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?
Flattery — did Lear love it or hate it?
They flattered me like a dog
Lear's division of the kingdom is shown on the map, which is divided into three areas. The areas are marked to distinguish them, and their borders are defined by grid-lines. He proposes to share his kingdom between his daughters but not equally. He intends allotting the largest share to the one whom he judges gives the most favorable speech. This means the three areas he has marked out on the map are provisional only, but of necessity each area needs to be an exact third otherwise it wont be practical for him to make adjustments to suit his 'Conditions':
It would seem that Lear cannot know to whom he ought extend his 'largest bounty' until he has heard and compared all three speeches. Under the logic of his 'Conditions' one would think that he would wait until the finish before announcing each daughter's share. However, for some reason Lear does not do this but gives Goneril her share immediately she concludes her speech, and likewise to Regan. Also, he tells Cordelia that the remaining share is 'a third more opulent than your sisters' which is, therefore, the 'largest bounty'. She can acquire it but neither of her sisters can, and that is a clear breach of his own conditions.
Lear would seem to be flouting his conditions with an illogical response. The decision process described above allows only a logical final allotment of shares after all speeches have been made. For Cordelia to be offered the largest bounty can only be at the expense of the lesser bounties of her sisters. But is there another way for the largest bounty to be attained? Can Lear's actions be shown as logical within his conditions and be confirmed by what he says?
Consider the map again. It is divided into many areas by criss-crossing grid-lines. Each daughter's third (though provisional only) is marked out. Recall that after Lear has heard Goneril's speech he points to the map and shows her the region 'from this line to this.' that he has given her. At this stage, we have no way of assessing whether the region is exactly a third, or whether it is more, or less than a third. It is only later, when we are told her sisters' allocations that we can, retrospectively, assess what Goneril received. Likewise with Regan. We don't know what Lear has given her, only that it is 'No less in space, validity, and pleasure, than that conferr'd on Goneril.'
When Lear tells Cordelia what she can potentially receive, we are, at last, able to assess the size of the allocations. Cordelia's 'a third more opulent than your sisters' can only be so because Lear has taken parcels of land from the shares of Goneril and Regan and added them to the remaining third to create the 'largest bounty'.
Now the process can be understood. For some reason Lear reduced Goneril's share the moment she stopped speaking! He did not need to wait until he had heard the other speeches, he simply gave her less than a third. Regan's allotment was also trimmed to less than a third. The remaining part has, therefore, increased by these trimmings and has become the 'third more opulent' that Lear offers Cordelia. The burning question is: What was it about the speeches of Goneril and Regan that met with Lear's disapproval and annoyed him to such an extent that he cut back their inheritances? Answer: He did not like their flattery!
King Lear hated flattery