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?
Goneril — under the influence
Drunk with power
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely
On her ascent to supreme power Goneril behaves dictatorially. She is motivated by self; self-interest, self-indulgence and a self-will that ultimately leads to self-slaughter. Despite an aloof, aristocratic bearing she is a murderer plain and simple. Goneril instigates action in others such as persuading Regan to be antipathetic toward Lear, for Gloster's eyes to be plucked out, and in urging Edmund to murder Albany. But she is capable of personal acts of evil such as poisoning Regan, and ordering the death of Cordelia and planning Albany's murder. Her actions have little legality regardless of how that term might be distorted. Exposure of her adulterous liaison is as nothing to this foul fiend who would frame the law to suit herself.
Goneril shares her thoughts of Lear with Regan, who echoes her opinion. They accuse Lear of abnormal or senile behavior and forecast that it will get worse. Not one other person ever says anything to support the contentions of Goneril and Regan.
This section still under construction
Two character readings (G's and R's) can be extracted from the Goneril/Regan meeting.
It is easier to deal with Regan first
Now to deal with Goneril
Jumps a shadows. Fears where there is nothing to fear. Takes action against nonexistent faults that she surmises might exist a some time.
She is impatient, impetuous and precipitate.
Put comments here about Goneril's fault-finding attitude to Albany.
To summarise the two attitudes when together
How much is Goneril influenced by Oswald?
Goneril trusts Oswald but is she being manipulated by him? Oswald may be playing the game to suit himself. He knows Goneril's mind, and he might be 'helping' to speed her plans by lying about Lear.
If you come slack of former services,
Almost simultaneously, this conversation takes place.
Let us examine the two sides of the alleged striking. To focus on the salient points here are very abbreviated versions of the previous two conversations:
Firstly Goneril's side:
And when did the alleged striking take place? We will see shortly that it would have had to occur at least two days ago, that is, assuming it actually happened! Oswald and Goneril would have talked together on several occasions over the last few days, so why didn't he tell her about it two days ago, or yesterday, or earlier today? Yet she has to come to him about it. Was he ever going to tell her? It seems that Oswald has found no recent complaints against Lear or his knights or he would surely have told her of the striking at the same time, it being by far the most important black mark to bring against Lear. It seems that nothing has actually happened. Goneril's 'By day and night he wrongs me' appears to be groundless and her 'every hour he flashes into one gross crime or other' seems ridiculous but shows her irrational train of thought and her determination to degrade her father.
Note that it is while Goneril and Oswald are talking together that Lear returns from a day's hunting. One of the first things Lear says is that he has not seen his Fool for two days which places the alleged striking at least two days back from the present. Note also that this is said within moments of Oswald telling Goneril that the striking event did occur, or rather, confirming what someone else has told her. The striking episode smacks of fabrication aimed at putting Lear and his knights in a bad light.
Now Lear's side:
Now consider how the 'great abatement of kindness in the general dependents' may have come about. From the Knight's and Lear's remarks, it would seem to have started a few days ago. But who gave the orders a few days ago for this change in attitude? The orders did not come from Goneril! It is only just NOW that she orders Oswald to neglect Lear by not providing 'former services.'
Put on what weary negligence you please,
There seems little doubt that Oswald has been running his own anti-Lear campaign, without any instruction from Goneril. Such a campaign would not be as overtly hostile as that now ordered by Goneril. Oswald, with his lackeys as accomplices, may have invented the 'striking' story to get Goneril's reaction. Goneril is so obsessed with degrading Lear that she does not think rationally. Goneril's 'By day and night he wrongs me', therefore, is not only groundless, but utterly ridiculous. Oswald is lying, plain and simple, but in doing so is able to influence Goneril by telling her what he knows she wants to hear. It has the desired effect because only a little later she makes these outbursts.
GONERIL [to Lear]
We come to the issue of the riotous knights. But are they riotous? Where is the least evidence of riotous or insolent behavior? There is none! We can only take note of what people say, and by comparing pro and con, form a reasoned opinion. According to Goneril they are riotous but Lear says they are not. Why is Goneril to be believed in preference to Lear, when we know how she reacts to hearsay and in this case has, more than likely, been lied to by Oswald and his underlings? Goneril responds with precipitate action.
Even when no danger exists, she fears what she imagines. She even admits that she does! Lear's followers are men of choice and rarest parts, only a few are soldiers, the rest being gentlemen and squires. Goneril refuses to listen to Albany who, though a soldier himself, has noticed nothing untoward.
Oswald serves Goneril with utter loyalty through thick and thin, and becomes her right-hand man. By doing her every bidding, she trusts him without question. Why does Oswald serve Goneril with such devotion? Whose interest does he really serve? Goneril's or Oswald's?
Goneril influences Regan
Describe the power of G. over R. Mention R. echoes G. when she gives her flattery speech. Note also in the following interchange against Lear how Regan echoes Goneril.
Note that they offer neither medical nor psychological proof but merely express bigotted opinions typical of those with which the young sometimes discredit the aged. Their prognosis is no more than a guess based on bias.
Regan never questions or doubts or checks what Goneril tells her. Because Goneril's 'let's hit together' gains Regan's compliance against Lear, Goneril is able to manipulate Regan with exaggerations and lies about Lear and his knights. Regan has not seen Lear since the division of the kingdom but Goneril's opinion and influence from that time still persists.
Goneril orders Oswald to write letters to Regan about her fears and then add his own verbal account. Her fears are groundless but she is determined to belittle Lear. Oswald knows what is in Goneril's mind. He writes the letters that put her thoughts, or rather, more often, his own thoughts, to which Goneril tells him to orally add further support of her case. Because Oswald is allowed to say whatever he likes with Goneril's approval, is she likely to ever bother to check what he writes?