The Importance of the First Two Scenes in King Lear

Powerful Essays
The Importance of the First Two Scenes in King Lear

"King Lear, as I see it, confronts the perplexity and mystery of human

action." (Shakespeare's Middle Tragedies, 169) As the previous quotation

from the scriptures of Maynard Mack implies, King Lear is a very complex and

intricate play which happens to be surrounded by a lot of debate. "The folio

of 1623, which was, as is well known, edited by two of Shakespeare's fellow

actors" (Notes and Essays on Shakespeare, 242), contains not only historical

errors, but errors which pertain to certain characters speaking other

characters lines. Amidst all the controversy one fact can be settled upon by

all; King Lear is one of Shakespeare's best tragedies. While being a great

play, the bulk of the plot in King Lear comes mainly from the first two scenes

where most of the key events happen. Along with the plot there is also

extensive amounts of setup that occur within the dialogue which key the

audience in on the morals and values of the characters. Marilyn French is

completely accurate when she states that "Everything about the play hangs on

the first two scenes not just the plot but the values as well" (Shakespeare's

Division of Experience, 226).

The opening scenes of King Lear do an immaculate job of setting up the

plot and forming the basis for all the events which occur in the later scenes

of the play. "The elements of that opening scene are worth pausing over,

because they seem to have been selected to bring before us precisely such an

impression of unpredictable effects lying coiled and waiting in an apparently

innocuous posture of affairs." (Shakespeare's Middle Tragedies, 170) Not onl...

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...ill unfold. The first two scenes of King Lear are pivotal in

influencing every aspect of the play including the plot, and the values of the

characters contained within the plot.

Works Cited

Clemen, Wolfgang. The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery. New York, NY, USA:

Methuen & Co. 1977.

French, Marilyn. Shakespeare's Division of Experience. New York: Summit Books.


Hales, John. Notes and Essays on Shakespeare. New York, NY, USA: AMS Press. 1973.

Lerner, Laurence. Shakespeare's Tragedies. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd.


Shakespeare, William. King Lear. As reprinted in Elements of Literature.

Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1990.

Young, David. Shakespeare's Middle Tragedies - A Collection of Critical Essays.

Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1993.
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