King Lear


King Lear
/lear/
a tragedy (1606) by Shakespeare.

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▪ work by Shakespeare
      tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William), written in 1605–06 and published in a quarto edition in 1608, evidently based on Shakespeare's unrevised working papers. The text of the First Folio of 1623 often differs markedly from the quarto text and seemingly represents a theatrical revision done by the author with some cuts designed for shortened performance.

      The aging King Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, allotting each a portion in proportion to the eloquence of her declaration of love. The hypocritical Goneril and Regan make grand pronouncements and are rewarded; Cordelia, the youngest daughter, who truly loves Lear, refuses to make an insincere speech to prove her love and is disinherited. The two older sisters mock Lear and renege on their promise to support him. Cast out, the king slips into madness and wanders about accompanied by his faithful Fool. He is aided by the Earl of Kent, who, though banished from the kingdom for having supported Cordelia, has remained in Britain disguised as a loyal follower of the king. Cordelia, having married the king of France, is obliged to invade her native country with a French army in order to rescue her neglected father. She is brought to Lear, cares for him, and helps him regain his reason. When her army is defeated, she and her father are taken into custody.

      The subplot concerns the Earl of Gloucester, who gullibly believes the lies of his conniving illegitimate son, Edmund, and spurns his honest son, Edgar. Driven into exile disguised as a mad beggar, Edgar becomes a companion of the truly mad Lear and the Fool during a terrible storm. Edmund allies himself with Regan and Goneril to defend Britain against the French army mobilized by Cordelia. He turns his father over to Regan's brutal husband—the Duke of Cornwall, who gouges out Gloucester's eyes—and then imprisons Cordelia and Lear, but he is defeated in chivalric combat by Edgar. Jealous of Edmund's romantic attentions to Regan, Goneril poisons her and commits suicide. Cordelia is hanged on the orders of Edmund, who experiences a change of heart once he has been defeated and fatally wounded by Edgar but is too late in his attempt to reverse the death order. The Duke of Albany, Goneril's well-meaning husband, has attempted to remedy injustice in the kingdom but sees at last that events have overwhelmed his good intentions. Lear, broken, dies with Cordelia's body in his arms.

      For a discussion of this play within the context of Shakespeare's entire corpus, see William Shakespeare: Shakespeare's plays and poems (Shakespeare, William).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • King Lear — a play by William Shakespeare about an old king who decides to divide his ↑kingdom among his three daughters according to how much each of them says she loves him. Two daughters, ↑Goneril and ↑Regan, pretend to love him very much, and he divides… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • King Lear — King′ Lear′ [[t]lɪər[/t]] n. lit. the protagonist of Shakespeare s tragedy King Lear (1606), the father of Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan …   From formal English to slang

  • King Lear — [lir] n. 1. a tragedy by Shakespeare ( c. 1606) 2. its main character, whose division of his kingdom between his older daughters, Goneril and Regan, and disinheritance of his youngest, Cordelia, lead to civil strife and his own insanity and death …   English World dictionary

  • King Lear — This article is about Shakespeare s play. For other uses, see King Lear (disambiguation). King Lear and the Fool in the Storm by William Dyce (1806–1864) King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness… …   Wikipedia

  • King Lear — Le Roi Lear Le Roi Lear Auteur William Shakespeare Genre Tragédie Version originale Titre original King Lear Langue originale Anglais Pays d origine …   Wikipédia en Français

  • King Lear — König Lear und der Hofnarr von William Dyce König Lear (engl. The Tragedy of King Lear) gilt als eine der herausragenden Tragödien aus der Feder William Shakespeares. Das Entstehungsjahr ist mutmaßlich 1605. Das Stück wurde am 26. Dezember 1606… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • King Lear — noun the hero of William Shakespeare s tragedy who was betrayed and mistreated by two of his scheming daughters • Syn: ↑Lear • Instance Hypernyms: ↑fictional character, ↑fictitious character, ↑character * * * /lear/ a tragedy (1606) by… …   Useful english dictionary

  • King Lear — n. tragedy by William Shakespeare; hero of King Lear tragedy who was betrayed and abused by two of his conspiring daughters; King Lear Peak, one of the peaks of the Jackson Mountains range in Nevada (USA) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • king lear — Cockney Rhyming Slang 1. Queer (homosexual) e s a bit King Lear. 2. Ear …   English dialects glossary

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