Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Download Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "King Lear Study Guide." Course Hero. 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, August 10). King Lear Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "King Lear Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed October 18, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "King Lear Study Guide," August 10, 2016, accessed October 18, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/King-Lear/.

King Lear | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary

Share
Share

Summary

Gloucester's son Edmund enters, ranting about his status as a bastard and how he plans to displace his legitimate brother, Edgar. Gloucester enters, and Edmund uses a letter, supposedly written by Edgar, to manipulate his father into thinking Edgar plans to betray him. Gloucester explodes, saying he'll arrest Edgar, but Edmund cautions against moving without proof and makes plans to get more evidence of Edgar's plans.

Once Gloucester leaves, Edmund reflects on how people create their own destinies and then find excuses for their actions in the heavens. Edmund is mainly focused on people's weaknesses of character, particularly that of a sexual nature, and their tendency to blame their mistakes on the gods. Edgar enters, and Edmund manipulates his brother, making him think their father is angry with him. Edmund tells Edgar he should arm himself.

Analysis

Act 1, Scene 1 sketches the subplot by indicating Gloucester has an illegitimate son; this scene shows what this means to the characters. While Gloucester might joke about the details of Edmund's conception, the absence of a marriage between Gloucester and this woman has effectively ruined Edmund's life. His illegitimacy drives him and defines him.

Edmund is able to manipulate his father quite easily, and this scene reveals the nature of their relationship to the audience. On the surface, Gloucester loves his son and trusts him implicitly. Darker (and more likely) interpretations are that Gloucester doesn't know or understand either of his sons, and, as a result, he can't know how to act in relation to them.

This scene is thematically linked to the first scene through the disruption of social order and through dysfunctional family relationships. Finally, this scene introduces a plot device that will quickly become symbolic: the letter.

Flashcards for Act 1, Scene 2

View all

Term:

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Definition:

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 1 Spoken by Marcellus (and not Hamlet as is commonly believed). CONTEXT Horatio spots the Ghost of Hamlet's father approaching. Hamlet calls out to the Ghost and it beckons Hamlet to leave with it. Despite the pleadings of Horatio and Marcellus, who are afraid that the apparition might be an evil entity in disguise, Hamlet agrees to follow the Ghost and the two figures disappear into the dark. Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius's mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies "Heaven will direct it" (91), meaning heaven will guide the state of Denmark to health and stability. MEANING - Claudius has usurped throne (politics are rotten) - Christian providential fate is corrupted (fickle fate, not all-seeing God in charge) - Rotten could mean, literally, a dead body

Term:

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on ’t, ah fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this. But two months dead—nay, not so much, not two. So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr. So loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly.—Heaven and earth, Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on, and yet, within a month— Let me not think on ’t. Frailty, thy name is woman!— A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she followed my poor father’s body, Like Niobe, all tears. Why she, even she— O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason Would have mourned longer!—married with my uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules. Within a month, Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes, She married. O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good, But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.

Definition:

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2 Spoken by Hamlet CONTEXT Hamlet is bemoaning his mother's connection his uncle Claudius and saying that Claudius is unworthy of her, for he is no more like his father than Hamlet is to Hercules. MEANING - - -

Term:

Historica Danica

Definition:

- Written by Saxo Grammaticus in the 12th C. - A "history" of Denmark - Idea of history-keeping as accurate did not come into effect until 19th C - Shakespeare definitely used it as a source for Hamlet - Difference 1: Feng (Claudius) is known to have killed the King - Difference 2: There is no ghost, and Amleth's (Hamlet's) madness is confirmed as an antic disposition - Difference 3: Amleth is a buffoon (i.e. riding horse backwards) - The Players are not in Saxo Grammaticus, thus disallowing the meta-theatre commentary in Shakespeare's play

Term:

Revenge Tragedy

Definition:

- Two models: 1. classical (3 act structure, atrocity; revenger created; further atrocity put in place by revenger) 2. Christian (God should enact judgement, not man) Hamlet walks the line between these two

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about King Lear? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Download Study Guide
Ask a homework question - tutors are online