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A Short Summary of King Lear by William Shakespeare

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King Lear is a tragedy play written by William Shakespeare. It is a depiction of the slow descent into insanity of the main character King Lear. This occurs after his disposal of his kingdom through bequests to two of his daughters due to their perpetual flattery. This play studies the correlation between appearances and reality as well as the result of putting too much trust in appearance than reality.

A Synopsis to the Story

Lear retires from the throne and decides to divide the kingdom among his three daughters. However, first, he puts them through a test by asking each of them to declare how much they love him. Eventually, he only subdivides his kingdom between two of his eldest daughters. The reason is that they show a relentless loyalty and love towards their father through superficial flattery. However, the last born daughter despises the phoniness of her sisters and refuses to pander to her father. In response, her father disowns and banishes her. She eventually marries the French king who later leads his army against her two sisters.

Soon afterward, King Lear discovers that his elder daughter’s words were mere flattery done to attain power. Upon attaining wealth and land, he soon becomes a nuisance to his daughters who humiliate and discard him. Struck by disbelief that his beloved daughters do not truly love him, Lear starts losing his sanity. He escapes from his daughter’s houses and loiters upon a heath in the course of a great thunderstorm in the company of his fool as well as Kent, a secret nobleman who is loyal to him.

In an alternate story, the Earl of Gloucester is also manipulated by Edmund, his illegitimate son, into believing that Edgar, his true son is plotting to overthrow him. In both cases, the powerful rulers are humbled by the realization that they were hoodwinked.

At the end of the play, both earls of Gloucester and King Lear have learned through personal experience who is loyal to them. Through acts of poetic justice, Regan and Goneril are blindsided by Edmund. Goneril after that kills Regan then proceeds to commit suicide. Edgar then kills Edmund. Finally, Cordelia gets killed through hanging after Edgar issues a decree, and King Lear eventually dies from his heartbreak. Nevertheless, peace and order are fully restored within the kingdom.

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