Lear's dilemma - future of Britain & Cordelia

Tripartition of Britain - Lear's grand plan

Kent & Gloster - Lear's attitude to Cornwall

Act 1 Scene 1 - Enter KING LEAR

The flattery game - Goneril & Regan

Sharing the kingdom - a third more opulent

Lear and flattery - did he love it or hate it?

Duke of Burgundy - the dowerless suitor

King of France - in choler parted

Edmund - sectary astronomical

Duke of Albany - worthy prince

Queen Goneril - King Lear's successor?

Oswald - this detested groom

Goneril - under the influence

Regan - is she worse than Goneril?

Goneril/Edmund/Regan - unequilateral triangle

Division 'twixt Albany and Cornwall - rumour

Lear's sanity - recovery

The final tableau - Lear endures his going hence

The last word - Albany or Edgar?

Sharing the kingdom — a third more opulent

Cordelia's turn to speak

...................... Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess'd; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

In terms of the game, Lear cannot offer a third more opulent unless he has kept it back. It implies he knew in advance the relative merits of the three speeches — an impossibility!

Nothing, my lord.

Lear's first response — surprise

Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

Lear's second response — mild — almost joking

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.
How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,

Lear's third response — further surprise — he makes a mild suggestion

Lest it may mar your fortunes.

Lear has offered her a good reason — his language is still soft

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all?

Perhaps her sisters were disgustingly honest — later we find out that Goneril does not love her husband! But to be fair to Regan, there is not the slightest suggestion that she does not love Cornwall.

...................... Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.
But goes thy heart with this?

Lear's fourth response — Lear's seems further surprised — is this a side of Cordelia he does not know?

Ay, my good lord.
So young, and so untender?

Lear's fifth response — he struggles to comprehend her bluntness

So young, my lord, and true.
Let it be so;

Lear's sixth response — he accepts her single-mindedness — he then demonstrates his own

thy truth, then, be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate, and the night;
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be;
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.
Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters' dowers digest this third:
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,
By you to be sustain'd, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns.

Kent interrupts proceedings — he is the first to mention 'flattery'

KENT (to Lear)
Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,
When power to flattery bows?

but in the same speech, Kent names what he knows is really bugging Lear, ie 'love'

......... check this hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;

and a little further on, though Kent uses 'large' to imply 'flattering', he again names the real pivotal point, ie 'love'

KENT (to Regan and Goneril)
And your large speeches may your deeds approve,
That good effects may spring from words of love.

And, of course, it was Lear who used the word 'love' which started this whole controversial point.

Which of you, shall we say, doth love us most?

Is it how Lear words his question rather than what he asks that induces accusations of flattery? If Lear had worded it as follows, would he still be regarded unfavourably?

Cordelia, our daughter, do you love us more than these?
Yes, father, you know that I love you.
Cordelia, our daughter, do you love us?
Yes, father, you know that I love you.

compare with this

John 21:15-17
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?"
He saith unto him, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee."
He saith unto him, "Feed my sheep."
16 He saith to him again the second time,
"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
He saith unto him, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee."
He saith unto him, "Feed my sheep."
17 He saith unto him the third time,
"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?
And he said unto him, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
Jesus saith unto him, "Feed my sheep."

daughters' thirds...... Cordelia's dower digested

Lear's precipitate decision to disinherit Cordelia alters the map