King Lear

Hierarchical collection of pages (posts) for King Lear, including material for McKellen film, the play itself, background on the play, creative engagement with the play, educational material for teaching the play, and ways to have fun with the play.

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100—c. 1155), an English bishop and scholar, wrote what he called a translation of an ancient history of English kings which told largely legendary stories of English kings from the original Brutus, held to be a descendant of the Greek founder of Rome, Aeneas, through the seventh century […]


Shakespeare borrowed plots and ideas from other material for the bulk of his writing.  His two long poems tell old tales, and only four of the commonly recognized 38 plays have no known single-organizing precedent (Love’s Labor Lost, Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Winter’s Tale, Tempest).  Such a practice was commonplace in the English Renaissance, whose […]

Full Text Scene Link Directory

This full text version of King Lear is divided into 40 short scenes or scene segments. Each segment includes the corresponding clip from the Ian McKellen film. Any scene or segment may be linked from the table below. Segment Description Notation How this edition of King Lear represents annotations, stage directions, etc. Roles List of […]

Act IV Scene 3

Kent encounters the knight or gentleman to whom he entrusted messages in Act III, who discloses that the King of France has returned to France to cure some imperfection in the state, leaving his army in the hands of the Marshal of France (about whom we never hear again). He also confirms that Cordelia had […]

Organization and Notation

Organization This web edition of King Lear uses primarily the Folio (F) text of 1623 as a basis, but it adds several longer passages and one entire scene from the Quarto (Q) text of 1608. It also adds or substitutes several individual words or phrases from the Q text. It is thus a conflated text. […]

Persons of the Play

King Lear Goneril His eldest daughter Regan His middle daughter Cordelia His youngest daughter Albany, Duke of Goneril’s husband Cornwall, Duke of Regan’s husband Gloucester, Duke of (pronounced “Gloster”) Edgar His legitimate son Edmund His bastard son (later called “Gloucester” himself after he usurps his father’s title) Kent King Lear’s loyal earl Duke of Burgundy […]

Act V

Act IV has been relatively static. Except for the swordfight between Edgar and Oswald, the act is devoted to mental recovery, reconciliation, and preparation for the end. By comparison, Act V moves along at a swift and violent pace. The rivalry between Goneril and Regan for Edmund becomes explicit, Albany is informed of his wife’s […]

Act IV

All the forces that play themselves out in Acts IV and V have been put in place and complicated to some degree by the end of Act III. While Lear’s problems have occupied the foreground until the blinding of Gloucester ending the act, we have hints in the background of an impending invasion from France, […]

Act I

ACT I Shakespeare’s four most famous tragedies each have radically different dramatic structures compared to the others. Othello, perhaps the most perfectly structured of the group, or any group, goes together like a jeweler’s watch, each microscopic part building to the one climatic moment when Othello makes the mortal decision. Hamlet can be said to […]

King Lear, Starring Ian McKellen

Full Episode

Short Synopsis The monumental tragedy of an old king who decides to divide his kingdom among his daughters, but imposes a love test on each to merit her portion. His youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to flatter him falsely, sending Lear into a rage. He withdraws her portion, exiles his best friend, and generally becomes increasingly […]