Immediately after asking for the map, Lear says "Know that we have divided / In three our kingdom," which is something that we have heard of before. In the opening of the scene Kent and Gloucester discuss the division of the kingdom and are a bit surprised that the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall, husbands to Lear's two oldest daughters, will receive exactly equal portions, even though Lear had previously seemed to favor Albany.
But now it appears that Lear really does have a surprising "darker purpose": he's going to give a larger part to the husband of just one daughter, and says to his daughters,Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge.
However, this contest is rigged. The oldest daughter, Goneril, speaks first and is given a portion which Lear outlines on the map, saying, "Of all these bounds, even from this line to this . . . / We make thee lady." Next comes Regan, the second oldest, whose speech earns her lands "No less in space, validity, and pleasure, / Than that conferr'd on Goneril." Finally, Lear turns to his favorite, Cordelia, and asks, "what can you say to draw / A third more opulent than your sisters?" If Goneril and Regan have equal portions, the "third more opulent" must have already been decided by Lear.
So, what does King Lear's map like? Does it show Britain with the boundaries of the three parts already drawn, as in the following version by Alex Sciuto?
Or does Lear go through with the charade of drawing lines on an ordinary map, as was done in the 2018 TV Movie starring Antony Hopkins as Lear?