King Lear by Shakespeare

Nihilism the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless; Philosophy extreme skepticism maintaining that nothing in the world has a real existence.
Lear King of Britain. Lear is used to enjoying absolute power and to being flattered, and he does not respond well to being contradicted or challenged.
Goneril Lear’s eldest daughter, who is married to the Duke of Albany; jealous, treacherous, and amoral. She challenges Lear’s authority, boldly initiates an affair with Edmund, and wrests military power away from her husband.
Regan Lear’s second daughter, married to the Duke of Cornwall; has the same qualities as Goneril
Cordelia Lear’s youngest and most beloved daughter who is married to the King of France. Cordelia is held in extremely high regard by all of the good characters in the play—the king of France marries her for her virtue alone, overlooking her lack of dowry. She remains loyal to Lear despite his cruelty toward her, forgives him, and displays a mild and forbearing temperament even toward her evil sisters. Could potentially be seen as a Christ-like character.
Duke of Burgundy One of Cordelia’s suitors in the beginning of the play; does not end up marrying her.
Earl of Kent A nobleman of the same rank as Gloucester who is loyal to King Lear. Kent spends most of the play disguised as a peasant, calling himself “Caius,” so that he can continue to serve Lear even after Lear banishes him. He is extremely loyal, but he gets himself into trouble throughout the play by being extremely blunt and outspoken.
Earl of Gloucester A nobleman loyal to King Lear. The first thing we learn about Gloucester is that he is an adulterer, having fathered a bastard son, Edmund. His fate is in many ways parallel to that of Lear: he misjudges which of his children to trust. He appears weak and ineffectual in the early acts, when he is unable to prevent Lear from being turned out of his own house, but he later demonstrates that he is also capable of great bravery.
Edgar Gloucester’s oldest and legitimate son. Edgar plays many different roles, starting out as a gullible fool easily tricked by his brother, then assuming a disguise as a mad beggar to evade his father’s men, then carrying his impersonation further to aid Lear and Gloucester, and finally appearing as an armored champion to avenge his brother’s treason.
Edmund Gloucester’s younger and illegitimate son. Edmund resents his status as a bastard and schemes to usurp Gloucester’s title and possessions from Edgar. He is a formidable character, succeeding in almost all of his schemes and wreaking destruction upon virtually all of the other characters.
Curan Gentleman of Gloucester’s household
Old Man A tenant of Gloucester’s.
Duke of Albany Married to Goneril. Albany is good at heart, and he eventually denounces and opposes the cruelty of Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall. Yet he is indecisive and lacks foresight, realizing the evil of his allies quite late in the play.
Duke of Cornwall Married to Regan. Cornwall is domineering, cruel, and violent, and he works with his wife and sister-in-law Goneril to persecute Lear and Gloucester.
Fool Lear’s jester, who uses double-talk and seemingly frivolous songs to give Lear important advice.
Oswald The steward, or chief servant, in Goneril’s house. Oswald obeys his mistress’s commands and helps her in her conspiracies.
I.i. King Lear, intending to divide his power and kingdom among his three daughters, demands public professions of their love. Cordelia refuses; Lear strips her of her dowry, divides the kingdom between his two other daughters, and then banishes Kent when he protests against Lear’s rash actions. King of France chooses to marry Cordelia despite her father’s casting her away. Lear tells his daughters Goneril and Regan that they and their husbands should divide his powers and revenues; he himself will keep a hundred knights and will live with Goneril and Regan by turns.
Gloucester “Though this knave [Edmund] came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged.”
Lear “Tell me, my daughters – since now we will divest us both of rule, interest of territory, cares of state – which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit challenge”
Cordelia “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent…I am sure my love’s more ponderous than my tongue.”
Lear “Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again… Mend your speech a little, lest you may mar your fortunes.”
Cordelia “I cannot have my heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less… You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I return those duties back as are right fit: obey you, love you, and most honor you.”
Lear “Peace, Kent. Come not between the dragon and his wrath. I loved her most and thought to set my rest on her king nursery.”
Kent “Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound when majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state, and in thy best consideration check this hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment, thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds reverb no hollowness.”
Kent “See better, Lear, and let me still remain the truth blank of thine eye.”
Kent “Fare the well, king. Sith thus thou wilt appear, freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.”
Lear “When she [Cordelia] was dear to us, we did hold her so, but now her price has fallen. Sir, there she stands. If aught within that little seeming substance, or all of it, with our displeasure pieced and nothing more ,may fitly like your Grace, she’s there, and she is yours.”
Lear “Better thou hadst not been born than not t’ have pleased me better.”
France “Love’s not love when it is mingled with regards that stands aloof from th’ entire point. Will you have her? She is herself a dowry.”
France “My love should kindle to enflamed respect.-Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance, is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France. Not all the dukes of wat-rish Burgundy can buy this unprized precious made of me.-Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind. Thou losest here a better where to find.”
I.ii. Edmund plots to displace his legitimate brother, Edgar, as Gloucester’s heir by turning Gloucester against Edgar; tricking him into thinking Edgar seeks Gloucester’s life.
I.iii. Goneril, with whom Lear has gone to live, expresses her anger at Lear and his knights. She orders her steward, Oswald, to inform Lear that she will not see him and to treat Lear coldly.
I.iv. KEnt returns in disguise, offers his services to Lear, and is accepted as one of Lear’s followers. Goneril rebukes Lear for his knights’ rowdiness and demands he dismiss half of them. After attacking her verbally for her ingratitude, he prepares to leave for Regan’s.
Coxcomb Fool’s cap
I.v. Lear, setting out for Regan’s with his Fool, sends the disguised Kent ahead with a letter to Regan.
II.i. Edmund tricks Edgar into fleeing from Gloucester’s castle. After more of Edmund’s lies, Gloucester condemns Edgar to death and makes Edmund his heir. Cornwall and Regan arrive at Gloucester’s castle, hear the false stories about Edgar, and welcome Edmund into their service.
II.ii. Kent meets Oswald at Gloucester’s castle where both await answers to the letters they have brought Regan; challenges Oswald to a fight. The disturbance and Kent’s explanations provoke Cornwall into putting Kent into the stocks for punishment.
II.iii. Edgar disguises himself as a madman-beggar to escape his death sentence. Although Kent remains onstage, a new scene begins because the locale has shifted away from Gloucester’s castle, from which Edgar has fled.
II.iv. At Gloucester’s castle, Lear is angered that his messenger has been stocked and further angered the Regan and Cornwall refuse to see him. When Goneril arrives, Lear quarrels bitterly with her and with Regan, who claim that he needs no attendants of his own. When each daughter says that he may stay with her only if he dismisses all his knights, he rushes, enraged, out into a storm. Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril shut Gloucester’s castle against Lear.
III.i. Kent, searching for Lear, meets a Gentleman and learns that Lear and the Fool are alone in the storm. Kent tells the Gentleman that French forces are on their way to England.
III.ii. Lear rages against the elements while the Fool begs him to return to his daughters for shelter; when Kent finds them, he leads them toward a hovel. The Fool gives his “Merlin” prophecy.
III.iii. Gloucester tells Edmund that he has decided to go to Lear’s aid; he also tells him about an incriminating letter he has received about the French invasion. After Gloucester leaves to find Lear, Edmund announces his plan to betray his father to Cornwall.
III.iv. Lear, Kent, and the Fool reach the hovel, where they find Edgar disguised as Poor Tom, a madman-beggar. When Gloucester finds them, he leads them to the shelter of a house.
III.v. Edmund tells Cornwall about Gloucester’s decision to help Lear and about the incriminating letter from France; in return, Cornwall makes Edmund Earl of Gloucester Lear, in his madness, imagines that Goneril and Regan are on trial before a tribunal made up of Edgar, the Fool, Kent, and himself. Gloucester returns to announce that Lear’s death is being plotted and to urge Kent to rush Lear to Cordelia at Dover
III.vii. Cornwall dispatches men to capture Gloucester, whom he calls a traitor. Sending Edmund and Goneril to tell Albany about the landing of the French army, Cornwall puts out Gloucester’s eyes. Cornwall is himself seriously wounded by one of his own servants, who tries to stop the torture of Gloucester.
IV.i. Edgar, still in disguise as Poor Tom, meets the blinded Gloucester and agrees to lead him to Dover.
IV.ii Goneril and Edmund arrive at Albany and Goneril’s castle. After Goneril has sent Edmund back to Cornwall, Albany enters and fiercely rebukes Goneril for her treatment of LEar. A messenger reports Gloucester’s blinding and the death of the Duke of Cornwall.
IV.iii. In the French camp Kent and a Gentleman discuss Cordelia’s love of Lear, which has brought her back to Britain as the head of the French army; they say that Lear is in the town of Dover, and that, though he is sometimes sane, his shame at his earlier action makes him refuse to see Cordelia.
IV.iv. In the French camp Cordelia orders out a search party for Lear.
IV.v. Regan questions Oswald about Goneril and Edmund, states her intention to marry Edmund, and asks Oswald to dissuade Goneril from pursuing Edmund. To cure Gloucester of despair, Edgar pretends to aid him in a suicide attempt, a fall from Dover Cliff to the beach far below. When Gloucester wakes from his faint, Edgar (now in the disguise of a peasant) tells him that the gods intervened to save his life. The two meet the mad Lear, who talks with Goucester about lechery, the abuses of power, and other human follies. Lear runs off when some of Cordelia’s search party came upon him. When Oswald appears and tries to kill Gloucester, Edgar kills Oswald and finds on his body a letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting Albany’s death.
IV.viii. In the French camp, Lear is waked by the Doctor treating him and is reunited with Cordelia
V.i. Albany joins his forces with Regan’s (led by Edmund) to oppose the French invasion. Edgar, still in disguise, approaches Albany with the letter plotting Albany’s death, and promises to produce a champion to maintain the authenticity of the letter in a trial by combat. Edmund then enters and, when alone, reflects upon his possible marriage to either Goneril or Regan and upon his intention to have Cordelia and Lear killed if the British forces are victorious.
V.ii. Cordelia’s French army is defeated
V.iii. Edmund sends Lear and Cordelia to prison and secretly commissions their assassination. Albany confronts Edmund and Goneril with their intended treachery against him and calls for the champion that Edgar said he would produce. Edgar himself, in full armor, appears to accuse Edmund of treachery. In the ensuing trial by combat, Edgar mortally wounds Edmund. Edgar reveals his identity, tells about his life as Poor Tom, and describes Gloucester’s death. A messenger announces the deaths of Regan (who has been poisoned by Goneril) and Goneril (who has committed suicide). Kent, no longer in disguise, arrives in search of Lear. Edmund confesses that he has ordered the deaths of Lear and Cordelia. While a messenger rushes to the prison to save them, Lear enters bearing the dead Cordelia. As Albany makes plans to restore Lear to the throne, Lear himself dies.