King Lear Synopsis

King Lear Synopsis

Written by Maeve Stone, Abbey Theatre – Resident Assistant Director

The play opens in the court of King Lear. With his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia assembled, the King announces his decision to divide the kingdom between them.

He will retire from all state duties while retaining the title of King. Each daughter must proclaim her love for him. The one who shows she loves him best will get the largest share.

Unlike her sisters, Cordelia refuses to turn her feelings into flattery. An enraged Lear curses his former favourite and strips her of any inheritance. The Earl of Kent, urging the King to check his rash decisions and defending Cordelia’s honesty, is banished. Cordelia departs to marry the King of France. Kent, anticipating trouble, resolves to return and serve Lear in disguise.

In a parallel story, the Earl of Gloucester is tricked by his illegitimate son, Edmund, into believing that his ‘trueborn’ son, Edgar, means to kill him. Edgar disguises himself as a mad beggar (Poor Tom) and escapes onto the heath, where he eventually encounters Lear in the storm. This treachery marks the beginning of Edmund’s rise in position and influence. He is soon noticed by each of Lear’s remaining daughters and begins affairs with both.

Goneril and Regan grow resentful at being tasked with keeping Lear and his rowdy knights. They collude to reduce his train and to strip him, bit by bit, of his dignity and welcome. This rejection and humiliation pushes Lear to the brink of an ever encroaching madness. He finally flees into a fierce storm followed by his trusted Fool and Kent.

Gloucester finds Lear and sends him to Dover, where Cordelia has landed with an invading army. When the daughters and Cornwall learn of this, Gloucester is made to feel the savagery of their anger. Cornwall blinds Gloucester but is fatally wounded by a horrified servant. A distraught Gloucester contemplates suicide. Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom, finds his father and leads him to Dover where they reunite with Lear.

To learn of Lear’s fate, read on…
Cordelia arrives and is reconciled with her father, who begs her forgiveness. However, her army is defeated by her sisters’ forces, and she and Lear are captured. Goneril’s husband Albany reveals a letter that proves Edmund’s treachery and Edgar – still disguised – challenges his brother to a duel. Edmund is fatally wounded and with his dying breath recants his order for Cordelia and Lear to be killed. While this is happening, the jealous Goneril poisons her sister Regan and then takes her own life.

As Albany prepares to send soldiers to the King’s rescue, Lear enters with the dead Cordelia in his arms.

Your Comments & Reviews


Beautiful production. the acting is superb especially Eoghan Roe. I recommend this production to all who haven’t seen it yet. truly amazing acting lighting stage set. well done all involved.
Makes one very proud of our National theatre.

I really enjoyed this performance tonight.  Owen Roe was wonderful.  He acted out so many emotions, tenderness, love. anger disappointment etc. Well done !  fantastic !
All the cast were great.  I particularly loved Cornelia.  Congrats to all

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