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?

The tripartition of Britain

Lear's grand plan solves his dilemma

Lear thinks up a masterstroke that can, simultaneously, solve his foreign policy problem and his domestic policy problem, and that the best time, almost the only time, is to implement it now.

Lear's foreign policy solution
Lear can make an alliance and seal it regardless of whether it is France or Burgundy who marries Cordelia and receives her dowry. The alliance, not the marriage, is the real reason why the three heads of state are meeting in Britain and pursuing lengthy negotiations to find terms. Evidently an agreement has been made because the seemingly hard-dealing Duke of Burgundy says he is prepared to marry Cordelia if, and only if, he is given the dowry Lear, himself, has proposed. The dowry is to be an autonomous state very strategically placed with the Straits of Dover forming a moat defensive against an oversea's invasion (eg against France) or, alternatively, rendering easy access to establish a bridgehead in Britain (at Dover) if France happens to be allied with Cordelia. Regardless of who marries Cordelia there will be two 'super power' blocs of approximately equal strength:

Cordelia/Burgundy — versus — Goneril/Regan/France
Cordelia/France — versus — Goneril/Regan/Burgundy

Lear's domestic policy solution
Lear is able to link Cordelia's dowry to a major change he plans for the kingdom, namely, the tripartition of Britain between his three daughters. Just as there are three countries, so Britain will have three autonomous states. If one sister attacks another sister, the third sister can ally herself with the attacked party. But just as with the three countries, an alliance between any two states can overrun the third. Cordelia's estate in Britain cannot by itself survive an attack by a Goneril/Regan alliance. Unlike what is possible between the countries, a marriage alliance between the British states is not a possible option. Nevertheless, Lear sees that a marriage can solve the problem. Regardless of who Cordelia marries, a coalition between her husband's state and her British state can defend itself against a Goneril/Regan alliance.

Cordelia/Burgundy — versus — Goneril/Regan
Cordelia/France — versus — Goneril/Regan

The Effect of the Tripartition
Lear has already worked out exactly what he will give each daughter. Lear's plan to divide Britain will enlarge the duchies of both Goneril (Albany) in the north and Regan (Cornwall) in the south-west, to that of separate autonomous states.

Lear is locked into what he, France and Burgundy, after lengthy negotiations, have mutually agreed is to be Cordelia's dowry. His own palace, which is more opulent than either Albany's or Cornwall's, will be given as dowry to Cordelia who does not, as yet, have a residence or an estate. Lear plans to continue living in this, his old familiar home. As he declines with age he 'thought to set my rest on her kind nursery' with Cordelia ensuring he will be cared for during her long absences in France. But he has not declined as yet, neither mentally nor physically, despite his eighty years. While he is still fit and well he can teach the inexperienced Cordelia how to govern and protect her state. Cordelia will need to spend most of her time in France attending to her royal duties as Queen. When children are born to her she will have no choice but to remain almost exclusively in France. Lear, of course, will not accompany Cordelia to the French court. To do so would result in Lear being dragged around France as a trophy of the King of France, a quite ludicrous consideration. Whenever Cordelia is absent in France, Lear will administer her state. Although retired, it is appropriate that he will 'still retain the name, and all the additions to a king' to give him the authority to fulfil this role. Lear has been running the country with the help of his 100 knights. Lear's knights will be as loyal to Cordelia as they have been to him and this will give her an instant power base and form the nucleus of her administration.

STOP PRESS Modern equivalents of Lear's strategic plans

Lear's tripartition of Britain

Lear's map for the division of Britain