WHAT DOES THE OPENING SCENE IN KING LEAR REVEAL ABOUT THE PLAY?
King Lear is one of the most significant tragedies to be made in the history or the diverse tragic genre. With all proper reasons, the inevitable tragic fate of the protagonist (Lear) is self-explanatory to the genre itself. Lear’s hubris is one of his biggest fatal flaw (hamartia), and it is usually the same case for most tragic heroes. Despite of the ending of the play being typically showcased as the greatest and most important scenes of the whole play, it can’t be ignored that the first scene of the first act is likely to be just as important. As this scene will give us hints of what is to inevitably come, and foreshadowing which is significant to take into consideration throughout the play.
In the very first scene (the first 35 lines of the play), four characters , Kent, Gloucester and Edmund, is present, in the setting of King Lear’s palace. What is idiosyncratic about this setting in particular, is that Lear himself is not present for the first scene of a play that is named after him. As for a grand play, audience would usually expect a grand first scene where the trumpets play and the King enters the scene. However, this wasn’t the case in this particular play. This is foreshadowing how the absence of this significant character is portraying the threat of betrayal and back-stabbing in the future, as the other three characters are talking behind Lear’s back. This setting also portrays the intangible demoralisation of Lear’s power, as he is none the wiser regarding the talks going on in his own house, behind his back.
The first lines of the play and the scene is uttered by Kent. His first words were very peculiar, as he says “I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.” Kent is clearly talking behind Lear’s back and claiming that the King is biased and has his ‘favourites’. Kent is suggesting how Lear is prone to uncanny and biased decision making for important issues regardless of Lear’s authority of Hierarchy. This shows how people can plot behind the back of a higher power and get away with it. This also shows dramatic irony as the higher authority is powerless to the damage in a situation like this. Furthermore, Kent distinguishes between Albany and Cornwall as options for Lear’s choice of ‘favourites’. This provokes the peculiarity of Kent not distinguishing the choices between Lear’s three beloved daughters. This liberally suggests how the society was very patriarchal. Kent is also evidently quite gullible, as he assumes that Edmund (the machiavel) is “proper”. It is also plausible to believe that Kent is a curious person. As most of his contributions of conversation includes of small questions for which the answers are detailed. It is also plausible assume that Kent as a character is used merely as a ‘pawn’ and comic relief in order to enhance more attention on the words uttered and answered by Gloucester.
Which brings us to the character...