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3. The Opening Scene
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the opening scene of the play, focusing in particular on: (i) the idea that affection (or love) can be quantified and measured ¬– as shown both by the conversation between Kent and Gloucester that opens the play, as well as by the scene between Lear and his daughters that immediately follows it; (ii) the lack of explanation for why Lear has chosen this moment to divide his kingdom and retire from office, a departure from earlier versions of the story; (iii) the fact that Goneril and Regan are already married at the beginning of Shakespeare’s version of the play, another departure from earlier versions of the story; (iv) why Lear loses his temper so spectacularly when Cordelia refuses the say how much she loves him; (v) why Cordelia doesn’t simply tell her father that she loves him; and (vi) the reaction of Goneril and Regan to what they have just witnessed, and the importance of them getting the final words in the scene.
In this course, Professor Grace Ioppolo (University of Reading) explores Shakespeare’s King Lear. We begin in the first module by thinking about Shakespeare’s sources for King Lear – what he took from earlier versions of the story, and what he invented for himself. After that, we think about the critical reception of the play, focusing in particular on Peter Brook’s 1962 production and the influence of Jan Kott’s ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’ (1961). In the third module, we explore the opening scene of the play, before turning in the fourth module to the theme of the absent mother in the play. In the fifth and sixth modules, we focus on the long central act of the play, thinking first about Act III as an exploration of human nature, and then about what Act III tells us about the kind of tragedy King Lear is. Finally, in the seventh module, we think about the final two acts of the play, focusing in particular on the very end of the play, and the meaning of the play as a whole.
Grace Ioppolo is Professor of English at the University of Reading. Her teaching focuses mostly on Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists, although she also has an interest in American drama of the 20th century. Her recent publications include the Norton Critical Edition of King Lear (2015) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2018)
Cite this Lecture
Ioppolo, G. (2019, November 05). Shakespeare: King Lear - The Opening Scene [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-king-lear-grace-ioppolo/the-opening-scene
Ioppolo, G. "Shakespeare: King Lear – The Opening Scene." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Nov 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-king-lear-grace-ioppolo/the-opening-scene