King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

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.