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Shakespeare Explained: Quick Questions on King Lear

ACT I SCENE I

1. Is Lear's demand of an expression of love from each daughter likely to bring honest answers?
Because the answers must be given publicly they are not likely to be honest.

2. How are we to account for Cordelia's answer?
Her love was deep, honest, real. Such love does not parade itself. A fine nature never makes a show of itself.

3. How would you describe the character of Kent?
Kent possesses all the fine traits which make a man noble. Self-sacrifice, loyalty, faithfulness and goodness are developed to a high degree in his character.

4. Can you foresee, at the conclusion of this scene, anything of the course of the play?
The remonstrances of Kent and the last 35 lines of the scene give hints of the coming action.

SCENE II

5. Does Gloucester's treatment of his two sons at all account for their attitude?
So far as it is shown in the first two scenes, no.

SCENES III, IV, V

6. How far has Lear a just right to think himself ungratefully treated?
He has given wealth, position, and power to his daughters. But since the gifts furnish entertainment for himself he should not have expected a display of gratitude from those who received the gifts.

7. What true friends has he, and how do they show their friendship?
Kent and the Fool. By remaining with him.

ACT II

8. Is Kent in any respects like Lear himself?
In Scene ii he shows some of Lear's stubbornness and impetuosity which lead him to do and say unwise things.

9. Trace the growing cruelty of Regan and Goneril.
See Scene i, lines 96; 103-105; Scene ii, lines 155-157; Scene iv, lines 1-2; 89; 148- 154; 199-200; 204-209; 239-266.

ACT III

10. How has the kingdom prospered under Albany and Cornwall?
It has not prospered. Albany and Cornwall are quarreling; a French army is about to invade this "scattered kingdom."

11. What is the dramatic effect of the storm?
It increases the sympathy for Lear.

12. Is Edgar really mad? If not, how do you account for his actions and words?
No. He feigns madness to preserve his life.

13. How is the King's mind affected?
He becomes insane.

14. By what steps has Gloucester been led to his betrayal?
See Scene iii; Scene iv, lines 120; 153-158; Scene v ; Scene vi, lines 1-3; 93-104; Scene vii, lines 42-70.



ACT IV

15. What is the dramatic effect of the meeting of Gloucester and Edgar?
It adds pathos and increases the interest and sympathy in the action.

16. What is the effect on Goneril and her husband of the news of Gloucester's fate?
See Scene ii, lines 83 ; 95-97.

17. Describe the Dover Cliff incident.
Gloucester determines to commit suicide by throwing himself over the Dover Cliff. He meets Edgar and not recognizing his son, asks him to lead the way to the Cliff. Edgar divines his father's intention and leads him across a field, but pretends they are climbing a steep hill. They finally stop and Edgar tells his father they are within a foot of the edge of a great precipice. Gloucester gives Edgar money and tells him to go away; he then throws himself forward. Edgar, who has thought of this deceit to cure his father of his wish to die, now comes forward as another person who had seen the fall. Gloucester is persuaded that he did fall. Since he was not killed he decides to live and bear his affliction.

18. Describe the restoration of Lear's sanity.
His mind is restored through the medium of quiet, rest, sleep, kindness, and Cordelia.

19. Why should not the play go on from this point to a happy ending?
Lear's selfishness which led him to attempt to shirk the responsibilities of his position could not go unpunished. His whole life had been thoughtless, careless, selfish; the stern law of retribution punishes him.

ACT V

20. How does Albany learn of the treachery of his wife and Edmund?
By means of the letter which Edgar gives him in Scene i. For the contents of the letter see Act IV, Scene vi, lines 266-278.

21. Do you find any difference in character between Regan and Goneril?
Goneril seems to be more resourceful in wickedness; she plans and proposes while Regan only seconds the propositions of her sister. Regan is afraid of Goneril; Goneril is afraid of no one. Goneril offers herself to Edmund while her husband is still alive; Regan makes no advances to Edmund until after her husband's death. Goneril agrees to the murder of Cordelia, poisons Regan, and attempts to kill her husband. She seems more wicked than Regan.

22. Account for the fate of Cordelia.
The innocent as well as the guilty are destroyed.

GENERAL

23. In what form does Poetic Justice manifest itself in the cases of Lear and Gloucester?
Poetic Justice manifests itself in the case of Lear, in the realization of his misplaced confidence, and in his and Cordelia's death; in the case of Gloucester, in the realization of his misplaced confidence, his cruel harshness, and in the loss of his eyes.


How to cite this article:
Lunt, Forrest. Shakespeare Explained. New York: Hearst's International Library, 1915. Shakespeare Online. 10 Jan. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/kinglear/examq/sceneq.html >.
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