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King Lear

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Summary of the plot or story
The story of King Lear, an aging monarch who is headstrong old man who is blind to his weaknesses, decides to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters, according to which one recites the best declaration of love. Goneril and Regan who are the selfish daughters of Lear who pretend to love him but later treat him cruelly. Cordelia who is the loyal and unselfish daughter of Lear.

He disowns her after confusing her honesty with insolence. Edgar is Gloucester's loyal son and heir and Edmund is Gloucester's evil bastard son. At first the family appear to be loving and caring but this could not be further from the truth.

As the characters unfold we find greed, betrayal, lust for power, and cruelty. In other words, they are anything but normal and caring. The end of the play ends in death everywhere. Regan dies after being poisoned by Goneril. Goneril stabs herself to death. Edgar reveals his true identity to his father, but the old man dies. Mortally wounded, Edmund becomes remorseful and countermands his order to hang Cordelia. But it is too late, and Cordelia dies. Lear, now a broken man, falls upon Cordelia and also dies. 

Information provided about the play
William Shakespeare never published any of his plays and therefore none of the original manuscripts have survived. Eighteen unauthorised versions of his plays were, however, published during his lifetime in quarto editions by unscrupulous publishers (there were no copyright laws protecting Shakespeare and his works during the Elizabethan era). A collection of his works did not appear until 1623 (a full seven years after Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616) when two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work and published 36 of Williamís plays in the First Folio. Some dates are therefore approximate other dates are substantiated by historical events, records of performances and the dates plays appeared in print.

Date first performed
First recorded performance of King Lear was on 1606 December 26. In the Elizabethan era 
there was a huge demand for new entertainment and King Lear would have been produced immediately following the completion of the play.

Date first printed
It is believed that King Lear was first printed in 1608. As William Shakespeare clearly did not want his work published details of the play would have therefore been noted, and often pirated without his consent, following a performance.

The settings for King Lear
The setting is England

Theme of King Lear
The play is categorised as a Tragedy

Number of words in King Lear
The number of words in the script, according to the Complete Public Domain Text is 27,806 

Most important characters in King Lear
The most important characters are:
King Lear of England, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.

Famous Quotes / Quotations
The most famous quotes from King Lear is probably 'How sharper than a serpent's tooth'. Details of this famous quote follow with others , complete with information regarding the Act and the Scene, allowing a quick reference to the section of the play that these quotation can be found in. Please click here for the full text of the script of the play.

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" (Act I, Scene IV). 

"My love's more richer than my tongue".
- (Act I, Scene I).

"Nothing will come of nothing." -
(Act I, Scene I).

"Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest".
- (Act I, Scene IV).

"The worst is not, So long as we can say, 'This is the worst.' " .
- (Act IV, Scene I).

History of King Lear
King Lear was based on an aged monarch who was abused by his children. The origins are a folk tale that appeared first in written form in the 12th century and was based on spoken stories that originated much further back into the Middle Ages. 

William Shakespeare's Main Source
Shakespeare probably found the story in The True Chronicle History of King Leir and His Daughters (anonymous, 1594), Raphael Holinshed's The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland and Arcadia (1590) by Sir Philip Sidney

Inspiration from King Lear
The play has inspired other works including versions of films starring a variety of actors including Laurence Olivier, Ian Holm and Patrick Magee. The film, A Thousand Acres, was based on King Lear and starred Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer 

The Cast and Characters
Click the link to access a list of all the cast and characters.

Text - script of King Lear play by William Shakespeare
Cast and characters in the play by William Shakespeare
Index of plays by William Shakespeare
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