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What have we learned about King Lear in Act 1? In the opening scene of the play, the audience will immediately notice King Lear's raging temper

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Introduction

What have we learned about King Lear in Act 1? In the opening scene of the play, the audience will immediately notice King Lear's raging temper, and sycophantic behaviour. From the start of the scene, it is clear that the king values appearances more than the reality. He appears very foolish, and slightly mad, as he is willing to give away his kingdom without realising the consequences. This theme of madness is found throughout the whole of the play. Towards the start of Act 1, Scene 1, King Lear asks his daughter to show their love for him in the reward of receiving a share of his kingdom. The King appears to be looking for public flattery and not a show of their true love as he says "Which of you shall we say doth love us most". This shows that all the king wants is his daughters to say they love him. Goneril immediately begins to praise her father and show her exaggerated love for the King. This is evident in the following quotes: "I love you more than...eyesight, space and liberty"; "No less than life...'so much' I love you" From these quotes it is evident that Goneril is flattering the King in order to receive the largest share of the kingdom. From the exaggeration of her love for her father, it is evident that she is a very untrue character, hoping she would be rewarded with a large inheritance. The King is reduced by her flattery, and rewards her with the first share of the kingdom. Regan also flatters the king and receives a part of the kingdom. However Cordelia refuses to say that she loves the king more than she should as a daughter. This is shown in the following quote: "I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less." This clearly shocks the king at first as he replies "How, how, Cordelia?" ...read more.

Middle

which clearly shows that he was expecting a different answer, and also giving Cordelia a second chance. Cordelia then shows up her sisters by explaining that she may "never marry like my sisters, to love my father all." The king responds to this by turning into a rage, in a very short space of time, where he decides to banish his daughter. Shakespeare uses dark images to display this rage that the king has. This is evident in the following quotes: "mysteries of Heccat and the night"; "barbarous scythian" These quotes and use of these dark images show how bad tempered Lear is. Kent interrupts in defence for Cordelia, and the king warns Kent to "come not between the dragon and his wrath" which gives the audience an image of exactly what state of mind Lear is in at the moment. Kent is then involved in an argument with King Lear, in which he is banished from the kingdom. The king is so short tempered and angered by Kent that he decides to kill Kent "Kent, on they life, no more!", and would have if Albany and Cornwall didn't stop him. Kent refers to the King as mad, as his actions at that time would have been seen as completely ridiculous. He refers to the king as an "old man" also, which is ironic, as Lear is later referred to by his other two daughters as an old man. This is shown to the audience in the following quote: "Be Kent unmannerly, When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do old man?" This quote is very significant, as Kent is the first person to admit that Lear's actions are very rash, and the first character to brand Lear as simply an old man, after he gives his throne away. By mentioning "old" King Lear could be interpreted as becoming very senile or very tired, however Kent also sees Lear's actions as foolish. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also in the subplot, the Earl of Gloucester is in a similar situation to the king, as there is a sibling rivalry between both of his sons, and he also reacts in a rage. He, like King Lear, cannot see very clearly, and listens to the side of his illegitimate son, Edmund. It is clear though, that the tragic hero has began his learning steps already, as he begins to realise that what his daughters said was not true. The fool also makes the king realise the mistake that he may have made. This is evident in the following quote: "When thou clovest thy crown i'th'middle and gav'st away both parts, thou bor'st thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt." This basically means that the King made a big mistake dividing his kingdom, and the king appears to listen to the fool. When Goneril arrives she is annoyed at the king for inviting his 100 knights to stay. He is so blind to the daughter's fake act of love that he appears to be surprised when this happens, as he asks "Are you our daughter?" and then the King turns into his rage again, storming off with the powerful line "Darkness and devils!". This line is a very effective use of alliteration as it uses two images of evil to portray what Lear thinks of the daughter at the current point in time. This use of darkness and rage is Lear's most frequent attitude to this situation so far, but there are signs that he will learn from his mistakes. He is also still blind to the fact that his daughters lied in order to receive the rewards, and as he says "Yet have I left a daughter", not realising that Regan will react as Goneril did. King Lear clearly has a lot to learn from this part of the play, and it is evident that he will soon realise that the daughter's love for him is fake, and that he may have wrong done Cordelia. ...read more.

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