The influence Act 1 has on the rest of the play in King Lear

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                Jodie Bradshaw

What evidence does Act 1 of King Lear give us of the tragic forces are to be explored on stage?

‘King Lear’, Shakespeare’s most profound tragedy is centred around the tragic protagonist, King Lear himself, was written in 1605 and has more than just the one main plot. The story of Gloucester and his sons (one of King Lear’s noblemen) heightens the tragedy that occurs, which also explores the enduringly compelling struggle between good and evil, issues about power and responsibility and the magnified downfall of King Lear; once a ruler of a large empire that ‘tied his wagon to a falling stone’ and resulted in the life of what can only be described as a homeless beggar with ‘Nothing’. The main the main plot and creates a parallel tragedy on a lower scale to that of the main, and therefore provides points of comparison with the royal family. Lear’s foolishness of believing false flattery instead of the truth, and therefore choosing evil over good, results in the realm plunging into crisis. The first Act of ‘King Lear’ creates a good indication of what may occur in the rest of the play.

In Act 1 Shakespeare introduces King Lear and his noblemen, which begins to display the tragic forces Shakespeare has planned ahead as Lear’s 100 knights are the representation of his power, and they are significant here as later on Goneril strips him of this luxury ‘A hundred knights!’. By reducing what Lear has power over, he becomes weaker and weaker,  and therefore easier for Goneril and Regan to take control. Act 1 is mainly set around the ‘love-test’ he devised for his three daughters, in order to decide who should have his kingdom. Two of his three daughters are desperate to ‘enjoy half his revenue forever’, and therefore introduces the main plot, and the beginning to Lear’s large downfall, despite the fact that Regan and Goneril most definitely wrong; which creates and even stronger power of evil and shows how determined they are to rid of their father, which in turn begins to create the theme of evil versus good, all because their father made a small wrong decision to believe the lies of the deceitful over the truthfulness of the genuine. Gloucester, one of Lear’s noblemen introduces his illegitimate song to Kent ‘I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to it’. This therefore gives slight reason for Edmund to turn against his father, as he has always been the ashamed one; thus also displaying a strong sense of hunger and leads to joint forces of evil to rid the good of their physical and mental wealth. In this, I mean that for Lear, it leads to his insanity and madness, displayed through pathetic fallacy when he is made homeless by his daughter Regan and locked out in the mad storm; which is also happening in his mind.  The parallel stories, both introduced during the first Act,  of Regan and Goneril against not only their vulnerable father, but their daughter Cordelia, and the illegitimate Edmund against his father Gloucester and brother Edgar, indicate that the evil will join together to help each other reach their goal, which we see much later in the play. The growing forces of evil help to magnify the small wrong choices of both Gloucester and King Lear to so easily turn on their children helps to create a great downfall to misery and unhappiness for both, and begins to introduce the mental blindness that both are affected by.

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More tragic forces are explored on stage as Regan and Goneril are fighting for their own part of the land, and therefore power in King Lear’s love test, Regan says ‘Which the most precious square of sense possesses. And find I am alone felicitate in your dear highness’ love’. The power of words both Goneril and Regan use in this scene are the introduction to Lear’s vital mistake, and it is because of this he then later becomes such a pensioner. This quote is however ironically challenged by Cordelia, the third, truthful sister when saying ‘Why have my sisters ...

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This essay has some valid points to make in answer to the question posed in the title. However, its effectiveness is reduced by over-lengthy paragraphs and meandering sentence structure, combined with a defective quotation technique. This demonstrates the importance of paying attention to style, grammar and sentence construction as well as content in essay writing. **