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Brief summery of king Lear
This article contains the brief story of one of the Shakespeare's famous tragedies King Lear. Readers will get information about the story of the play and also its characters. I try to show the affinity of the main plot and the subplot of the play.
William Shakespeare is one of the greatest dramatists of Elizabethan period. His plays can be divided into two parts comedies and tragedies. Some of his significant tragedies are Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Julius Caesar. In this article, I m trying to write about one of the most admired tragedies of Shakespeare named as King Lear. This five-act tragedy of Shakespeare occupies a remarkable place in history of English literature.
Main characters of King Lear
• Lear – King of Britain
• Goneril – The eldest daughter of the King Lear
• Regan – Second daughter of Lear
• Cordelia – Youngest daughter of Lear
• Duke of Albany – Husband to Goneril
• Duke of Cornwall – Husband of Regan
• Earl of Glousester
• Earl of Kent
• Edgar – Son of Glousester
• Edmund – Illegitimate son of Gloucester,
• Oswald – Steward of Goneril
• King of France – Suitor and husband of Cordelia
• Duke of Burgundy- Suitor of Cordelia
• Old man – tenant of Glocester
• Fool – Nephew of Lear
• Curan – A courtier
Story of King Lear
King Lear is the King of Britain. The story of King Lear is about a wrong decision by Lear of dividing his property on the basis of his daughters love to him and the destructive effect of his decision. Lear out of his pride and anger made a wrong judgment which ruined him. The story opens in ancient Britain. In his old age King Lear decides to take retirement and wants to hand over his power to his daughters. So he thinks to divide his kingdom among his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. But at this moment a foolish idea comes to his mind. Before making division of his kingdom he wants to know which of the three daughters love him the most. Lear decides to give the largest part of his kingdom to the one who claims love to him the most. First his two selfish and greedy daughters Goneril and Regan express their love towards their father. They utter some flattery words. Behind their words hide their selfish motives. When it comes the turn of Cordelia whom Lear loves most, she says that she loves him as much as a daughter should love a father. She is honest and truthful. Cordelia's utterance enrages him and disowns her. Though at that moment his faithful servant Earl of Kent tries to show the reality but Lear cannot see the evil wearing mask of goodness. This judgment brings downfall to his life and pushes him towards hell. He banishes both honest Cordelia and Kent from his kingdom. Two suitors of Cordelia viz. Duke of Burgandy and Duke of France were present there at that moment. When greedy Duke Burgandy denies marrying her without dowry than Duke of France happily likes to marry her. For him with her honesty and virtue she herself is a dowry. Cordelia accepts his proposal and unwillingly leave her loving father with her two cunning sisters. She knows about the mischievous nature of her sisters. Kent the faithful follower of Lear tries protecting the King from the two evil offspring of Lear after his banishment. So he disguises himself as a servant and begins to do work under King Lear. King Lear begins to stay with each daughter Goneril (who is married to the Duke of Albany) and Regan (married to the Duke of Cornwall), consecutively, accompanied by one hundred loyal knights.
It does not take a long time to reveal the true nature of these two corrupt and deceitful daughters. His eldest daughter Goneril does not allow him to keep hundred knights with him and dismisses fifty of them. Lear cannot take it easily and gets furious at his daughter's decision. He decides to leave Goneril palace and thinks that Regan will treat him properly. So he sends Kent with a letter to Regan giving all this information and tells her to make arrangement of his arrival. But in place of showing any respect to her father she punishes Kent. Gradually he understands the conspiracy of his selfish daughters to kill him. As a result of his own flaw, Lear has suffered all this miserable conditions. The two ungrateful daughters begin to conspire against him. He is betrayed by his daughters and at last Lear is thrown out from their home. He leaves his daughters' houses and wanders on dangerous heath during a great thunderstorm. Still then he is accompanied by his faithful nobleman Kent, another honest follower Fool. Lear slowly goes insane only all for those sufferings and calamity which he has faced in his life.
Sub-plot of King Lear
There is a beautiful sub plot in this play which enhances dramatic effect of the play. In King Lear both the main plot and sub plot have love and affection of parents for their children in their content and Shakespeare skillfully intertwines both the two plots. Addition of the sub plot increases the beauty of the main plot. The subplot deals with the tragedy of Gloucester one of the loyal follower of King Lear. Like Lear, Gloucester too suffers for ingratitude nature of his wicked son. Both the protagonists of the main plot and sub plot are humiliated by their own offspring and face the miserable conditions of life. Gloucester has two sons Edgar his legitimate heir and Edmund his younger illegitimate son. Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, is deceitful and does not like his father and brother at all. He always makes conspiracy to end their lives. So he plots against his brother and persuades his father that Edgar wants to kill him to get his inheritance. Like his father he persuades his brother that his father wants to kill him. Edmund counterfeit an attack by Edgar it infuriates Gloucester and He disowns Edgar. Edgar flees from the country and disguises himself as a "Poor Tom," a homeless beggar. Wicked Edmund now conspires against his father to make end of his life. Both Lear and Gloucester commit same mistake. They believe their wicked offspring and disown their good and loyal offspring. Dishonest Edmund role has tangled with the main plot the most.
Gloucester, when gets the news of Lear's miserable condition, comes forward to help Lear. He provides shelter to Lear and his retinue in a little shack just outside Gloucester's palace. He advises them to go Dover and join Cordelia. At that time Cordelia and the King of France are preparing for a little war against Goneril and Regan. This step of Glousester pushes his own life in endanger. Edmund has given all the information to Cornwall and Regan and deceives his father by showing a letter from his father to the King of France asking for help against them. Nasty Regan and her husband Cornwall pluck out Gloucester's eyeballs as a punishment and call him as traitor. One of Gloucester's loyal servants does not bear this injustice and kills Cornwall for blinding his master. Gloucester sympathy helps Lear to met Cordelia but he meets fatal punishment for helping Lear and decides to go Dover to commit suicide. Thus dishonest son Edmund gets success in making conspiracy against his father and has obtained his Gloucester's title and lands as a reward from Regan and Cornwall.
Edgar meets his father at Dover in that distressed condition when he is blinded and led by one of his tenants. The disguised Edgar wants to help him and takes him to the cliff where he wants to go to commit suicide. There he tries to convince his father that he is at the edge of a precipice. Gloucester at once jumps and loses his consciousness. After that Edgar convinces him by saying that he has survived after the great fall from the cliff. At that moment Oswald appears there and tries to kill Gloucester but he is killed by Edgar. Before his death Oswald delivers Edgar a letter which is sent by Goneril to Edmund. In this letter Goneril instructs Edmund to kill her husband Albany so that she will be free to marry him.
Albany understands the ungrateful nature of his wife so he feels happy when he learns about the proposed invasion by France. At the same time he is disappointed when he learns that Gloucester is displaced from his position and his power and his title and lands have given to his son Endmund. At the same time Cordelia gets information about her father appalling mental condition and accumulates her armies to defend her father. Very soon both father and daughter met each other and reunite after facing all this disgrace. Albany says that they will fight with the French invaders but should not harm Lear or Cordelia. The battle takes place and the British defeat the French. As a result of the war Lear and Cordelia are captured by British. Albany tries to save Lear and Cordelia's lives but he becomes failure in his efforts to save them. Wicked Edmund orders to put them into prison and makes secret orders to kill them. Edmund challenges Albany to a duel. Edgar arrives there and shows his real appearance and Edgar defies Albany, who calls for a trial by combat. In that fight Edmund Is wounded badly. The two sisters have been splitting up because Regan is also attracted to Edmund, Goneril's secret lover. The two sisters have a fight over him. As a result of this each sister stands as an enemy for other. At last Regan dies, she is poisoned by Goneril. Edgar has given the letter to Albany which is given by Goneril to Edmund. Albany meets Goneril with the letter where she plots to kill her own husband. All her malevolence plans has thwarted so at last she kills herself. Edmund confesses all the conspiracies of Goneril that plan to kill both Lear and Cordelia and wants to show Cordelia's death as a suicide. It is too late to void the order and Lear appears taking dead body of Cordelia in his arms. He has gone almost madness and cannot accept the death of his beloved daughter. The king also dies holding his daughter's body in his arms. Albany requests Edgar and Kent to rule the kingdom jointly. But Kent refuses it and wants to follow his master's footstep.
The play of King Lear reflects human nature as either entirely good or entirely evil. Shakespeare tries to show duplicitous, or treacherously twofold, nature of human being and at the same time some good and humble nature of human being. Due to the vanity and short tampered nature Lear has to face disaster in his life. The characters of Cordelia, Edgar, Gloucester, Kent and Albany shows the goodness of human nature and the character of Goneril, Regan, and Edmund show the evil nature of human being. Though this play shows the victory of good over evil but the miserable conditions of Lear and at last death of Lear, Cordelia and Gloucester saddens the audience. This moves the audience and touches their heart.
This first act also establishes the duplicitous, or treacherously twofold, nature of Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, while demonstrating that Cordelia and Edgar are good characters.
The sub-plot of King Lear has also been very intricately intertwined by the author in such as way that justice is given to both the stories. Both the stories depict an overly infatuated father who is blind towards their real child and misguided by the disguised characters of their unnatural children. The pity felt by Gloucester for the fate of Lear becomes the means whereby his son. If the play included only King Lear then the audience would have considered this as his private misfortune, however by inclusion of Gloucester and his sons, Shakespeare shows a bigger picture where he reminds his viewers that blind love to our children can actually lead to big disaster.
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|Author: Priyanka GRoychoudhury 20 Sep 2012||Member Level: Gold Points : 3|
|"When we are born, we cry that we are come To this great stage of fools." (King Lear, Act IV, Scene VI)|
For a student of English literature like me, the name Shakespeare connotes god – the master of language who has left behind him an extremely rich legacy. He is the Bard of Avon. Next to his ‘Macbeth’, 'King Lear' is closest to my heart. Oh! What a masterpiece. The tale of the old monarch and his blindness to the love of his daughter that eventually leads to his doom; his madness on that stormy night raising a storm inside him; the tragic grandeur; and superb lyrical poetry – all of these are surely Shakespeare's finest examples of artistic accomplishment. It has been awing audiences as well as readers through centuries with its complicated and symbolic themes of blindness, insanity, human relationships, nature, and faith in the play and their brilliant handling which have made the tragedy a classic in the English language.