How is tension built in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's King Lear?
In Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's King Lear, Lear prepares to divide his land between his three daughters. To determine who gets the most territory, he asks his children which of them loves him the most. Regan and Goneril flatter their father with flowery, poetic speeches detailing their love for him (ironically, we later find their pronouncements of love to be lies), but Cordelia refuses to engage in such empty flattery, asserting that she simply loves Lear as much as a daughter is expected to. It's here that the tension begins to build, as we see Lear becoming more and more irate with his favorite daughter's response. Shakespeare primarily builds this tension by showing Lear's attempts to persuade his daughter to flatter him. Through these efforts, we see Lear's growing impatience with his daughter's steadfast honesty, and so the tension begins to build and we sense that something momentous is about to occur. The tension built in this scene eventually affects the rest of the play, as Lear's decision to cast out Cordelia and rely on Regan and Goneril sets the stage for the play's later drama and Lear's madness.