Essay, Research Paper: King Lear

Shakespeare: King Lear

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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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