King Lear Act 1 Scene

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King Lear Act 1 Scene

What impact did Act 1 Scene 1 of King Lear have on you?

The first scene of the first act of King Lear had a genuinely dramatic affect upon me.

This first glimpse into the world of Lear and his subordinates sets the premise for the whole play, unravelling within the first few pages, themes which I believe will become increasingly evident. The scene opens with the introduction of three characters – Kent, Gloucester and Edmund. Of these three characters the only one who seems not to have been shown in an unfavourable light yet, by this brief introduction, is Kent. This could be intentional to set It is made clear Edmund is a bastard, and therefore illegible for proper acknowledgement as the son of an Earl. Gloucester is no less tarnished as he admits he is embarrassed by having an illegitimate child (“I have so often blushed to acknowledge him..”) and also insults Edmund’s mother and, Edmund, with further ‘banter’.

This makes ones opinion of a noble Earl degrade to the point where he should be also seen as a scoundrel, yet his attitudes and loyalty towards the King have not as yet been questioned. In spite of this the language is merry and seems to set the scene for a joyous event in the royal court – the division of the kingdom among Lear’s beloved daughters. After this short interlude between the Earl’s, Lear appears and begins to make his proclamation. Lear declares that it is his intention to hand over his land and the affairs of state to his three daughters – Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Although in doing this he still clearly announces that he will remain King of England, if in title only. He has divided his realm in three and wishes his daughter’s to vie for his affection so that whoever shows with words that they love him most, will receive the most “opulent” share of the land. Lear speaks of a “largest bounty”, which when remembering the words of Gloucester from line 3 indicates that he has already decided who shall gain what share of his realm. Also with relation to the words of Gloucester we know that the best share of the land is meant for Cordelia. With his first line he shows that not even the Earl’s knew of his “darker purpose”, which was to get each of his progeny to profess their love for him. This seems like a way to build his ego, which with his pride is in abundance. Goneril is the first to speak and when sh...

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...hildren; regardless of his harsh treatment such is her love. The constant use of the imagery relating to jewels and precious metals is ironic as many of the characters are shaded in darkness and covered with deception. Her sisters are quick to bid her adieu, as they realise now, with their greatest obstacle removed, they can begin to manipulate Lear uninterrupted. And with that the scene ends leading us to digest a variety of colourful and contrasting imagery. We see a parallel plot with the theme of Family running alongside the tale of King Lear with Gloucester and his sons, this is sure to develop. We also see the introduction of deceit from his eldest daughters, the defence of Cordelia by Lear’s friend, Kent and his subsequent banishment. Burgundy portrays the greed incarnate to man and his want for material goods. Lear is pride and the King of France is honour and compassion. Within these first few pages of the play we gain an insight into the world of Lear and the human psyche as all our mental components seem to be put on display by Shakespeare. This scene contains many emotions but has an underlying poignancy, because we know and can suspect that the tragedy has only begun.

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