ACT I, Scene 3
This scene takes place at the Duke of Albany's castle. Goneril,
Albany's wife, is in a bad temper, for she has discovered that Lear
has struck her steward, Oswald, for castigating the King's Fool.
She describes him as a tyrannical old man and wearies of his
presence. She complains about Lear's fits of violence and the
unruly behavior of his knights. She wants any excuse to quarrel
openly with her father. Pretending to be sick, Goneril refuses to
speak with Lear upon his return from the hunt and instructs
Oswald to treat the king's men with sullen indifference. At the
close of the scene, Goneril is planning to write to Regan about
their next course of action concerning their father.
Lear has given away his kingdom to avoid the problems of running
the state, but he wants and expects to retain the privileges of a
reigning monarch. In short, he wants the power but not the
problems. Goneril is determined to deny her father the privileges
that he expects. She clearly voices her contempt for Lear by the
use of phrases like "idle old man" and "old fool." In
times, such disrespect for age and parenthood is considered
blasphemous, upsetting the natural order of life.
Lear's striking of Oswald, who is Goneril's "gentleman" steward,
again reveals Lear's poor judgement and ill temper. The action
greatly upsets Goneril and hastens her desire to strip her old father
of all remaining power and dignity; therefore, Lear has again
contributed to his own downfall. She begins her humiliation of
Lear by telling Oswald to ignore both her father and his knights.