William Shakespeare - King Lear. Act I, Scene I. The opening scene of William Shakespeare's King Lear lays strong thematic foundations for the acts to follow. Its conversations play a great part in introducing the characters that will shape the events of the play, and establishing the setting and some of the central themes.
Scene I also reveals the beginnings of the two plotline of the play; the major plot of King Lear and his division of his kingdom between his daughters, and the subplot of Gloucester and Edmund, his bastard son. Throughout these developments the opening scene manages to convey an underlying sense of impending disaster amidst the setting. King Lear begins in a manner very similar to many other Shakespearean plays, especially his tragedies, such as Hamlet or MacBeth. The scene introduces Kent, Gloucester and his bastard son Edmund, deeply in conversation. Whilst these three are all quite important to the events of the play at large, they are arguably not the main characters in King Lear. The opening lines of the play portray Kent and Gloucester talking about King Lear and the recent events surrounding him and the division of his kingdom between his daughters, thus introducing the central plotline of the play and giving a background to recent events.
Gloucester then introduces his bastard son Edmund, and talks unashamedly about him, saying that although he "came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged." This comment by Gloucester, said right in front of his son, reveals a large amount of background information about the Edmund subplot, and about the characters and mindsets of both Gloucester and Edmund. The opening scene introduces the main plotline involving King Lear's plan to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters. This is the first hint of the larger theme which runs throughout the play, that of the reversal of human order and a disruption to the natural chain of being. The Jacobean audience of the time were very sensitive to issues of succession and inheritance of the English throne, and the idea of an English king abdicating and dividing his lands and title amongst his heirs prematurely would have struck a chord with many of the audience of this era.