full title The Tragedy of King Lear
author William Shakespeare
type of work Play
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.