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In the first act of the play, Lear plainly sees himself as a good king reigning over a country that is prosperous and at peace with its neighbors and using the marriage of his daughter Cordelia to enlarge his nation's foreign alliances. Yet Lear is "blind" long before he reaches the status of unaccomodated man raging on the heath. He fails to take counsel from the loyal Kent, and he fails to realize that the relinquishment of his throne will necessarily entail a reduction in the privileges he enjoys. Indeed, Lear appears to want things both ways: he wishes to unburden himself of the responsibilities of kingship while retaining the power of a king, at least insofar as his personal circumstances are concerned. Worst of all in the eyes of Shakespeare's audiences, Lear divides his own kingdom, thereby creating the conditions for civil war. Lear thinks of himself as a good king, but he is not.

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King Lear

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