King Lear – the first act

The play starts off with Gloucester and Kent discussing the fact that King Lear is about to divide the kingdom among his three daughters. Kent then asks Gloucester to introduce his son, which he then introduces his son Edmund who is a bastard.

  • Gloucester and Kent discussing the kingdom being divided.
  • Introduced to Edmund, Gloucester’s son. Gloucester explains that Edmund is a bastard that is being raised away from home.
  • King Lear enters the throne room and declares his plan to divide the kingdom amongst his three daughters. He plans to divide the kingdom up by asking the girls to show how much they love him through a speech. The girl that loves him the most will get the greatest share of the kingdom.
  • Lear’s older daughters Goneril and Regan respond to his request, telling the king how much they love him.
  • Cordelia, the youngest refuses to tell him how much she loves him in order to get shares of the kingdom. She explains she will love him as much as a daughter should love a father
  • King Lear is not impressed by this and flares into a rage, disowning Cordelia and dividing the kingdom between the two other girls.
  • Kent, who has served the king for many years expresses that he disagrees with the way he has awarded his two eldest daughters for flattery and disowned his youngest even though her love is pure unlike the other two.
  • Lear turns his anger towards Kent who is then banished from the kingdom, having only six days to leave.
  • The king of France and the duke of burgundy and waiting for Lear to decide which one of them will be marrying Cordelia.
  • Lear explains that Cordelia no longer has any title or land so the Duke of  Burgandy, removes his offer but the King of France is impressed by her honesty so Lear sends Cordelia away with the king of France to become his queen.
  • Goneril and Regan decide that they need to reduce their father’s authority so they plan in secret a way to do this.

Scene 2

  • Edmund expresses how he is dissatisfied with society’s attitude towards bastards.
  • Edmund is very jealous of his legitimate half-brother who is set to inherit their fathers’ estate so Edmund then decides to do away with Edgar and seize the privileges that society has denied him.
  • Edmund plans to discredit his brother by writing a letter in which it appears that Edgar is plotting his father, Gloucester’s death. Edmund makes a show of hiding this letter in front of his father, so naturally, Gloucester demands to read it.  Edmund answers his father’s questions with lies and Gloucester is then lead to believe that his legitimate son is plotting to kill him to hasten the inheritance of Gloucester wealth and lands.
  • Edmund talks to Edgar and tells him the Gloucester is very angry at him and that he should avoid him and should carry a sword at all times, this will ensure that Gloucester will definitely think that Edgar is trying to kill him.

Scene 3

  • Lear is spending the first part of his retirement at Goneril’s castle.
  • Goneril complains to her steward that Lear is acting righteous and that Lear is an obnoxious guest.
  • She requests that her servents act rudely towards Lear and his attendants.

Scene 4

  • Kent comes in a disguised as a peasant calling himself Ciaus
  • He is accepted into Lears service
  • Lear’s servants and knights are noticing that Goneril’s servants are disobeying their commands.
  • When Lear asks Oswald where Goneril is, Oswald walks out without replying.
  • Oswald walks back in and gives disrespectful replies to Lear which Lear gets very angry and strikes Oswald.
  • Kent helps Lear by tripping Oswald.
  • The fool comes in and delivers a series of puns and double entities telling the king that he has made a huge mistake handing the kingdom over to his daughters.
  • Goneril comes back in and tells Lear that servants and knights have been too disrespectful that they have to leave
  • Lear is totally enraged by Goneril saying this that he curses at her and insults her and demands that he is going to stay with Regan.
  • Little does Lear know that Regan doesn’t want to house him and his hundred knights either.

Scene 5

  • Lear sens Kent to deliver a message to Gloucester.
  • The fool once again takes the piss out of Lear’s decision to hand the power over to his girls and Lears naivety to think that Regan will treat him any different to how Goneril was treating him.
  • Lear leaves for Regans

Character quotes

King Lear

Cordelia – “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond; no more no less.” – This quote shows Cordelia’s personality

Goneril

Regan

Kent

Glouster

Edmund

Edgar

The Fool

One Reply to “King Lear – the first act”

  1. Reanna, this is a detailed timeline. It looks very similar to the scene descriptions found on:
    http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/lear/section1/page/2/

    In fact, some of the phrasing is identical. Even when you are paraphrasing from a website, make sure that you reference it at the bottom of your post.

    Please avoid doing this again in the future as it could end up as a failed assessment and be taken up with HOLA and Principals Nominee for the school.

    Please feel free to talk to me about this if you have any questions.

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