King Lear – Act 1 – What Changes Occur As A Result Of Lears Actions To His Court And Family?
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What changes occur as a result of Lears actions to other members of his court and family?
In Act I, King Lears decisions have a profound impact on his court members and family. Lears decision to abdicate and split up his kingdom instigates many of the future problems faced by Lear and the people around him. Lear abdicating the throne is the first change as he is, although unintentionally, giving up his power. He decides to split his kingdom between Goneril and Regan, as Cordelia could not echo her elder sisters fawning declarations of love. As a consequence Cordelia is banished along with Kent who tries to reason with Lear. Since the elder daughters now have the land, they no longer have to falsely declare absolute love to their father.
The first change, due to Lears decisions, is that he is putting himself from a place of power to a position where he does not have power. However, he assumes that he will still be shown respect and that people will do what he tells them to. He is given a reality shock when Oswald does not follow what he requests and that Oswald does not show courtesy to Lear and his knights. Lear assumes that he will still be in power but that the country will just be run by his daughters Goneril and Regan. When Goneril starts to treat him differently, he begins to realise his mistake: “O Lear, Lear, Lear! Beat at this gate that let thy folly in and thy dear judgement out!” (1.1.255-257). However, Lear shows his remaining ignorance by believing that Regan will show him kindness.
When splitting his kingdom apart, Lear decides that his daughters will participate in a love test and that they shall receive an amount of his land proportionate to the amount of love they show him. “Which of you shall we say doth love us most that we our largest bounty may extent” (1.1.50-51). Goneril and Regan proclaim their absolute love and adoration of their father and they are given parts of the land accordingly. Lear then goes to Cordelia, his favourite daughter; however she speaks the truth, unlike her sisters, and tells Lear that she cannot ” heave my heart into my mouth.”(1.1.90-91). King Lear loses his temper because of this and to everyones surprise and astonishment he leaves her with nothing, curses her and disclaims her as his daughter: “Here I disclaim all my paternal care propinquity and property of blood” (1.1.113-114). This decision to let go of Cordelia is an irrational decision made by Lear and it shows his uncertainty of his own feelings and daughters. Kent tries to reason with Lear but he gets threatened and banished by Lear. “Five days we do allot thee for provision to shield thee from diseases of the World. And on the sixth to turn thy hated back upon our kingdom. If on the next day following thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death” (1.1.174-178) Kent was trying to help Lear and give him good council, but Lear is too ignorant and ignores Kents words and instead of applauding him, he punishes him.
King Lears decision to banish Cordelia was a slight amount of luck for Cordelia. Although she was to be kept away from her family and her home, she was protected from the chaos that was setting