In King Lear, what kind of man is Lear in Act 1, Scene 1?
The key to understanding Lear in the first scene of this play is the way that he prizes appearances over reality. His "darker purpose" is to maintain the position and the trappings of the crown whilst divesting himself of all the work and resonsibility of being king. Likewise, the manner in which he plans to divide up his kingdom gives value to appearance but not to reality, as the false answers of his daughters show. It is highly significant that Lear says to his daughters "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" rather than just asking "Which of you loves us most?" This of course leads to his fatal error of being blind to Cordelia's true love and Goneril and Regan's false love, that shows him to be an arrogant, self-obsessed and irresponsible man. We are told that Cordelia is Lear's favourite daughter at the beginning of the play, and yet the way that he so quickly banishes her after her response clearly demonstrates the way in which Lear values the obsequious flattery which is not genuine of his other daughters over the truth of Cordelia's love which is expressed through actions and not deeds.