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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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ACT I, SCENE 3

Summary

This scene takes place at the Duke of Albany's castle. Goneril, Albany's wife, is in a bad temper, for she has discovered that Lear has struck her steward, Oswald, for castigating the King's Fool. She describes him as a tyrannical old man and wearies of his presence. She complains about Lear's fits of violence and the unruly behavior of his knights. She wants any excuse to quarrel openly with her father. Pretending to be sick, Goneril refuses to speak with Lear upon his return from the hunt and instructs Oswald to treat the king's men with sullen indifference. At the close of the scene, Goneril is planning to write to Regan about their next course of action concerning their father.


Notes

Lear has given away his kingdom to avoid the problems of running the state, but he wants and expects to retain the privileges of a reigning monarch. In short, he wants the power but not the problems. Goneril is determined to deny her father the privileges that he expects. She clearly voices her contempt for Lear by the use of phrases like "idle old man" and "old fool." In Elizabethan times, such disrespect for age and parenthood is considered blasphemous, upsetting the natural order of life.

Lear's striking of Oswald, who is Goneril's "gentleman" steward, again reveals Lear's poor judgement and ill temper. The action greatly upsets Goneril and hastens her desire to strip her old father of all remaining power and dignity; therefore, Lear has again contributed to his own downfall. She begins her humiliation of Lear by telling Oswald to ignore both her father and his knights.

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