Our son of Cornwall,
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now.
The two great princes, France and Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters –
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state –
Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest born, speak first.
– William Shakespeare
King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1. The proud and egotistical old King Lear devises a "love test" to decide how to divide his kingdom between his daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. He demands that they flatter him with a declaration of total love, and their share of the kingdom will be based on whoever professes to love him most. Lear’s plan is to prevent "future strife" that might result from him dying without an heir – he has no sons and three daughters, with Regan married to the Duke of Cornwall, Goneril to the Duke of Albany, and the King of France and Duke of Burgundy love rivals for youngest daughter Cordelia’s hand. There is a terrible irony in this because Lear’s foolish action results in tragic consequences and the very strife he wishes to avoid. Lear’s fatal flaw is his pride and that and its fellow traveler folly bring about his downfall, which is foreshadowed in this passage.