How Does Shakespeare Set Up the Beginning Scene of King Lear?

How Does Shakespeare Set Up the Beginning Scene of King Lear?

  • Submitted By: jlebb
  • Date Submitted: 01/24/2010 8:13 AM
  • Category: Book Reports
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In the writing of King Lear, William Shakespeare has clearly tried to give the audience an advantage of giving as much information information away without appearing too obvious. Alongside introducing the main characters of the play, Shakespeare uses a combination of irony and Aristotle’s tragic techniques to give the audience a subtle insight into the rest of the play.

The opening of the play focuses on the upcoming decision of King Lear to divide his kingdom into three, with the largest section awarded to the daughter that professes the greatest love to him; “Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend”. This immediately shows the audience the fact that King Lear is clearly too proud for his own good, asking his daughters to show who loves him the most is clearly going to create rivalry and lies between them and much as Aristotle said, hubris will in most cases lead to hamartia. Daughters Goneril and Regan act as one would think, clearly lying about the affection they feel towards their father, “Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter” implying that they love their father as much as their husbands. However, third daughter Cordelia, Lear’s youngest and favourite daughter, decides to be true to herself and father by saying she loves him as much as a daughter should love a father; “You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I Return those duties back back as are right fit”. This enrages Lear causing him disown Cordelia, and divide the remaining kingdom between the two elder daughters, clearly a mistake.

The audience are clearly aware that Lear has made a mistake by disowning Cordelia and fooling for the trickery from Regan and Goneril, and for such an event to happen at the beginning of a story makes it obvious that Lear will pay for this mistake later. The thoughts of the audience are echoed through Lear’s nobleman Kent, who’s opinion Lear has trusted over the years, “Thy Youngest daughter does not love thee...

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