A Stick-Figure King Lear: Act 1, Scene 4

King Lear
Dramatis Personae | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.5
 
2.1 | 2.2 (part 1) 2.2, part 2
3.1 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 | 3.5 | 3.6

THE STORY SO FAR: The Earl of Kent, banished by King Lear for opposing the disinheritance of Lear's daughter, Cordelia, has returned in disguise, determined to continue serving his king. Having renounced his powers, Lear is staying with his eldest daughter, Goneril, and everything is going to be JUST FINE. Isn't it?

I love Kent in disguise. In some productions he grows a beard. In some productions he shaves his beard. In some productions he wears a hat. He's always recognizable. 

This is the first time Oswald gets beaten up. If you're playing the "Oswald Drinking Game", take a drink.

And here is our introduction to the Fool! Fools in Shakespeare are often much wiser and insightful than the other characters around them, and Lear's Fool is no exception. He basically spends most of this scene haranguing Lear about how stupid it was for him to banish Cordelia and split his kingdom between Goneril and Regan. Because he's the Fool, he gets away with it. 

He also, miraculously, gets away with not being very funny.

When you deconstruct it, Goneril has a pretty valid complaint. Lear is no longer king, so why should he get to bring a hundred of his closest drinking buddies over to his daughter's house to party every night? The problem is... Lear doesn't understand that he's not king anymore. He split up his kingdom and gave away his power, sure, but that doesn't mean he's not still king, right? RIGHT? 

The Fool doesn't help things in this bit, what with his constant interruptions and seemingly nonsensical singing. 

"Who is it that can tell me who I am?" is one of the hot-button lines in Lear. While he's deliberately overplaying the moment to shame his daughter here, it is a dire foreshadowing of when his mental state and sense of self begin to crumble in a very real manner. Also of interest is the Fool's reply: "Lear's shadow."

Thwarted by Goneril, Lear proceeds to unleash an unparalleled stream of parental invective. Seriously, what parent curses their daughter with sterility or a monstrous offspring just for being asked to stop being such a nuisance? Way to go, Lear. You're not winning the "Father of the Year" award anytime soon.

I've drawn Goneril as being taken aback by Lear's curse, but of course that depends on the production. Some productions have a hard-as-nails Goneril who couldn't be bothered less by her father's curses. Others have a Goneril who is totally devastated by the torrent of emotional abuse. Your Goneril may vary. 

This is the first time Oswald gets to deliver a message. If you're playing the "Oswald Drinking Game", take another drink.

That's all for today! On Friday we'll be wrapping up Act 1. Time flies when you're having fun! Also, thanks to all my new readers who found me on io9, Buzzfeed, and various other sites over the last few days. The response has been quite overwhelming. I've likened it to having a bar of gold bullion dropped on my head - I feel very lucky, and also somewhat concussed, with possible brain damage.

King Lear
Dramatis Personae | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.5
2.1 | 2.2 (part 1) 2.2, part 2
3.1 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 | 3.5 | 3.6