King Lear by William Shakespeare

Summary: King Lear by William Shakespeare is about King Lear who plans to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. In the beginning he gives his Kingdom to Regan and Goneril who convinced King Lear that they truly love him. Cordelia who loves him the most and doesn't offer blind love is banished along with the servent, Kent for protecting her. The King of France takes Cordelia as his queen. Edmund, who is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, makes it seem that Edgar is not to be trusted. Regan and Goneril show that they do not care for King Lear as they first professed. In the end, Lear finds out that Cordelia loves him the most with true daughterly love. King Lear and Cordelia both die in each other's lost time to spend as father and daughter.


King Lear - King of England, plans to divide his kingdom among his three daughters

Goneril - The Duke of Albany's wife, ruthless daughter of King Lear

Regan - The Duke of Cornwall's wife, daughter of King Lear

Cordelia - Lear's youngest daughter who professes not her blinding love to her father

Duke of Burgundy - Cordelia's suitor

King of France - Cordelia's other suitor

Duke of Cornwall - Regan's husband, also ruthless

Duke of Albany - Goneril's husband, increasingly hostile to his wife's evil ways until the end where he is enlightened by good

Earl of kent - Servent of King Lear

Earl of Gloucester - Father of Edgar and Edmund, Ally of Lear

Edgar - son of Gloucester

Edmund - illegitimate son of Gloucester, he frames his brother

Curan - A Courtier

Oswald - Steward to Goneril

Old Man - Tenant to Gloucester

Fool - entertaining comic, ironically speaks the only words of wisdom in King Lear circle

Act I:

  • King Lear hands over his kingdom to his daughters Regan and Goneril who he believes both "truly" love him; King Lear "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?"
  • King Lear banishes his youngest daughter Cordelia because she does not appear to love him;King Lear:"Better thou hadst not been born than not to have please me better."
  • King Lear banishes his servant Kent also for defending her; King Lear:" Five days we do allot thee, for provision to shield thee from diseases of the world; and on the sixth to turn thy hated back upon our kingdom: if on the tenth day following, thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death"
  • Cordelia is made Queen of France by marrying the King of France
  • Edmund, although loved equally as Edgar by their father, plots to ruin Edgar's reputation by convincing Gloucester into thinking that Edgar was plotting to kill him
  • Goneril conspires to drive King Lear out of her house
  • Kent secretly serves King Lear and has his respect because Kent defended his name;"King Lear:"Who wouldst thou serve?" KENT:"You[King Lear]"
  • Goneril offends King Lear by dismissing fifty of his knights
  • King Lear realizes that Cordelia was not so disrespectful and he decides that he must leave for Regan where he would be respected
  • King Lear orders letters to be delivered to Gloucester
  • The Fool teaches King Lear riddles:King Lear:"Dost thou call me fool, boy?" Fool:"All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with."

Act II:

  • Hints of conflict between Regan and Goneril take place
  • Edmund tells Earl of Gloucester of Edgar's intent to kill him and takes it as true
  • Edmund tells Edgar to flee which he does
  • Kent is place in stocks for fighting with Goneril's steward which tells how much King Lear's name is respected by Goneril and Regan
  • Edgar describes his hidden existence
  • Lear decides not to reside with Regan or Goneril because Goneril has hurt him and Regan allows him to stay but only without any followers
  • Kent remains in stocks because King Lear's authority lacks in the eyes of his daughters Regan and Goneril
  • Edmund says "My practices ride easy!" with a "credulous father"

Act III:

  • A hint is in the air of an attack from France
  • Updates of King Lear's status are sent to Cordelia by Kent through a messenger
  • King Lear with the Fool endures a storm;Gentleman:"Contending with the fretful element: Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea, or swell the curled water 'bove the main"
  • Edmund finds out from Gloucester of France's intent to invade England
  • Conflict looms between Regan and Goneril via their husbands
  • King Lear is survives the elements and explains that the physical anguish distracted him from the anguish from his daughters
  • Edgar disguises himself as "poor Tom"; Edgar:"Who gives any thing to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, and through ford and whirlipool e'er bog and quagmire"
  • Cornwall, Regan's husband and Edmund speak with each other;Cornwall:"I will have my revenge ere I depart his house." Edmund:"How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of."
  • Edmund implicates his father Earl of Gloucester as being a traitor against Cornwall and becomes the new Earl of Gloucester
  • Edmund seeks out his father under orders from Cornwall who says that he is ready for "apprehension"
  • King Lear and others use a farmhouse for safety.
  • King Lear holds a mock trial to punish his daughters using two stools as if they were Goneril and Regan, signs of insanity insue
  • Kent brings King Lear for safety in Dover
  • Gloucester is captured and tortured by making him blind and ripping his beard away
  • Cornwall is injured by a servant who cannot stand Cornwall's behavior any longer

Act IV:

  • After realizing his mistakes, the blind Gloucester is led by "poor Tom", actually Edgar, to the cliffs of Dover where Gloucester wishes to kill himself
  • The Duke of Albany realizes that he has been on the wrong side and disowns Goneril
  • The Duke of Cornwall is dead and Edmund is sought by Regan and Goneril
  • Kent is aghast at how different Cordelia is from her sisters
  • Cordelia hears of King Lear's grim status and is sad
  • King Lear is searched for by Cordelia's men
  • Albany switches sides again and supports Regan and Goneril's forces against the French
  • Regan worries of Goneril's intentions towards Edmund
  • Gloucester tricks Edgas and says that he survived the fall
  • King Lear learns of Gloucester's blindness
  • Oswald is slain by Edgar when Oswald tries to kill hi father
  • Oswald's letter reveals plans for Edmund to kill The Duke of Albany so that she may marry Edmund
  • King Lear regrets his treatment of his youngest daughter Cordelia

Act V:

  • Regan and Goneril demand a choice between the two of them from Edmund on the subject of who he loves the most
  • Albany says he will only defend Regan and Goneril against an invading power
  • Goneril and Regan's forces are victorious and take Cordelia and King Lear as prisoners
  • Albany turns on his allies after congratulating them
  • Edgar mortally wounds Edmund in a fight
  • Regan is poisoned by her sister Goneril who kills herself
  • Edgar tells Gloucester that he was "poor Tom" all along and his heart fails him from both grief and joy
  • Albany and Edmund try to rescue King Lear and Cordelia from hanging but are too late to save Cordelia
  • King Lear mourns loudly for Cordelia and dies from his inability to take any more pain
  • King Lear acknowledges Kents loyalty
  • Albany is left to bring back order

Other Notes:

  • This may be a lesson in less is more. For with King Lear, his youngest daughter gave him the least amount of love with words but loved King Lear completely from the inside and unfortunately he found that out when it was too late..

© 2009 copyright King Lear | William Shakespeare