King Lear

tragedy by William Shakespeare

King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. He based it on an old British story about a king named Leir or Lyr. The play might have been first performed in December 1606. It was first printed in 1608. It was printed again in 1623 in the First Folio. This is a collection of all of Shakespeare's plays. Many great actors over the years have played the part of King Lear.

The title page of the first printed version of King Lear

The play is about an old king named Lear. He wants to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. To get the kingdom, they must tell him how much they love him. His youngest daughter Cordelia will not say how much she does, although she's the one who loves him most.

She says words will not be able to describe her love. King Lear does not realise this is true love. Lear gets angry at her and will not give her land, and says she is not his daughter anymore. He gives his land to his other daughters Regan and Goneril.

The king soon finds out that Regan and Goneril do not love him. They only wanted his land. The King becomes very mad. The two daughters, and their husbands, throw him out of the land that is now theirs. Lear goes on a trip around the land that was once his as he becomes insane. Regan poisons Goneril out of jealousy. She also kills herself. Lear dies after discovering that Cordelia was the one who always cared for him as she came with a French army to help him but she and King Lear were caught by Edmund; who gave an order to get them both hanged, which happens to Cordelia and causes Lear's grief and death.