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How does the first scene of king lear foreshadow the rest of the play?

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Introduction

How does the first scene of King Lear foreshadow the themes and imagery of the rest of the play? Ben Alborough 10wd In Lear's very first scene, many of the play's basic themes and images are presented. The consistent imagery of eyesight and of "nothing," familial and social ties and the slow but gradual dissolution of Lear's kingship all make their first appearances in the first few lines of Shakespeare's play, as perfect examples of the foreshadowing of the rest of the book.* The idea that an otherwise powerful and politically strong monarch could simply forfeit all rights to the throne would have been horrifying for an early 17th century audience. The recent gunpowder plots and political unrest would have duly proved to the populace how necessary a strong monarch was. This leads us to the idea of the foreshadowing of Kingship. Kingship is a prominent theme, established right at the very beginning, and one which aptly foreshadows elements which appear later in the script. The scene starts halfway through a conversation between Kent and the Earl of Gloucester, who are casually chatting about which duke of the realm, he prefers, and which he will bestow favours upon, therefore straight away proving Lear's authority over some of the powerful men in the land. ...read more.

Middle

is standing right behind him. " ... this knave came something saucily to the world... there was good sport at his making..." etcetera. In addition, during this conversation, Gloucester refers to Edmund only as "knave", "he", "him" and even the highly offensive "whoreson", almost as if he wasn't there. This scene would have been interpreted by a Jacobean audience in much the same way it would be interpreted by a modern audience, with a fairly shocked approach, empathising with Edmund maybe, appreciating the harshness of Gloucester's words and the cruel treatment of his "bastard" son, however, the Jacobean audience would have had another reason for this reaction. The Great Chain of Being was a medieval conception of the order of the universe, and the things therein, with God at the top, surrounded by angels, then kings, the aristocracy, peasants, animals, plants etc., a hierarchy loosely connected with the order of creation in the bible, with Hell at the very bottom. It was basically a statement saying everything was God sent, including children, and with Gloucester being an Earl and so high up the chain, abusing his child would have been seen as abusing his divine position, and therefore disobeying the natural order, and therefore God. The humiliation of Edmund at the hands of Gloucester is later tipped on its head in a perfect example of role-reversal, ...read more.

Conclusion

It is unknown Shakespeare's personal beliefs concerning religion and superstition, but this play does suggest elements of atheism, buried deep within it. It is plain to see that nothing in the play goes right, or if it does, something happens to correct it and to return the play to misery, and the basic report made by centuries of analysis of the play is that Shakespeare was saying that the only way to succeed in life was not at the hands of some divine deity, but in the initiative that everyone needs to cooperate and "be nice" to each other. The evidence is hidden all throughout the play, and it is thought that Edmund's speech in Act 1 Scene 2 is (more or less) Shakespeare voicing his own opinions, although, it might not have been intentional by Shakespeare at all, however, it is an interesting subject. Personally, I do not find Lear a particularly drawing and interesting read, as it is almost the exact polar opposite of the kind of literature I prefer, but I do appreciate the genius, the effort and the motivation pumped into it by the playwright, and although I do not like it for my part, it is still a brilliant piece of work. *That's book as in script, not book as in novel. ...read more.

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