The King begins to make bad judgments: he "retires" from the worries of kingship, but expects to retain the privileges; he divides the kingdom, something every king knows better than to do; he banishes his only honest daughter and his most loyal advisor. Lest the reader not get the significance of these actions, they are mirrored in the actions of one of his royal party, Gloucester.

Nature announces impending trouble and the aging king reveals the magnitude of his dementia in a scene of violent delirium. The complex conspiracies among the sons and daughters of the king and Gloucester eventually lead to the violent deaths of most of the principles, clearing the way for an establishment of a new stewardship for the kingdom.


This is a story of systems failure--the King fails, parents fail, children fail, the kingdom fails; chaos prevails until eventually, after many deaths and revelations, order--a new order--is restored. But it is also a tale about the mental changes that may occur with aging, progressive dementia and depression with suicidal ideation. The playwright creates a host of characters who demonstrate again the universality of avarice, cowardice and greed as well as bravery, loyalty and justice, and the relationship of these characteristics to the success or the failure of families and nations.


First published: 1608 (in First Quarto). Also known as The Tragedy of King Lear.



Place Published

New York




Russell Fraser

Page Count