King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

5) Who rules Britain at the end of the play?

At the end of King Lear, the audience is not clear on who will rule Britain. Lear has died and so have all his heirs. Albany is still the ruler of a portion of Britain, and he asks Edgar and Kent to help him rule. Kent refuses, and his response suggests that he is contemplating suicide: “I have a journey, sir, shortly to go” (V.iii.). Edgar doesn’t say whether he’ll rule or not, but his response is unenthusiastic: “The weight of this sad time we must obey” (V.iii.). Shakespeare’s audience would have recognized that the situation is very troubling. Britain might be on the brink of civil war or anarchy. The ending of King Lear suggests that when the social order breaks down, there is no guarantee that it will ever be repaired.