King Lear

King Lear


William Shakespeare

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King Lear: Act 1, scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
At Goneril's palace, where Lear has been spending his first month after giving up power, Goneril complains to her steward, Oswald, about how badly her father, his Fool, and his knights have been behaving in her house. She instructs Oswald to tell Lear that she is sick and will not see him. She also instructs Oswald and the servants to serve him only with "weary negligence" (1.3.13), so that she has an opportunity to broach the subject with Lear.
Goneril shows her lack of personal regard for her father: she will use her new political power to flaunt the usual order of authority in a parent-child relationship. Strikingly, Lear has already become an agent of disorder, rather than the careful, controlling stage-manager who planned the divestment ceremony in 1.1.
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Goneril adds that if Lear does not like what she says, he can go to Regan. She knows that she and her sister are of the same mind on this subject and will not be overruled by an "idle old man" (1.3.17). "Old fools are babes again and must be used/ With checks as flatteries" (20-1), she concludes, resolving to write to her sister.
Goneril speaks about the old, and how they should be subservient to the young, in the same terms that Edmund cited in his forged letter. For the time being, she show solidarity with her sister.
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