These notes will help you get started.If there was ever a historical King Lear, his memory has faded intomythology and/or been conflated with others.
Another way that the people have examined the drama is by looking at the paradoxes (such as the confrontation of Tiresias and Oedipus), symbols (such as the Sphinx), and morals that has affected their perceptions by the end of the play....
The main plotLear is king of Britain.
Somehow or another, the blinded Gloucester ends up traveling to Dover in the care of "Poor Tom," who is really his good son, Edgar. (Gloucester is clueless about Poor Tom's true identity. We guess you could say that Gloucester is blind in more ways than one—hey-o!) Gloucester, despairing over his missing eyes and his rotten, good for nothing son, Edmund, decides to attempt suicide. Poor Tom/Edgar says he'll help but ends up tricking Gloucester into thinking he's jumped off a cliff ledge, when really he's just leapt a very small distance onto flat ground. "It's a miracle!" Poor Tom/Edgar offers, clearly indicating this is a sign Gloucester should stop trying to commit suicide.
Such are the horrid outcomes of the characters in King Lear.
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The storm makes "nothing" (should thisbe "knotting?") of Lear's hair.
A bit of the fourth act made it into theBeatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" for some reason.Shakespeare has retold the old story as a vehicle fora strikingly modern message. Many people consider KingLear to be his finest work.
But King Lear's speech on owing nothingends the image cluster.
Out on the heath during a violent thunderstorm, Lear runs into "Poor Tom" (Edgar disguised as a naked and mad beggar) and, after a little chat, Lear realizes that being homeless (and naked) really stinks. He also realizes that 1) he should have done more about Britain's homeless population when he was king and 2) all men (kings and beggars alike) are totally vulnerable in this world—"man is no more / but such a poor, bare, forked animal," he famously muses (3.4.1014-315).
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Then Lear takes off all his clothes. (Did we mention that, despite Lear's new social insights, the aging king is also going insane out on the heath?)
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Gloucester, meanwhile, decides to help Lear (despite Goneril and Regan's orders) and gives some shelter in a little shack just outside Gloucester's palace. Gloucester says they should all run off to , and join Cordelia, who is hanging out with her new husband and her new French army friends. (Turns out, Cordelia and the King of France are preparing for a little war against Goneril and Regan.) When Gloucester goes back to his palace, he's apprehended for being a traitor.