Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Tragedy of King Lear

author  William Shakespeare

type of work  Play

genre  Tragedy

language  English

time and place written  England, 1604–1605

date of first publication  First Folio edition, 1623

publisher  John Heminge and Henry Condell, two senior members of Shakespeare’s acting troupe

narrator  Not applicable (drama)

climax  Gloucester’s blinding in Act 3, scene 7

protagonist  Lear, king of Britain

antagonists  Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan; Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester

setting (time)  Eighth century b.c.

setting (place)  Various locations in England

foreshadowing  Goneril and Regan’s plotting in Act 1 foreshadows their later cruel treatment of Lear.

tone  Serious and tragic; the occasional bursts of comedy are uniformly dark

themes  Justice, authority versus chaos, reconciliation, redemption

motifs  Madness, betrayal, death

symbols  Weather plays an important symbolic role in the play, notably in Act 3, when the tremendous thunderstorm over the heath symbolizes Lear’s rage and mounting insanity; the actual blindness of Gloucester symbolizes the moral blindness that plagues both Lear and Gloucester himself in their dealings with their children; the “wheel” of fortune is another symbol by means of which Edmund, at the end of the play, conceives of his fall from power back into insignificance.