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?
Regan — hath ever but slenderly known herself
Then let them anatomize Regan
Regan is usually considered more contemptible than Goneril. Her mind seems of a courser grain because her taunts like 'let him smell his way to Dover' are more appropriate to a butchery than a palace. Regan also seems the more vile because of her participation in the blinding of Gloster, although tearing out the old Earl's eyes was Goneril's suggestion.
Despite the horror of the act, it needs to be understood from the perspective of Regan and Cornwall, who are as one in this matter. Gloster's motives are undoubtedly noble in that he wants to help Lear to Dover and safety with Cordelia. But he has also made contact with the French invaders and intends to join forces with them. This is an act of treason against the British party, and specifically against the Duchy of Cornwall in which the Earldom of Gloster exists.
What is never discussed but ought to be is what would have happened if Gloster's act treason had been successful and the French had defeated the Britons? The usual practice by the victors was to slaughter the defeated army and also . Cornwall and Regan would have been executed. Te defeated army all the the men of and any men and boys likely to be future opponents.A traitor is usually thought of as an evil-doer because he performs his crime against the state. But if he performs his treason against an evil state he is reckoned as a good man. In either case, though, if he is caught he will suffer a terrible punishment because treason has always been regarded as a crime far worse than murder. Accordingly, Gloster suffers a horrid, but what Regan and Cornwall would regard as justifiable, punishment for a crime against their state. Cornwall makes it quite clear to Edmund that because a traitor must suffer a terrible punishment, he is 'bound' to inflict it on his father. It is almost as though he is saying to Edmund, "Sorry, I know he is your father and I would like to spare you the anguish, but the penalty has to fit the seriousness of the crime he has perpetrated. In consideration of your feelings I ask that you not be here to witness what must be done because they are not fit for your beholding."
Cornwall and Regan repeatedly describe Gloster as a traitor
Out, treacherous villain!
[and with ferocious sarcasm]
As horrible as Gloster's blinding is, Regan would regard the punishment as legal and she kills the servant for his interference in Cornwall's administering of justice. Note that the messenger who tells Albany of Gloster's blinding refers to it as a punishment.
Later, when Regan offers Oswald 'preferment' she does so to correct her error, as she perceived it, of not having executed Gloster.
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
When Oswald meets Gloster and Edgar, he describes Gloster not only as a traitor but as a 'publish'd' traitor, so their seems little doubt that Gloster acts were regarded as crimes against the state.
Goneril's influence reverbs a hollowness in Regan
Regan never questions, 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 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. There is nothing to justify Regan's neglect of Lear or her siding with Goneril. She has not one scrap of evidence against Lear.
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 obsessively determined to degrade Lear.
Not surprisingly, the dissatisfactions that Goneril expresses through Oswald are able to hoodwink Regan and Cornwall. They know nothing of the knights, good or bad, only what they are told. With no justification whatsoever, they immediately describe Lear's followers as riotous. They are further mislead when Edmund lies that Edgar associates with Lear's knights. Oswald adds his lies about Kent, who with sarcastic effrontery insults everyone. Cornwall forms an unfavorable opinion of Kent's behavior which he then quite unfairly, though understandably, attaches to Lear's knights: 'This is a fellow of the self-same colour our sister speaks of.' Little wonder that Regan and Cornwall think Goneril to be right and Lear to be wrong and his knights to be riotous. They are completely taken in!
REGAN [about Edgar]
CORNWALL [about Kent]
REGAN [to Lear]