You are currently viewing King Lear

Author: William Shakespeare, a 16th century English playwright, poet and actor
Lear, king of Britain, distributes his kingdom among his daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. When he asks his daughters to proclaim their love for him, Cordelia says she loves him as a daughter, obeying and honoring him, and will love her husband when married. Her elder sisters express exaggerated hypocritical love only for their father, but Lear, trusting their words, disinherits Cordelia.
The Earl of Kent implores Lear not to misunderstand Cordelia and gets banished. Lear’s kingdom is divided between the Duke of Albany, Goneril’s husband, and the Duke of Cornwall, Regan’s husband. The King of France and the Duke of Burgundy come seeking Cordelia’s hand. Burgundy rejects the disinherited Cordelia, while France accepts her.
In the Earl of Gloucester’s castle, Edmund, the illegitimate son, fabricates a letter of conspiracy from Edgar, Gloucester’s legitimate son. Edmund represents to Edgar that Gloucester is angry with Edgar.
Goneril’s steward Oswald tells her Lear struck her men, and Goneril thinks Lear’s knights are unruly. She orders Oswald to neglect Lear and his knights. Kent comes to Albany’s palace disguised as Caius and enters Lear’s service. Goneril complains and reduces Lear’s knights to fifty from a hundred. Lear curses Goneril and abuses Albany, who is ignorant of Goneril’s actions. Lear leaves to go to Regan.
Oswald takes Goneril’s letter, and Kent takes Lear’s letter to Regan. Edmund hears rumors of a dispute between Cornwall and Albany. Edmund tells Edgar Cornwall is coming to punish Edgar and makes him run away. He pretends Edgar attacked him. Gloucester is furious and orders Edgar’s arrest.
Cornwall and Regan arrive at Gloucester’s castle. Oswald and Kent meet outside. Kent berates and beats Oswald. Cornwall sees Kent insulting Oswald and punishes Kent by putting him in stocks. Gloucester protests in vain.
Lear arrives, furious to see Kent punished. Cornwall and Regan avoid Lear making excuses through Gloucester. Enraged, Lear sends Gloucester again. They come, Kent is set free, and Regan asks Lear to return and ask for Goneril’s forgiveness. Goneril and Oswald arrive, resulting in heated exchanges. Regan allows only twenty-five of Lear’s retinue, half what her sister allowed. Lear decides to go with Goneril. The sisters discuss why Lear needs even that many. Devastated, Lear goes out into the approaching storm.
Kent sends a Gentleman to Cordelia at Dover with his ring. Lear and his Fool face the storm, which rages on just as Lear does. Lear tells Kent he might have sinned, but sins against him are greater. Kent finds a hovel in the heath for shelter from the storm. Gloucester confides in Edmund he has received a letter from powers who can help Lear.
Edgar, disguised as madman Tom, is in the hovel. Gloucester comes looking for Lear but does not recognize Edgar. Kent tells him Lear is losing his wits and Gloucester leads them to a farmhouse. Lear, now insane, holds a trial for his daughters with Tom and the Fool as judges. Hearing of a plot to kill Lear, Gloucester returns and takes them away.
Edmund tells Cornwall Gloucester is colluding with France, who has landed with his army. Regan says Gloucester should be hung. Goneril says his eyes should be put out. Oswald informs Gloucester has conveyed Lear to Dover. Edmund accompanies Goneril and Oswald to Albany. Gloucester is arrested and reminds them they are his guests. Cornwall blinds Gloucester in one eye. A servant fights and injures Cornwall, but Regan stabs him from behind. Cornwall then blinds Gloucester’s other eye. Gloucester calls for Edmund and Regan reveals Edmund has betrayed him. Gloucester understands that Edgar was falsely accused.
Edgar, as Tom, meets the blind Gloucester who asks to be taken to the brim of a high cliff in Dover. Edmund and Goneril reach Albany. Hearing from Oswald Albany sympathizes with Lear, Goneril sends Edmund back. Albany condemns Cornwall and the sisters for their cruelty. A messenger brings news of Cornwall’s death, and Albany learns of Gloucester’s blinding and Edmund’s conspiracy.
Kent goes to the French camp and hears the king was called back to France by some crisis. Lear repents his treatment of Cordelia. Regan encounters Oswald carrying a letter to Edmund from Goneril. She asks Oswald to tell Edmund Regan will marry him.
Tom pretends to bring Gloucester to the edge of a hill beside the sea and move away. Gloucester jumps but lives as it is even ground. Edgar, as a peasant, comes to Gloucester saying he was led by a fiend. The raving Lear arrives. Cordelia’s men follow but Lear runs away misunderstanding them. Oswald comes and attacks Gloucester, but Edgar fights and kills him. Oswald gives Edgar a letter to be given to Edmund. In it, Goneril asks Edmund to murder Albany.
In the French camp, Lear asks for Cordelia’s forgiveness. In the British camp, Regan questions Edmund about Goneril. Albany and Goneril arrive saying they must unite against France. Edgar, in private, gives Albany Goneril’s letter. Edgar leaves Gloucester near the battlefield, and returns saying Cordelia and Lear are captured.
Edmund gives a note to the Captain asking him to follow Lear and Cordelia to prison. The sisters jealously quarrel over Edmund. Regan declares she will marry Edmund. Albany challenges Edmund to a duel accusing him of treason. Albany’s herald calls anyone who considers Edmund a traitor to fight him. Edgar appears armed and they fight. Edmund falls, and Edgar reveals himself. Albany shows Goneril her letter to Edmund. Edgar tells Albany everything. The news comes of Goneril killing herself after poisoning Regan.
Kent comes looking for Lear, and Edmund asks them to hurry to stop his orders of Cordelia being hung to look like suicide. Lear enters with the dead Cordelia in his arms. Edgar tells Lear Kent has always been with him as his servant but Lear thinks everyone around him is a traitor. He laments the loss of Cordelia and dies. Albany requests Edgar and Kent to rule jointly, but Kent says he will soon follow his master to the next world.

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