King Lear


Act 1

Summary: Act I, scene i

The play begins with a conversation between the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Kent, in which they discuss King Lear’s plan to divide the kingdom. Gloucester’s illegitimate son Edmund is also introduced, and Gloucester mentions his other son—the heir to his title and property—Edgar. King Lear enters with his daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, and his sons-in-law, the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall. Lear sends Gloucester and Edmund out of the room to attend to the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, who are both waiting to see Lear with proposals of marriage to his youngest daughter Cordelia. Lear then announces his intention to divide the kingdom of Britain into three parts, giving one part to each of his daughters. He says he will determine each share of the kingdom based upon his daughters’ expressions of their love.

The eldest, Goneril, declares her love for Lear to be greater than anything on earth. Next, Regan professes that her love surpasses any other joy in life. When Lear turns to Cordelia, his youngest and favorite daughter, she refuses to speak as poetically as her sisters, indicating that their protestations are exaggerated and flattering. She says that she loves Lear just as much as a daughter should love her father, but that she must reserve half of her love for a husband. Lear is hurt and enraged by Cordelia’s honesty, and he instantly disowns her. He then gives Goneril and Regan each an equal half of the kingdom. Kent protests on Cordelia’s behalf, entreating the king to see the honesty and real love in Cordelia’s words, but Lear turns on him in anger and banishes him, as well. Kent assures the king of his loyalty and hopes that Lear will someday see the truth of it, and wishes Cordelia well before exiting.

Lear then calls for Cordelia’s suitors, France and Burgundy. When Lear explains that Cordelia has been disowned, the Duke of Burgundy withdraws his proposal. The King of France, however, gladly asserts that Cordelia...

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Essays About King Lear