more balanced person. He shows us a letter that he believes will help him overthrow his brother and gain his land. He cuts a strangely appealing figure with his witty wordplay on "base" and his humorous closing remark, "Now, gods, stand up for bastards!" Gloucester enters the stage and sees the letter. He questions Edmund on its contents and his son makes a show of hiding and claiming that it is nothing thus arousing Gloucester’s curiosity all the more. Eventually he persuades a supposedly reluctant Edmund to show him the letter that he claims is from his brother. Edmund has forged the letter, which invites him to discuss with his elder brother the fact that they will only inherit from their father when they are too old to enjoy their inheritance. There is also a promise of half of Gloucester’s income if he should happen to die.

A parallel is drawn between Gloucester’s relationship with his sons and Lear’s with his daughters. He immediately takes the letter as real and rails against his elder son calling him an "unnatural detested brutish villain." Edmund suggests that his father hides whilst he meets with his brother so they can understand his intentions and ascertain if there has been a misunderstanding. Gloucester is disturbed by his situation and the one that he has just witnessed between Lear, his daughters and Kent. He believes that the "natural" order of the world is crumbling due to eclipses of the sun and moon and he is uncertain and uneasy about what the future holds for him. The break down of "nature" (and note that the word appears frequently throughout the play as a mantra, almost) and family bonds is in Gloucester’s mind the sign of the onset of chaos.

After his father leaves Edmund is hugely derisive about his faith in the supernatural and power of the stars. He is unimpressed by the fact that his father is unable to take responsibility for his own actions. Edgar arrives and Edmund shows deep concern for him and the fact that his father is so deeply offended by him. He persuades his brother to come to his room armed so that they can work out how to placate their father.

Act I, Scene III

We now shift to Goneril and the Duke of Albany’s residence where Goneril is complaining to her steward Oswald about the behaviour of her father and his knights. She decides that she will not speak to her father when he returns from hunting and that Oswald must not serve him in a way in which he would be used to. She refers to him as an old fool.

Act I, Scene IV

Kent appears in disguise so that he is able to help Lear whilst the king still thinks he is banished. On Lear’s return Kent asks him if he can serve him and his offer is accepted. The king calls for his dinner and his fool. Oswald ignores his request and Lear is confused about why Goneril’s servants are being so unkind to him. When Oswald comes back and the Lear asks him "Who am I, sir?" the steward answers impertinently: "My Lady’s father". This immediately undermines Lear, ignoring the fact that he is the king and making him all the more dependent on his daughter.

We are introduced to the Fool who praises Kent for his support of a king who is so out of favour, he mocks Lear who he calls a fool for giving away his kingdom. The fool, it is clear, has an unusual power over Lear because he can say things that others cannot (as Kent has already proved). This would indeed have been the place of the fool in court, and this Fool along with Twelfth Night’s Feste is endowed with remarkable knowledge as if he is a Chorus within the play’s action. He reminds Lear that, "Truth’s a dog must to kennel", or in other words Lear cannot accept the truth of his diminished position. Kent remarks later in the scene that, "This is not altogether fool, my lord".

Goneril enters, angry at the behaviour and multitude of Lear’s men. She speaks harshly to her father who is shocked by this and asks again who he is – he is searching for an affirmation of his identity. Goneril tells Lear that he must reduce his retinue or she will. This infuriates Lear who calls her a "Degenerate bastard" and says that he will go and stay with his other daughter. Notice again that Lear is alienating everyone in his desperation to be respected.

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