King Lear by William Shakespeare, written around 1605-1606, stands as one of the Bard’s most tragic and profound works. Set in ancient Britain, the play tells the story of King Lear, who, in a moment of tragic folly, decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on their expressions of love for him. The consequences of this ill-fated decision lead to betrayal, madness, and ultimate tragedy. Lear’s descent into madness and the parallel narrative of Gloucester and his sons contribute to the play’s investigation of familial relationships, the consequences of pride, and the nature of authority.

In the larger context of Shakespeare’s works, King Lear is often considered one of the pinnacle achievements of his tragic repertoire. It is a play that delves deeply into the human condition, portraying the fragility of power and the complexities of familial bonds. The complexity of Lear’s character and the profound insights into human nature elevate King Lear to a status of enduring significance.

Film adaptations of King Lear include the 1971 film directed by Peter Brook and the 2018 adaptation by Richard Eyre, starring Anthony Hopkins as Lear. These films capture the emotional intensity and thematic richness of the play, bringing Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy to new audiences.

Read the full play summary, an in-depth character analysis of Lear, and explanations of important quotes from King Lear.

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