King Lear Act I, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Oswald: Goneril’s steward who willingly carries out the evil schemes of his mistress

This scene is set in the Duke of Albany’s palace, the home of Lear’s oldest daughter Goneril with whom he has been living since the division of the kingdom. Goneril questions her steward, Oswald, and finds that her father has struck her gentleman for chiding his Fool. She is distraught over the King’s behavior, claiming that he “upbraids us/ On every trifle.” She says too that his knights “grow riotous.” She is, in fact, so angry at her father that she does not want to speak to him and instructs Oswald to tell the King she is sick when he comes back from his hunting trip. In retaliation for her father’s behavior, she also gives Oswald a directive to cut back on his usual services to the King. She will answer for it later if he gives Oswald any trouble.

Horns sound as Lear and his entourage return from their hunting trip. Goneril hastily directs Oswald to treat the King with “weary negligence” and instruct the servants under his command to do the same. If her father does not like it, she says, he can go live with her sister Regan. Goneril is well aware that she and Regan are of like mind concerning their father. She calls him foolish for trying to cling to his power and authority after he has officially relinquished it.

Goneril continues to rail bitterly against her father, calling him an old fool who needs to be treated like a baby again. He needs “flatteries” but also “checks” or reprimands. Hastily, she tells Oswald to instruct his knights to greet Lear with cold looks. With that, she hurries off to write to Regan informing her of what has transpired.

This short scene acts as an interlude between the introduction of the subplot and Lear’s...

(The entire section is 482 words.)