An Argument To Support The View That "Everything About The Play [King Lear] Hangs On The First Two Scenes Not Just The Plot But The Values As Well."

1465 words - 6 pages

An argument to support the view that 'everythingabout the play [King Lear] hangs on the first two scenes notjust the plot but the values as well.''King Lear, as I see it, confronts the perplexity and mystery of humanaction.' (Shakespeare's Middle Tragedies, 169) As the previous quotationfrom the scriptures of Maynard Mack implies, King Lear is a very complexand intricate play which happens to be surrounded by a lot of debate. 'Thefolio of 1623, which was, as is well known, edited by two of Shakespeare'sfellow actors' (Notes and Essays on Shakespeare, 242), contains not onlyhistorical errors, but errors which pertain to certain characters speaking othercharacters lines. Amidst all the controversy one fact can be settled upon byall; King Lear is one of Shakespeare's best tragedies. While being a greatplay, the bulk of the plot in King Lear comes mainly from the first two sceneswhere most of the key events happen. Along with the plot there is alsoextensive amounts of setup that occur within the dialogue which key theaudience in on the morals and values of the characters. Marilyn French iscompletely accurate when she states that 'Everything about the play hangs onthe first two scenes not just the plot but the values as well' (Shakespeare'sDivision of Experience, 226).The opening scenes of King Lear do an immaculate job of setting upthe plot and forming the basis for all the events which occur in the laterscenes of the play. 'The elements of that opening scene are worth pausingover, because they seem to have been selected to bring before us preciselysuch an impression of unpredictable effects lying coiled and waiting in anapparently innocuous posture of affairs.' (Shakespeare's Middle Tragedies,170) Not only do the opening scenes impress upon us what events couldhappen in the future, they seem to give us the whole plot in a neatly wrappedpackage. After the first two scenes are over the audience is basically justalong for the ride, waiting to see how the events given to us in the openingscenes unfold. 'As we look back over the first scene, we may wonderwhether the gist of the whole matter has not been placed before us, in theplay's own emblematic terms, by Gloucester, Kent, and Edmund in that briefconversation with which the tragedy begins.' (Shakespeare's MiddleTragedies, 171) In the first scene Lear, having realized that death is closingin on him, decides to divide his land between his daughters. This is one ofthe most pivotal points in the play as the effects of this action are enormous.Lear ends up casting aside Cordelia, who is the only daughter he has whotruly loves him, and gives all his land to his other two, power hungry,daughters. The other pivotal point in the first scene which has a huge affecton the rest of the play is the inclusion of the talk about Edmund. Edmundrealizes that, due to his illegitimacy, he can never amount to anything. 'Thefirst action alluded to is the old king's action in dividing his kingdom, the direeffects of which we...

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