What is the contrast of the plot and sub-plot in Act I, Scene 1 and Scene 2 in "King Lear"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although both the plot and the sub-plot center around the relationship between a father and his children, there are many differences between the two.  In the first place, Lear's children are all legitimate, and therefore all equally entitled by social rules to inherit from their father.  Gloucester's sons are not equal - Edmund is illegitmate.  Lear does not love his children equally.  He loves Cordelia more, which is partly why he is so sensitive to her supposed "insult".  Gloucester does love his sons equally, and wants to treat them equally, but he feels trapped by society's rules.  Lear is all too willingly to give his kingdom to just one heir - he is looking for a show of love from them, while Gloucester wants to show love to his own.

The children's behaviors are different as well.  Goneril and Reagan act in the moment.  They falsely proclaim their love for their father, and benefit from his reaction.  Edmund, however, is more proactive.  He begins to immediately plot his brother's downfall, showing himself not just the beneficiary of a twisted situation, but the instigator of it.