King Lear Summary provides a quick review of the
play's plot including every important action in the
play. King Lear Summary is divided by the five acts
of the play and is an ideal introduction before reading
the original text.
Shakespeare's dark tragedy, King Lear begins with the
fictional King of England, King Lear, handing over his
kingdom to daughters Regan and Goneril whom he believes
truly love him. King Lear intends to stay with each
daughter consecutively, accompanied by one hundred loyal
Angry that Cordelia his youngest daughter does not
appear to love him as do Goneril and Regan, Lear banishes
his youngest daughter Cordelia, and Kent, the servant
who attempts to defend her. Cordelia leaves and is taken
by the King of France as his Queen...
Edmund, the loved but illegitimate son of the Earl
of Gloucester plots to have his elder brother Edgar's
reputation ruined. Edmund tricks his father Gloucester
into believing that Edgar wanted to kill him...
The disrespectful Goneril conspires to have her guest
and father, King Lear, driven out of her house.
Kent, who has now disguised his identity to serve King
Lear, earns King Lear's respect by defending his
name. Goneril offends King Lear and dismisses fifty
of his knights. Lear starts to realize Cordelia was
not so disrespecting. Lear decides to leave for Regan
where he is sure to be treated properly...
Lear instructs Kent to deliver several letters to Gloucester.
The Fool teaches Lear several riddles.
We learn of possible conflict between evil sisters
Regan and Goneril. Edmund further manipulates Edgar.
Gloucester learns from Edmund of Edgar's plan to
kill him and believes it...
Kent and Oswald, Goneril's steward fight. Kent is placed
in stocks emphasizing just how little Lear's name
is now respected by daughters Regan and Goneril...
Edgar, now alone and disguised, describes his fate
of living in hiding.
Showing complete disregard for King Lear's authority,
Kent remains in stocks. Lear tells Regan how much Goneril
has hurt him. Regan in consultation with Goneril, allows
Lear to stay but without a single follower. Lear decides
not to stay with either daughter...
The King of France may well invade England. Kent sends
a messenger to Cordelia to keep her aware of King Lear's
plight... Lear braves the elements against a storm,
no doubt symbolic of his tortured soul...
Gloucester lets slip to his traitorous son Edmund that
the army of France is poised to invade, guaranteeing
Gloucester's own future suffering. We learn more
of a potential conflict between Regan and Goneril, centering
on their husbands...
Lear is brought out of the elements. Lear explains
that nature's physical torment of him distracted him
from the pain his daughters have given him.
Edgar, Gloucester's legitimate son, makes his
appearance, disguised as "poor Tom." Cornwall,
Regan's husband and Edmund speak. After implicating
his father Gloucester as a traitor against Cornwall,
Edmund is rewarded for betraying his father Gloucester
by receiving his father's title as the new Earl of Gloucester.
Cornwall tells Edmund to seek out his father saying
"he may be ready for our apprehension" or punishment.
Lear and company find solace and safety in a farmhouse.
Lear, showing signs of madness, holds a mock trial to
punish his daughters addressing two joint stools as
if they were Regan and Goneril. Kent leads Lear to Dover
where he will be safe...
Gloucester is captured and tortured first having his
beard ripped away and later being made blind. Unable
to bear Cornwall's brutality any longer, a servant
Gloucester now blind, realizes in his suffering his
mistakes, especially about his son Edgar. Gloucester
meets "poor Tom" not realizing it is Edgar
in disguise. Edgar leads his father to the cliffs of
Dover where his father wishes to commit suicide.
The Duke of Albany renounces his wife Goneril, realizing
that he has been on the wrong side... The Duke of Cornwall
(Regan's husband) is now dead. The rivalry for
Edmund by Regan and Goneril intensifies.
Kent wonders how Cordelia can be so good and her sisters
so evil. The King of France will not oversee the battle
about to begin. Cordelia is saddened by what she learns
of King Lear's plight...
Cordelia has her men search for her father... With
the battle almost about to start, we learn Albany has
switched sides again, supporting Goneril and Regan's
forces against the invading French.
Regan worries more about her sister's intentions
for Edmund more than the battle that lies ahead... Edgar
continues to lead his father to the cliffs of Dover
where he tricks him that he miraculously survived his
fall. Lear learns of Gloucester's blindness.
Edgar kills Oswald when he attempts to kill Gloucester.
Oswald's letter, which comes from Goneril, reveals
instructions for Edmund to kill her husband, The Duke
of Albany so she may marry him. Cordelia finds her father
Lear who deeply regrets how he treated her...
Regan and Goneril put Edmund on the spot by demanding
he choose for once and for all, which one of them he
loves. Albany decides to fight on Regan and Goneril's
side but only to fight an invading power (France).
Cordelia's forces lose to Goneril and Regan's
and Cordelia and Lear are taken prisoner. Captured,
King Lear tries to comfort Cordelia. Albany congratulates
his allies but now turns on them. Edgar fights his brother
Edmund, mortally wounding him. Goneril kills herself
and poisons sister Regan.
Edgar reveals his true identity to Gloucester who dies
from a heart unable to take both grief and joy. Albany
and the dying Edmund try to prevent Lear and Cordelia
being hanged but are too late for Cordelia.
Lear howls with pain his loss of Cordelia. Kent is
finally recognized for his loyalty by Lear. Lear, unable
to take further pain, dies. Albany is left to restore
order following this tragedy...