King Lear Act I

Ch-ch-ch-changes. It’s not just a song from the Shrek 2 soundtrack anymore, folks! It’s for the whole world. No one knows what’s going on, no one knows what the right level of worry is and none of us is as safe or sure as we were back in November of last year before the pandemic.
Because everything feels weird and I feel kind of odd right now answering peoples’ letters about crushes from before this began, I’m going to write about something completely different in today’s letter. Maybe I’ll go back to the advice letters on Friday, maybe not.
My brain right now is like if you took a bunch of sour gummy worms and made a fist and then clenched it as hard as you could. Also I forgot to drink caffeine today until 2:37pm and I thought I was dying but it was just the caffeine.

ANYWAY…

I’m going to read King Lear because I’ve never read it and everyone online keeps talking about how Shakespeare wrote it while quarantined for the plague or whatever. It seems appropriate, then, to read King Lear now since I never have before and because what the fuck else am I going to do? Work on writing that I’m being paid for? Couldn’t be me.

Because I’m a little baby and it’s been a while since I’ve read Shakespeare (which I used to have to do a lot as a theatre kid) I read the very short synopsis on Wikipedia— paragraph one—and guess what folks? The themes are apparently. kinship and suffering. How fucking apt!!!!

Let’s dive in. First things first: let’s just all admit that GONERIL has the shortest end of the stick when it comes to names. Good god I’d be so mad if my name was Goneril and then my parents were like, “yeeeeah we gotta tone it down for the next two for sure,” and then went with the relatively normal REGAN and CORDELIA, I would lose it. I mean if your name is Cordelia and you’re not the weird-named one in the fam, that’s an ish (issue).

The rest of this is probably going to be thoughts as I go, so let’s jump in. I’m going to read one act a day because again…I have gummy worms for a brain.

So KING LEAR is going to split his kingdom up between his three daughters and asks them to all express how much they love him and Goneril and Regan, whom are both already married go first and are like licking the absolutely shit off his boots. Meanwhile, Cordelia …. wants to fuck her dad??? Like yeah her sisters suck but her speech to her dad closely mirrors wedding vows and she’s like “how can they love you more when they’re married to someone else?” Girl that’s your dad! But she’s like “I shouldn’t have to say how much I love you, I’m showing you.” Which is fine (and true) but also, get your money!!! Say some nice shit about your dad!

Anyway, we’re two pages in King Lear is a big drama bitch. Not that you’d expect anything else from Shakespeare. He disowns Cordelia as fuck and has people go get her two suitors— the DUKE OF BURGUNDY and KING OF FRANCE— so that he can be like “Well, she’s poor now. Are either of you still down to fuck/marry her?”

One guy (male feminist Matt McGorry probably) KENT is all like, “My dude, I think you misunderstand Cordelia” But the king banishes him from the country for his little theatrics—which are commendable I guess, but she wasn’t going to fuck you, sweetie. She is being courted by the literal king of France. He’s like “Answer my life my judgement…” (I stake my life on this) “…Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, Nor are those empty-hearted, whose low sounds reverb no hollowness.” It’s all very “I hope she sees this.”

Still, King Lear remains the Ultimate Drama Bitch. It’s like… dial. it. back. Lear is at a full-on 10 and I need him to be at like a 3.

Burgundy, upon finding out that Cordelia’s dowery is gone and that she’s getting nothing from her father is like “I’m out.” But the fucking king of France is still down to fuuuuuck. I absolutely refuse to find out more information via the World Wide Web, but a king sounds better than a duke so in my eyes, she’s still coming out on top.

In the middle of this drama for apparently no good reason is the Earl of Gloucester, a word which I looked up how to pronounce out of curiosity (derision for the English language) and HOLY FUCK YOU GUYS. Gloucester has two sons and negative three creativity so he named one EDGAR and one EDMUND. Can you believe? Makes Goneril seem a bit better. Edgar is older and legitimate and Edmund is younger and illegitimate and incredibly bitter about it. Edmund decides to become a scammer a la Anna Delvey and tricks his dad Gloucester into thinking that Edgar (already this is so confusing—just name one of your kids Tyler or some shit) wrote a nasty letter about him being old. Basically, Edmund is trying to get his dad to leave him all his land so he creates a fight between his dad and brother. Inheritance is a theme, folks.

⬆️ Real photo of Edmund ⬆️

King Lear, after splitting his kingdom in two between his suck-up daughters Regan and Goneril decides to go live with each of them for part of the year. He starts with GoneGirl (Goneril’s nick name from here on out because my spellcheck hates her name as much as I do). He brings 100 knights with him— unclear why. I don’t care. It’s boring. Men are boring.

Right away GoneGirl is like, “Living with my dad is not the vibe.” She talks to her sister Regan and they both privately admit that their dad is old and sucks shit. I have to say this play about elderly parents and the decisions they make is feeling apt as hell right now (my own parents are quarantining and being wise, for the most part; someone please make my stepdad to stop taking guitar lessons).

Anyway, she makes excuses that the reason she’s mad at him is because he brought 100 knights around with him and that they’re disorderly. She wants to cut his amount of servants/knights down to 50. He is very hurt by this and decides to leave for his second daughter Regan’s house, but not before cursing the shit out of GoneGirl and telling her husband THE DUKE OF ALBANY that he hopes that GoneGirl is infertile (he implores nature to “Dry up in her the organs of increase”) or if she must have a child, “Create her child of spleen, that it may live And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.” Because according to our supposed hero King Lear, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child.”

For most of the end of Act One, FOOL follows him around and is roasting his ass for being a big dumb bitch and is like “My dude this is going to happen when you go to Regan’s house, too. Why did you give up your power before you died? And especially to these two?” A lot of typical Fool-in-a-Shakespeare-play shit where the fool is calling everyone else a fool and it’s like “brilliant” writing or whatever. And he’s doing all these riddles and dick jokes. You get the vibe.

That’s all for now!!! Let’s see what this dumb bitch (Lear, obviously, but also me) does next!!!!


Feel free to ask a question that is OR is not about King Lear by emailing (electronic mail-ing) me at 1followernodad@substack.com.

Also I probably got some of this synopsis wrong because I’m reading Shakespeare alone in my house with no drama teacher or English teacher to patiently walk me through the double meanings of every single word. Please don’t shout at me!!!!