KING LEAR OVERVIEW

Lear King-aging king of Britain-protagonist of play-used to enjoying absolute power & being flattered-doesn’t respond well to being contradicted or [email protected] beginning of play his values are notably hollow-he prioritizes the appearance of love over actual devotion & wishes to maintain the power of a king while unburdening himself of the responsibility-he inspires loyalty in subjects such as Gloucester/Kent/Cordelia/Edgar (all of whom risk their lives for him)
Goneril Evil daughter of Lear; plots to kill her husband with Edmund; kills herself at the of the play
Cordelia youngest, kind daughter of Lear-Lears’s youngest daughter-disowned by her father for refusing to flatter him-held in extremely high regard by all the food characters in play-King of France marries her for her virtue alone-overlooks her lack of dowry-she remains loyal to Lear despite his cruelty towards her-she forgives Lear & displays a mild & forbearing temperament even toward her evil sisters (Goneril & Regan)-Despite her obvious virtues(her resistance make her motivations hard to read)-as in her refusal to declare her love for her father @ beginning of play
Act 1 Scene 1 -Lear plot dominates-Gloucester has an illegitimate son Edmund who seems to be an embarrassment to him-Lear orders his daughters to profess their love for him in return for their part of the divided land he wishes to hand over-Cordelia says nothing after her elder sisters and consequently, in a fit of rage from Lear, is ordered out of his sight and is married off to the King of France -In defending Cordelia, Kent is also sent away as we see the extent of the King’s short-tempered nature at this stage
What key themes are established in Scene 1? -Power- Gloucester and Lear!-Sin- Gloucester and Cordelia-(Divine right of kings)-Infidelity-Madness- Lear!-Favouritism- Opening line and Cordelia-Appearance vs Reality- Edmund!-Sight and Blindness-Family Relationships-Division- of the land and family- fragmented union- those who seek to gain from cracks-Honour
What is the purpose the this subplot introduction between Kent and Gloucester? -It builds the dramatic tension for the introduction of the King- makes an impact when he arrives-Integral part of the play is the subplot as it establishes the same issues-Lear is the only Shakespeare tragedy with a subplot-Foreshadows and emphasizes some of the key themes with the lack of matriarch-The treatment of the children seems to be reflected and mirrored between the plots- illegitimate child Edmund and Cordelia are ‘sent away’
How is Edmund presented in the first scene? -Reserved, passive, respectful and loyal son despite the awful comments from his father-Makes it a big surprise when the next scene opens with his true feelings in his soliloquy-He seems to not have the same rights and is made voiceless by his position in society as an illegitimate son- marginalised and peripheral in societys perspective-This presentation is very deceiving and strikes up appearance vs reality-He is talked of and not to which emphasizes this
How is Kent presented in this first scene? -He does not participate in the discussion of the ‘saucy’ sexual relations and misogyny-He is very respectful, nonjudgmental and trustworthy
How is Gloucester presented in this first scene? -Very boastful and sinful despite his honourable status, he speaks very derogatively about his illegitimate son Edmund and his mother- he laughs about the ‘bastardy’ as he completely lacks any kind of sensitivity’Do you smell a fault?”I have often blushed to acknowledge him”There was good sport in his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged’
What does the King mean by ‘Nothing comes of nothing’? He means that Cordelia will not receive anything if she does not return the bursting love he wants to receive. Epanalepsis here of nothing repeated at the beginning and end.
Act 1 Scene 2 Edmund begins his machinations and tricks Edgar & Gloucester
What actions are mirrored in Act 1 Scene 1 and 2? -Both men misjudge their children and thus precipitating their own ruin-Gloucester swiftly rejects Edgar in the same way as Lear rejects Cordelia-Edmund’s villainy also prepares the way for G and R’s treachery in the next act-Gloucester is taken in by false words and appearances just the same as Lear-Gloucester’s family harmony is now in jeopardy and inheritance issues are troublesome here too- another innocent and virtuous child is cast off while the father promises property to the unworthy offspring in return for affection-Gloucester puts himself in Edmund’s power just like Lear resigned his authority to G and R-Edmund’s triumphant opportunism, energy and directness when he is alone on stage mirror G and R’s urgent plain-speaking at the end of scene 1- the evil children are gaining ground
What is the language like in Act 1 Scene 2? -Passionate, emotive language- Edmund in particular with repetition and connotations-Theme of appearance vs reality is present- duality and trickery-Lear and Glou seem to be completely irrational- there are clear parallels- theme of nothing, dragons
Why is Gloucester so willing to believe Edgar’s plans to kill him? He has witnessed the unravelling of familial bonds in Lear’s family- in the court
What are the initial impressions of Edgar? -Light hearted-Arrogant-Gullible -Trusting-Ineffectual-Mocking
Act 1 Scene 3 Goneril begins to get irritated with Lear’s knights.
Act 1 Scene 4 Goneril confronts Lear and he storms off to Regan’s.
Act 1 Scene 5 The Fool warns Lear of his mistake- he says “O! Let me not be mad…I would not be mad!”
Act 2 Scene 1 Edmund tricks Edgar and Gloucester once more- Edmund is described as Gloucester’s “good and natural boy” whilst Edgar is banished
Act 2 Scene 2 Kent is put in the stocks by Cornwall and Goneril.
Act 2 Scene 3 Edgar is disguised as Poor Tom
Act 2 Scene 4 Lear finds Kent in the stocks- is shocked when Regan defends Goneril. He is locked out into the storm.
Act 3 Scene 1 The King of France and Cordelia are preparing their armies at Dover.
What is the function of Act 3 Scene 1? -Introduces us/is the exposition to a subverted world in which the King has descended into madness and order has been lost through the division of the kingdom. Relays what is taking place- re-establishes that-Lear is not completely abandoned- 3rd person dramatizes his state, Kent understands the bigger picture and Cordelia is placed back into our thoughts-The predicament is starkly portrayed through this interaction between the servant Kent and an unknown gentleman who discuss the King’s state incredulously and put in place a plan of action, which would not have otherwise been reached. The fate of the country and its restoration is placed in the hands of two men, one of whom the audience does not know. Thus, the audience are encouraged to feel an unsettling tension at the evident chaos -Dramatically, Shakespeare is also building the tension for the state of Lear. This descent does not only affect Lear but, he is just a microcosm of the whole kingdom which suffers authority lost and imminent conflict between the sisters and a French Army Invasion. Reveals how the storm is affecting everyone-It puts Cordelia back into our thoughts
To what degree is it significant that the audience hears Lear’s predicament described before actually seeing it in the following scene? -Alludes to infancy- needs to be looked after, senility -Amplifies his lack of power and authority and insanity, circumstances left to Kent and the Gentleman to make sense of whilst Lear is in a state of madness, unable to comprehend the events that have unfolded-It alludes to the king’s vulnerability due to the state of the kingdom being solely in these men’s hands to restore righteousness-These men are rational and constructively formulate a plan of action which takes the audience away from the perspective of Lear , thereby creating a shock when we are to see him-His previously high position is of a complete contrast to this low point- he only has a few loyal followers and on the heath with ‘none but the fool’
How does Shakespeare show Kent’s rise to significance in Act 3 Scene 1? -Previously he used declaratives whereas now Shakespeare uses imperatives for his character to allude to the commanding power he now has-The audience is aware that Kent has risen to a rather crucial position in the play from his previous appearance in the stocks as he dominates the dialogue between him and the gentleman-This insinuates his abundance of knowledge about the King and that he is closer to him to know this information-The personal details of ‘how unnatural and bemadding sorrow/ The king hath caused to plain’ provides him with a position to act on the circumstances, in such a way, being in control of restoring the kingdom.
Why is Kent much more than his ‘out-wall’? -His exterior appearance of a slave does not accurately portray his character as he is loyal and entrusted as a man to the King , having previously been an Earl due to such commitment-He is valued by Cordelia and once highly respected for his nobility and protection of the royal parsonage- intelligence and authority-He is in disguise and he has not broken that facade – reiterates how important the King’s health is
What is a nihilist? Could Lear be describes as a nihilist in this scene? -A nihilist is a viewpoint that life is meaningless and all religious and moral principles are rejected as a result-Lear’s character may be starkly seen to display these principles as he desires the wind to ‘blow the earth to the sea’ believing there is nothing left to live for in his state of lost kingship.-He discards any notion of previous belief in the Gods, that they are now ‘servile ministers’ who are joined in force against ‘A poor infirm, weak and despised old man’. He no longer thinks the Gods are there, he wishes for an end to mankind as he has been stripped of his meaning of life-Morality is also rejected by Lear as he believes that those who have sinned against him are ‘unwhipped of justice’ whilst he is a ‘man/More sinned against than sinning’. He ‘will say nothing’ now and be the ‘pattern of all patience’ seeming to detach himself from the world-Combines with the theme of nothing
Act 3 Scene 2 Blow winds blow!”. On the heath
Act 3 Scene 3 Gloucester leaves to search for Lear
Act 3 Scene 4 Lear descends into true madness on the heath, stripping. They meet Poor Tom, and are led by Gloucester to shelter.
Act 3 Scene 5 Edmund shows Cornwall his father’s letter- condemning him to treason
Act 3 Scene 6 Lear, Kent, Gloucester and “Poor Tom” find shelter and proceed to Dover.
Act 3 Scene 7 Cornwall plucks out Gloucester’s eyes- Regan then throws him out of his own home; “smell your way to dover”
Act 4 Scene 1 “Poor Tom” sees blinded Gloucester and offers to take him to Dover for Gloucester to commit suicide.
Act 4 Scene 2 Goneril & Edmund plot to be together. Cornwall dies. Albany learns of Edmund’s treachery & the blinding and is outraged.
Act 4 Scene 3 Cordelia reacts to news of Lear- sunshine and rain all at once.
Act 4 Scene 4 Cordelia searches for Lear and prepares for battle.
Act 4 Scene 6 Edgar pretends that Gloucester has committed suicide yet been saved. Lear is “fantastically dressed with wild flowers”.
Act 4 Scene 7 Lear and Cordelia reunite- “I am old and foolish”, “I think this lady to be my child Cordelia”.
Act 5 Scene 1 Everyone is readying for battle with France. Edmund plots to have Albany killed to stop Lear and Cordelia being pardoned.
Act 5 Scene 2 Battle- French lose, Lear and Cordelia taken prisoner
Act 5 Scene 3 Edmund is put under arrest by Albany because he refuses to release Cordelia and Lear. Regan goes off stage and dies- poisoned by Goneril. Edmund & Edgar fight- as Edmund is dying he admits his wrongs (“the wheel is come full circle”). Edgar describes that Gloucester has died upon finding out his identity. Goneril then kills herself. Lear enters with dead Cordelia in his arms. Edmund dies. Lear is unable to accept that Cordelia is dead and dies thinking she is breathing. Edgar rules.
Year 1606
Edgar -Gloucester’s oldest son & legitimate son-he plays many different roles-starting out as a gullible fool easily tricked by his brother-then assuming a disguise as a mad beggar to evade further to aid Lear & Gloucester -& finally appearing as an armored champion to avenge his brother’s treason-Edgar’s propensity for disguises & impersonations makes it difficult to characterize him effectively
Edmund -Gloucester’s younger son (illegitimate)-resents his status as a bastard 7 schemes to usurp Gloucester’s title & possessions from Edgar-he’s a formidable character-succeeds in almost all of his schemes & wrecking destruction upon virtually all of the other characters
Gloucester -nobleman loyal to king Lear-rank (Earl) is below a Duke-1st thing we learn about Gloucester is that he is an adulterer (having fathered a bastard son-Edmund)-his father is in many ways parallel to Lear’s-he misjudges which of his sons to trust-he appears weak & ineffectual in the early acts- he is unable to prevent Lear from being turned out of his own house-but later demonstrates that he is also capable of great bravery
Kent -nobleman of the same rank as Glocester-epitome of loyal to King Lear-spends most of the play disguised as a peasant (calling himself “Caius”) so he can continue to serve Lear even after Lear banishes him-he eventually loyal BUT gets himself into trouble throughout the play by being extremely blunt & outspoken
Albany -husband of Lear’s daughter Goneril-is good @ heart-eventually denounces & opposes the cruelty of Goneril/Regan/ Cornwall-Yet he is indecisive & lacks foresight-realizing the evil of his allies late in the play
Cornwall -Husband of Lear’s daughter Regan-Unlike Albany, Cornwall is domineering/cruel/ violent-he works w/ his wife & sister in law Goneril to persecute Lear & Glocester
Fool -Lear’s jester-Uses double-talk (double speak? fallacy) & seemingly frivolous songs to give Lear important advice-Supportive and Loyal- he goes out into the storm with Lear-Mocking-Surprisingly wise-Humorously advises Lear- embodies an inversion of order just by his very position-Childish-Juxtaposing qualities-Brutally honest-Derogatory and cheeky-Entertaining- offers light relief- shines a light on flaws brutally
Oswald -Steward (Chief servant) in Goneril’s house-Oswald obeys his mistress’s commands & helps her in her conspiracies-He is very loyal, dutiful, obedient and trustworthy- with Goneril they conspire together and scheme- he seems to be her accomplice
King Lear is the king of which country? Britain
Why is Gloucester accused of treason? Because Edmund revolves letters showing that he knows about the French Invasion
Where does Gloucester send Lear and his attendants? To Dover
How is Gloucester punished for his “treason”? He is blinded
Who encounters Gloucester on the heath and offers to lead him to Dover? Edgar
Who is leading the army that lands at Dover? Cordelia
Why does Gloucester want to reach the cliffs of Dover? He wants to throw himself over the cliff
To whom are both Goneril and Regan attracted? Edmund
Before the battle between the French and English armies, to whose camp is Lear brought? Cordeillas
What happens to Lear and Cordelia during the battle? Edmund takes them captive
How does Regan die? Goneril poisons her
Who fights a duel with Edmund? Edgar
What does Edmund reveal as he lies dying? That he ordered Cordilla killed
What happens to Cordelia? she is hanged in prision
What happens to Lear at the end of the play? He dies while weeping over Cordelia’s body.
What does Edmund give the Captain? A note, giving orders to kill Cordelia and Lear
Who protests about how Goneril treats Lear? Albany
Who gave the order to shut the doors of Gloucester’s castle after Lear’s dramatic departure? Reagan
When King Lear goes out into the storm, who loyally goes and stays with him? Gloucester and Fool

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