence, and Gloucester feels no guilt in referring to him as a "knave" and a "whoreson". The "whoreson" could also illuminate Gloucester as being a slightly dishonest character, having obviously carried out an affair some time ago. He is also very cold in the way he describes Edmund's mother, "whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, Sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed". ...read more.

Middle

His anger is repeated in the occurrence of Kent defending Cordelia. Once again, Lear refers to the only resort he knows, and treats Kent in the exact same way as Cordelia. He is then childish towards France also after he takes Cordelia's hand in marriage, "Come, noble Burgundy" This is a clear symbol that Lear is not used to people going against him, and is a very spoilt character. Scene 4 shows ultimate development in Lear's character. We see a difference in his status, and it is clear that he as lost his power and authority, "and as poor as the king". This paradox shows ultimately Lear's situation, and establishes Lear's low status; he has given up everything. There is another clear indication of Lear's insecure mind in this situation as Lear doesn't realise the way he is treated and behaves how he always has. This could also be an indication of Lear's proud personality, and a sense that he is slightly na�ve also, as he is not treated as he used to be, and is almost unworthy of anything, yet can not see it. However, as time proceeds, Lear becomes slightly wiser, and notices the differences in the way he is treated. His bounce-back personality tries to change this, however he is dismissed immediately as "My Lady's Father", and Lear's personality is ultimately defined as unworthy and foolish, "beg another of thy daughters". ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite this, Goneril is very wise to her actions, "This admiration, Sir, is much o'th'savour of other your new pranks". Goneril tells her father that only the elderly of his fleet are able to stay with him, knowing that this will keep order, and that the old men, exactly like her father, will be easy to control and rule over. She also knows that this will upset Lear, and he will fulfil what she wants most, and will leave her castle. However, she is also aware of the outcome of her wicked ways, and that there is a possibility that Lear's men will form an army against her, and that she and her people will be outnumbered. She quickly dismisses this danger, and is very sly in character by sending Oswald with the letter to Regan before her father's arrival. She yet again shows no guilt in what she does, and this emphasises her cold and merciless personality. Goneril is ultimately very much like her father, she is adamant and headstrong. She is very authorative, and belittles everyone around her, especially Albany. She has no concerns with anyone else but herself, and think Albany stupid and na�ve, "this milky gentleness and course of yours..". This is a very similar situation to Macbeth, in where Lady Macbeth refers to Macbeth as something similar. Goneril is superior to anyone around her, but there is a slight worry as to when her confident personality will go one step too far... ...read more.

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