King Lear Essay Research Paper Throughout the

King Lear Essay, Research Paper

Throughout the first Act of King Lear there is one overwhelming topic, which can

not be overlooked. That is to say that the two main families in this play, Lears’

and Gloucesters’, are both following basically a parallel plot that is

developing at different plains of existence. Those plains exist on an

aristocratic ladder, Lears’ family at the top and Gloucesters’ family at the

bottom. There are different characters and minor diversities in each family, but

at the basic level of events that occur, there is an unmistakable similarity

between the lives of the two families involved in King Lear. The first of the

three key parallel plot lines in King Lear is in the decision making of Lear and

Gloucester. Both of these men make very rash and important decisions in the

first act that involve their offspring. First Lear, who after hearing his

favored daughter’s response to his dowry deciding question, responds;

"Nothing will come of Nothing." (Scene 1, Line 93). By this he decides

without any hesitation that his favored daughter, Cordelia, shall receive no

dowry and thus be banished from the kingdom. Now almost mirror like, Gloucester

makes an equally impulsive decision about his favorite son, Edgar. After reading

a forged letter by his bastard son, Edmund, Gloucester decides that Edgar does

want to kill him and decides that Edmund will instead receive his estate. Those

two decisions are both equally unfair to their own favored offspring. Scheming

is the next parallel plot line involved in King Lear. Edmund as mentioned above

is scheming to get his father’s inheritance. He has made several references to

this in his soliloquy in Scene 2, like when he said, "Edmund the base shall

top the legitimate; I grow; I prosper." (Scene 2, Lines 20 – 21). He then

forged a letter on his brother’s behalf outlining the plans of Edgar to kill

their father. Now in Lear’s family, there is Regan and Goneril scheming to make

sure that their father will not reverse his decision to split the dowry between

them. They make a pact that states, "Pray you let’s hit together. If our

father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of

his will but offend us." (Scene 1, Lines 304 – 306). The daughters wished

to keep their father at bay and stay in control. Both families are scheming to

get or keep that which should not be theirs. The last, but maybe the most

important of the parallels between the two families, is that of Lear and

Gloucester both being old and senile. First there is Lear, whose fits and

decisions are beginning to make people question his sanity. Although no one

seems willing to confront the king for fear of the consequences, the fool knows

no such bounds. When the fool does confront him, Lear seems to be aware of it

and responds by saying, "O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweat heaven! Keep

me in temper; I would not be mad!" (Scene 4, Lines 44 – 45). Lear though

aware of it can do little to stop or even slow it down. Now Gloucester, whose

sanity may be more stable at the moment is definitely making poor decision and

is not thinking clearly. In fact, he is blaming much of the trouble in the

kingdom as of late, on such superstitious things as eclipses. He even mentions

it to Edmund when he says; "These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend

no good to us." (Scene 2, Lines 103 – 104). He is clearly bewildered and

overwhelmed by the current events and is too disoriented to clearly evaluate

things. Both men are not mentally well, which may lead to more bad decisions in

the future. These two families are essentially living out the same plot. Neither

meeting yet, but even though the people are different, these two plots are too

similar to not have some major underlying connection. The two plots must begin

to intersect to complete the play. It will be the way that Shakespeare

accomplishes this that makes or breaks this play.


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