Act 1, Scene 1: King Lear in his
old age decides it is time to divide up his kingdom among his daughters. In order to decide how
much each girl and her husband gets, he makes them each publicly declare their love. The oldest
daughter Goneril has no problem doing this, nor does his middle daughter Regan. His youngest and
favorite daughter, Cordelia, however, does not approve of the exercise and refuses to speak the words
he longs to here. Because of her refusal, he disowns her, and because she is not married, he gives
her no dowry. The portion he intended to give to her he divides instead between her sisters.
The Earl of Kent stands up for Cordelia and is banished by the King for doing so. The King calls
Cordelia's main suitors and asks if they will take her without her dowry. The Duke of Burgundy
refuses, but the King of France wants to marry her anyway. The King of France takes her away,
and King Lear tells his other daughters that he will alternate living with them.
Act 1, Scene 2: Edmund, the bastard
son of Gloucester, comes up with a plan to usurp his brother and gain his father's land and money.
His father comes to him, and he quickly hides a forged letter from his brother, Edgar. Because
of his strange behavior, his father asks to see the letter. He is disgusted by the treacherous
content of his legitimate son, and Edmund defends his brother. He promises to help his father
find the truth. After his father leaves, Edmund talks to Edgar and tells him that their father
is angry with him. He tells his brother to be prepared to run and take solders with him.
His brother believes him, and Edmund is happy that his plan is successful.