“Power is the prize, but power shall be damned by lies”
“Fate loves a fool”
A king grown old, but not wise.
Tragedy centering on the decline and fall of a
dysfunctional royal family
Aging father (patriarch)
Aging father (patriarch)
Each sees his children through a distorted
lens, turning against the child who truly
loves him, unleashing in the others greed,
The error of the tragic protagonist
Does not have to be a character flaw, could be a
mistake or failure to take a particular action
Love, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and foolishness
All things are not as they appear
Greed and lust for power corrupt human beings and
bring their downfall
Fate turns humans into playthings
Candor has a sharp edge
Advanced age and wisdom do not go hand in hand
Suffering can transform a contemptible human being
into a good person
Nature and order
- Lear: King of Britain
- His daughters
- Earl of Gloucester
- His sons
- Edmund (the illegitimate)
Earl of Gloucester introduces Edmund (illegitimate
son) to Earl of Kent, mentions legitimate son (Edgar).
King Lear intends to divide his power and kingdom
among his three daughters:
Goneril (married to Duke of Albany)
Regan (married toDuke of Cornwall)
Cordelia (intened to marry Duke of Burgundy)
demands they publicly profess their love for him
Cordelia refuses to put on a show; Goneril & Regan get
Cordelia gets France, but is disinherited.
Earl of Kent banished upon arguing with Lear for his
treatment of Cordelia
Edmund (illegitimate) decides to steal Edgar’s
Fools father (Gloucester) using a fake letter.
Fools Edgar as well.
Goneril -- bad daughter -- decides to humble her
father, orders Oswald to treat him badly.
The banished Earl of Kent arrives in disguise to
The fool enters and mocks the king for banishing
his good daughter and elevating his two bad ones
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest,
Leave thy drink and thy whore
And keep in a door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.
Have more than you show,
Speak less than you know,
Lend less than you owe.
Ride more than you walk
Don’t believe everything you hear,
Don’t bet everything on one throw of
Leave behind your booze and your
And stay indoors,
And you’ll end up with more
Than two tens to a twenty
Lear: Why no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.
Act 1, Sc 1 to Cordelia: “Nothing will come of nothing.”
The word nothing and the idea of “nothingness” becomes a
refrain throughout the play.
Latin: ex nihilo nihil fit
Existentialism - the idea that, although there is no
controlling force in the universe (i.e. no God), individuals
have the power to make their own destiny.
Nihilism - the rejection of all religious and moral
principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.
Thou madest thy daughters thy
mothers. For when thou gavest
them the rod, and pust’st down
thine own breeches
Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both
sides and left nothing i’th’ middle
I am a fool. Thou art nothing.
You made your daughters into your
mothers by given them all your
power. That’s when you gave them
the spanking paddle and pulled
your pants down.
When you gave away pieces of your
kingdom, it’s as if you cut off pieces
on both sides of your brain and left
nothing in the middle.
I’m a fool and you’re nothing
The Fool mocks the king for halving his kingdom
Goneril scolds Lear, demands halfing his men.
Lear decides to visit other daughter.
Albany protests Goneril’s behavior, is silenced.
Goneril scolds Lear, demands halfing his men.
Lear realizes her ingratitude and begs the Gods to make her
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless
Laments that maybe Cordelia’s flaw wasn’t all that bad
“Oh most small fault, how ugly didst thou in Cordelia show”
Lear decides to stay with his other daughter
“Who I am sure is kind and comfortable…”
Goneril sends Oswald with letter to Regan.
Lear sends Kent with
letter to Regan.
Fool again taunts his
Edmund tricks Edgar into appearing -- in front of
Gloucester -- to fight.
Gloucester vows to legitimize Edmund and
Concerning Edgar: “I never got him”, meaning, “He cannot truly
be my son”
Concerning Edmund: “Loyal and natural boy…”, meaning: “My
loyal and true son”
Regan and Cornwall arrive.
Edmund tells Regan that Edgar was friends with Lear’s
Cornwall and Regan are pleased with Edmund and
take him on as a servant/companion (similar to Kent
For you, Edmund, whose virtue and obedience doth this
instant so much comment itself, you shall be ours.
Outside Gloucester’s castle, Kent beats Oswald.
Kent shows some of the stubbornness and
impetuousness that led King Lear to banish him in the
Tyrannical Cornwall punishes Kent; Gloucester
“I’m sorry for thee friend, tis the duke’s pleasure, whose
disposition, all the world well knows, will not be rubbed
Kent ponders a letter from Cordelia, who knows of her
father’s situation and vows to find a way to fix things
Edgar escapes capture
by hiding in a tree.
While hiding he learns
that he is to be killed.
Disguises himself as
Tom O’Bedlam; a crazy,
His new name gives
him a new identity.
“As Edgar, I am nothing”
Lear and the Fool arrive at Gloucester’s castle (seeking
Regan), sees Kent in stocks.
Lear’s heart (literal)
“O, how this mother swells us toward my heart! Hysteria
passio, down, thou climbing sorrow.
O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down.
O Regan, she hath tied shar-toothed unkindness, like a
vulture, here. (indicates his heart)
Regan and Cornwall free Kent.
Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild
geese fly that way.
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind.
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore
Ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.
But for all this thou shalt have as
many doors for thy daughters as
thou canst tell in a year.
This story bodes more stormy
Father who wear rags
Make their children neglect them.
But fathers who are rich
Make their children kind.
Lady Luck is a fickle wore
And never gives the poor a break.
But despite all this, your daughters
will give you a lot of money-or do I
mean pain? –in the coming year.
That sir which serves and seeks for
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain
And leave thee in the storm.
That gentleman who serves you
only for profit
And is only superficially loyal to
Will take off when it starts to rain
And leave you alone in the storm.
Regan defends Goneril’s actions; Goneril arrives; they
both demand he give up his retainers.
Lear rages into a storm followed by his Fool and
Kent discovers that Lear is madly in the storm.
Kent asks the gentleman to inform Cordelia, who as
arrived at Dover with a French army.
Contending with the fretful elements.
Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea
Or swell the curlèd water 'bove the main,
That things might change or cease. Tears his
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless
Catch in their fury and make nothing of.
Strives in his little world of man to outscorn
The to-and-fro–conflicting wind and rain.
This night—wherein the cub-drawn bear
The lion and the belly-pinchèd wolf
Keep their fur dry—unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.
Struggling with the wind and rain.
He’s shouting at the wind to blow
the earth into the sea, or make the
sea flood the earth—he wants to
see the world return to primal
chaos. He keeps tearing out his
white hair, which the blindly
raging winds catch up and blow
away into nothingness. Small but
brave in his surroundings, he’s
trying to stand up against the wind
and rain blowing back and forth.
He’s running bareheaded, calling
for the end of the world, out there
on a night like this, when even
savage animals ravenous with
hunger crawl under cover and hide.
In a moment of
lucidity he realizes he
is not acting
“My wits begin to
Kent arrives, takes
him to nearby shelter.
Fool predicts bad
things to happen.
Gloucester tells Edmund that Cornwall forbids him to
He confides in Edmund that he will help him anyway
and bids him to go to Cornwall to distract him so he
will not be aware that Gloucester is helping Lear
Edmund decides to inform on his father
This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the duke
Instantly know, and of that letter too.
This seems a fair deserving, and must draw
That which my father loses—no less than
The younger rises when the old doth fall.
I’ll tell the duke right away that you’re going
to see the king, which is forbidden. And I’ll
tell him about the letter too. You’ll get what
you deserve, and I’ll be rewarded with
everything you lose—in other words, all
your lands. The young generation rises
while the old one falls.
Lear, Kent, and the Fool approach the shelter (hovel).
Fool goes in, comes out afraid of Tom O’Bedlam
Lear and Edgar commiserate.
Gloucester appears, offers shelter, warns Kent that
Regan and Goneril want to kill Lear.
Thou art the thing itself.
Unaccommodated man is
no more but such a poor,
bare, forked animal as thou
Off, off, you lendings!
Come. Unbutton here.
(tears at his clothes)
You’re the real thing.
The human being
unburdened by the trappings
of civilization is no more
than a poor, naked, two-
legged animal like you.
Off with these clothes
borrowed from animals! Let
me unbutton this. (he tears
at his clothes)
“What has his daughters
brough him to this pass?-
Couldst thou save
thingh?Wouldst thou give
Have his daughters made
him crazy like this?—
Couldn’t you have kept
something for yourself?
Did you have to give them
Edmund reveals to Cornwall his father, Gloucester’s,
dealing with French army.
Cornwall strips Gloucester of his title and gives it to
Cornwall orders Gloucester to be arrested.
Cornwall puts even more trust in Edmund, taking him
on as his own son.
Gloucester leaves them.
Lear acts out an imaginary trial of his daughters.
Gloucester returns with warning; Kent and Fool take
sleeping Lear away.
Edgar stays behind; he feels bad for the king, even
though he is suffering a similar bad situation.
Who alone suffers,
suffers most I’ th’ mind
The person who suffers
alone suffers the most
Gloucester, arrested, is sent to Regan/Cornwall.
Cornwalls blinds Gloucester.
A loyal servant attacks Cornwall. The servant is killed.
Other servants take Gloucester to wandering madman
(Edgar) to escape.
Gloucester is led to
Edgar continues as
agrees to lead
Gloucester to the
cliffs of Dover.
Oswald meets Goneril and Edmund.
Albany likes Cordelia’s invasion, dislikes
Goneril sends Edmund to Cornwall to gather an
army; hints of plot against Albany.
Messenger arrives, tells of Cornwall’s death,
Aside, Goneril is jealous of Regan about Edmund.
Aside, Albany vows revenge for Gloucester.
In Dover, the
gentleman tells Kent
reaction about Lear’s
Kent says that Lear is
nearby but ashamed
to see his daughter,
It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern
Else one self mate and
mate could not beget
Such different issues.
It must be fate that makes
us who we are—otherwise
someone as good as
Cordelia could not possibly
be related to those two
Cordelia orders a
search party for Lear.
Oswald tells Regan that
Goneril convinced Albany
to fight Cordelia.
Letter from Goneril to
Edmund makes Regan
jealous; says that it makes
more sense for Edmund to
marry her now that her
husband is dead
Regan gives Oswald her
own token, tells him to kill
Gloucester for reward.
Edgar convinces Gloucester that he has jumped
and survived the cliffs at Dover.
Gloucester accepts his affliction.
Lear appears, raving.
Search party takes Lear to Cordelia.
Oswald appears, attacks Gloucester, is killed by
Edgar. While dying, gives letters to Edgar.
Letters (from Goneril for Edmund) propose
Albany’s death and their marriage.
Cordelia greets Lear.
Lear mistakes her for a spirit.
Kent and the gentleman talk about upcoming battle.
Regan corners Edmund about Goneril.
Edgar appears, in disguise, gives Albany letters;
proposes a challenger after the battle to
Edmund needs Albany’s military leadership but
hopes he dies after battle.
Albany has proposed mercy, Edmund will not
Edgar goes to fight in battle.
Fleeing soldiers, and Edgar, pass by Gloucester,
informing him of Cordelia and Lear’s defeat and
Gloucester and Edgar flee.
Edmund sends Cordelia and Lear to prison (with
orders to have them killed in an apparent murder-
Albany, Regan, Goneril arrive.
Albany arrests Edmund and Goneril for treason.
Regan is poisoned, leaves.
Edgar appears in full armor, fights Edmund, who is
Albany shows letter, Goneril leaves
Dying Edmund confesses.
Edgar reveals himself, tells of his revelation to
Gloucester, which shocked and killed him.
A report arrives that
Goneril poisoned Regan
and killed herself.
Soldier is sent to stop
Lear and Cordelia’s
Lear carries in Cordelia’s
body, mad again.
Albany will return
kingdom to Lear.
Lear “sees” Cordelia
breathing, then dies.
Albany orders funerals,
Kent and Edgar to assist
in ruling kingdom.
Kent predicts his own
Aside – Private words that a character in a play speaks
to the audience or to another character and that are
not supposed to be overheard by others onstage. Stage
directions usually tell when a speech is an aside.
Soliloquy – A long speech in which a character who is
usually alone onstage expresses his or her private
thoughts or feelings.
Monologue – A long formal speech made by a
character in a play. A monologue may be directed at
another character or the audience.
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