"What do we learn about the character of King Lear by the end of Act1, Scene1 of Shakespeare's King Lear"

Essay by l33godCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2003

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Lear's primary flaw at the opening of the play is that he values face-on values above reality. He wants to be treated as a king and to enjoy the title, but he doesn't want to fulfill a king's responsibility of governing for the good of his subjects. Also, his test of his daughters validates that he values a flattering public display of love over real love. He doesn't ask "which of you doth love us most," but rather, "which of you shall we say doth love us most?" Most readers deduce that Lear is simply blind to the truth, however, Cordelia is already his favorite daughter at the beginning of the play, so presumably he knows that she loves him the most. Nevertheless, Lear values Goneril and Regan's fawning over Cordelia's sincere sense of filial duty.

As Lear first appears he commands Gloucester to "Give me the map here."

His use of the imperative clearly displays his authoritative nature and perhaps his expectation of being obeyed. One can clearly an arrogance and belief of superiority over others as he bids the Lords of France and Burgundy to "attend" him. As Lear declares "Know that we have divided / In three our kingdom," his use of the pronoun "we" instead of "I" also emphasises his royalty. The fact that Lear's opening speech is delivered in formal blank verse also implies Lear's character has supremacy over the common man.

As the king describes being "unburdened crawl[ing] towards death" it is clear that the man is getting old and also provides insight as to why he might be dividing his thrown. Asking his daughter's "Which of you shall we say doth love us most" in order for that child to gain the "largest bounty" we see the king's fickle...