From the first two acts I feel Shakespeare has been successful in presenting us with characters whom we dislike. I have found that Shakespeare presents them to us in a number of ways.
This is first demonstrated to us when Lear is introduced in Act 1. Shakespeare created him to be a very strong charcter who doesn’t appear casually in the play. Our dislike towards him forms when Lear creates the love test in which he requires each of his 3 daughters to profess their love to him in public.
Shakespeare cleverly turns the audience against King Lear by using the youngest daughter Cordelia to challenge him in public as she refuses to play the game she says,
“unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
my heart into my mouth”
Cordelia’s actions bring out a side of Lear that is not shown at the beginning. It becomes clear that the only real point of the game was to boost Lear’s ego and therefore I feel the audience cannot help but dislike Lear on the basis of his foolish acts and demands of flattery. By using Cordelia I feel Shakespeare successfully portrayed Lear to the audience as foolish and shallow.
During Lear’s entrance Shakespeare was also working up to the true portrayal of 2 other characters which we later grow to dislike, Goneril and Regan.
Goneril and Regan are the two daughters who did play Lear’s game. They both used very grand and persuasive language to show their love towards their father. Goneril demonstrates this when she says,
“Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter” and
“A love that makes breath poor and speech unable
Beyond all manner”
I feel Shakespeare has used this grand language to make the audience believe they really do love him, this will create an emphasis of surprise when the audience learns their love is false, it will re-enforce the dislike felt towards the two sisters. Shakespeare shows the two sisters in their true light to being greedy, selfish and false. This is first made aware to the audience at the end of the first scene when it becomes clear that the sisters are only worried about themselves, they realise that if their father can banish Cordelia (the most loved daughter) Then he could also turn on Cordelia and Regan, Goneril says,
“we must do something, and I’ the heat.”
To demonstrate Goneril and Regans intentions towards their father Shakespeare uses Goneril in Act 1 scene 3. Goneril goes so far as to allow her servent to treat Lear badly, she says,
“put on what weary negligence you please”
Goneril is fed up with her father and just wants rid of him, without even consulting her father she immediately gets rid of 50 of his followers, this again shows her disloyalty towards her father. Again I feel Shakespeare uses other characters to lure you into disliking the character more. Here he demonstrates this in Act 2 scene 4 when Lear is cleary upset and angry that Goneril has betrayed him, at one point he is reduced to begging Regan, however Regan only shows coldness towards Lear and says,
“good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks”
also when Lear uses long speeches Regan cuts him of by saying,
“good sir, to the purpose!”
This shows how rude and cruel she acts towards her father.
The actions of the two sisters makes you sympathise with Lear and disliking them both more.
During the sub-plot Edmund is introduced to us. I feel he differs from the other characters in the sense of that straight away we learn he is plotting something.
“lag of a brother? Why bastard? Where far base?
Shakespeare uses this B sound to get across his bitter tone and we learn that he is only interested in growing phosphorous when he says,
“I grow; I prosper. Now,gods,stand up for bastards!”
Edmund creates a detailed plot to set his brother up so that he may inherit his fathers riches. Shakespeare has portrayed this character to be a very clever one and he can manipulate his father and brother to placing their every trust in him.
The is demonstrated when Edmund goes so far as to cutting himself in a staged fight in which he pretends to his father that Edgar has attacked him. Its all part of his plan, we also learn that Edmund doesn’t believe in astrology but he knows his father does therefore he plays into it-again Edmund is posed to us as a manipulative character.
The audience can see how he’s manipulating things to go this way and worse more they can see he’s succeeding. This in itself would cause you to dislike Edmund greatly but furthermore he makes snide comments such as,
“A credulous father, and a brother noble,
whose nature is so far from doing harms
that he suspects none ;on whose foolish honesty”
Edmund is basically saying that Edgar is foolish and that he’s easy to trick.
This extra sense of frustrated ness towards Edmund that he’s getting away with the plot he created is what I feel Shakespeare wants you to feel, he has successfully portrayed him as a true villain to the audience.