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King Lear

King Lear is one of the timeless classic tragedies written almost four hundred years ago by William Shakespeare. The play written in five acts shows many facets of human character: love, loyalty, greed, grief, deception, and double standards. And Shakespeare’s characters embody these so beautifully to the extent that everyone can still connect with these characters.

In this play, the central character is King Lear, an old king of ancient Britain and his three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. When question of inheritance of the kingdom arises, Lear declared that the kingdom would be divided between his three daughters but only upon expression of their extent of love for him. His two elder daughters flattered their way out but his youngest daughter, Cordelia is unable to do so even though she loved her father. Outraged, Lear immediately disinherited her and banished Earl of Kent when he stood up for Cordelia. While Duke of Burgundy called off his plans to marry Cordelia, the King of France married her. Goneril and Regan conspired against Lear and turned him out to wander like a madman in the storm. Lear was helped by Kent, in disguise.

At the Gloucester’s Castle, Edmund turned his father Earl of Gloucester against his elder brother Edgar. Gloucester, appalled at mistreatment of Lear by his daughters, got the news of French Army coming to aid Lear. But Gloucester is betrayed by Edmund to Regan and her husband, who subsequently blind him and throw him out of the castle. He is helped by Edgar, in disguise.

Lear is rescued with the French Army’s help, but the Army is defeated. Cordelia and Lear are imprisoned by Edmund and sentenced to death. Edgar mortally wounded Edmund in a fight. Dying, Edmund confessed his guilt. Goneril poisoned Regan and committed suicide. Lear killed the executioner but was unable to save Cordelia. Overwhelmed by grief, Lear himself died holding lifeless body of Cordelia.

The play shows how greed for power and position can drive a person to the extent that he stops caring for relationships and manipulates all those near or against him; how those who advocate righteousness are never heard; how adverse circumstances bring out real character of a person and those near him; and how fate and lack of judgement can turn tables.

The play does not lose relevance even when it is seen in the light of modern circumstances.