In this week's lesson we looked closely at Act I, Scene I. If you didn't get to the end of the scene you need to go through it in the same way. It should be heavily annotated.
It's Shakespeare so a couple of words often bring much debate and fascinating analysis! In the opening scene the audience meets the central characters, are given information about their status and demise and are introduced to many of the themes and motifs. In just the first few lines the audience overhears of the planned division and of the King's suggested favouritism.
In the first scene there is the clash of the personal and the public. The manners of court contrast with private, loving relationships. Lear leaves his private relationships as father of Cordelia and friend to Kent and then his public role as king; he demonstrates destructive acts as father and as a king unafraid to rip apart the kingdom. This exposes him to vulnerability as a father and as a king; this increases the dramatic tension.
There are striking contrasts established in 1.1. Cordelia’s ‘ponderous’ tongue contrasts with the light words of Goneril and Regan. Goneril states that she loves Lear ‘more than word can wield’ (1.1.54) and then goes on to say how much she loves him, so much that ‘speech [is] unable’ (1.1.59), but she’s still speaking! It’s ironic that she says that words aren’t enough, as Cordelia does, but appears to manage to ‘heave her heart into [her] mouth’ (1.1.90-91). Cordelia’s asides occur directly after her sisters speak creating a further contrast.
The King of France also contrasts with King Lear. France seizes upon her virtues (1.1.251) of honesty and plainness. Language is also used to generate contrasts in his speech (1.1.249-260) – have a look.
It’s imperative that we remember that this is a play and is written for performance. The physicality of the crown (‘this coronet part between you’ (1.1.138)) and the map also serve to heighten the dramatic tension. These can be performed as props to emphasise the disorder/chaos and signal the inevitability of the tragedy.
Shakespeare foreshadows the tragedy. Your homework title then is an essay answering the question:
How does Shakespeare signal the inevitability of Tragedy in Act 1, Scene 1 of King Lear?
(700-900 words) You should use the key terms. You do not need to write an essay on everything in the scene; select a few key words and a couple of speeches to keep your writing concise but also exploratory.
Any problems then let me know.