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How does Shakespeare establish the major conflicts of the play in the first two scenes of the play, ‘King Lear’?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare establish the major conflicts of the play in the first two scenes of the play, 'King Lear'? The first two scenes of Shakespeare's' 'King Lear' establishes the two major conflicts which forms the main plot, and the other, smaller, less featured conflicts which forms the basis for the sub-plot. When analysing how these conflicts are formed, one must look at the situation of the characters, the language and tone used, the atmosphere created and what kind of conflicts they are, such as the typical 'good versus evil.' The main plot features the conflict between King Lear and his two eldest daughters, Gonerill and Regan, precipitated by the division of his Kingdom. Act 1, Scene one opens with an exchange between Kent and Gloucester, immediately thus introducing the main plot of Lear's division of the Kingdom, and the conflicts which arise as a result. "I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall" King Lear then makes his entrance and immediately announces his plans to divide the Kingdom between his three daughters and their respective partners. Lear has already decided to split the Kingdom equally but for perhaps egotistical, vain reasons, he wants his daughters to declare their love for him in order for him to decide who should obtain the biggest share. ...read more.

Middle

The second scene introduces the sub-plot of the illegitimate Edmund, (referred to as the bastard) plotting against his father and brother, Gloucester and Edgar. The first scene introduces the characters of Gloucester and Edgar, who initially appears as a very polite, pleasant and courteous character. Despite Gloucester's derogatory and somewhat cruel references to him, such as a 'whoreson', and his introducing him to Kent as his illegitimate child, Edmund is respectful to both his father and Kent. It becomes evident that it is perhaps this appalling treatment at the hands of his father that contributes to Edmund's desire to plot against him and his legitimate brother, Edgar. "there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged." Act 1, Scene 2 opens with a soliloquy by Edmund revealing the true nature of his character to the audience, with the revelation that he is planning to 'if not by birth, have lands by wit'. Edmund's soliloquy is quite shocking as the audience's first impression of him is that he is a very pleasant character, but his revelations in the second scene reveal his seemingly apparent Machiavellian nature. There is evidently a lot of tension and jealously between Edmund, and his legitimate brother, Edgar. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, although this conflict is not really established or explored in the first two scenes of the play, Shakespeare cleverly and subtly implies and suggests that King Lear is showing signs of madness. When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man? Kent is Lear's most trusted and loyal aide, and his interruption when the King becomes angry at Cordelia is insulting towards Lear, suggesting not only that Kent feels very strongly, but that he also fears Lear is showing signs of madness due to his age, as he is in his eighties. Gonerill and Regan also detect that Lear is showing signs of madness due to his seemingly rash act of banishing both Cordelia, his favourite daughter, and his most trusted and loyal aide, Kent from the Kingdom. Gonerill: You see how full of changes his age is...He always loved our sister most. Regan: 'Tis the infirmity of his age. Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself. Gonerill and Regan are concerned by Lear's irrational and unpredictable behaviour and view a certain element of danger in the sense that they are unsure of what actions Lear is capable of, and thus Lear's insanity becomes a major theme later on as the play progresses. The last conflict which is explored in the first two scenes of the play is the concept of man versus nature which is made reference to throughout the duration of the play. ...read more.

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