'King Lear' is best known for its daring characterization. In this 'King Lear' character study, we provide analysis for all the main characters of the play.
Discover King Lear in our in-depth character study. King Lear is the ultimate tragic hero
, struggling with his own madness. At the start of the play, we find him behaving rashly and irresponsibly. He is blind and unfair as a father and as a ruler. He desires all the trappings of power without the responsibility which is why the passive and forgiving Cordelia
is the perfect choice for a successor. Later in the play, we gain more sympathy for Lear as his madness takes over. He becomes more humble and, as a result, realises his tragic hero status. However, it has been argued that Lear remains self obsessed and vengeful as he ruminates on his revenge on Regan and Gonerill; he never takes responsibility for his daughter’s natures or regrets his own flawed actions. Complex to the core, King Lear is one of Shakespeare's best characters.
Discover Cordelia in our in-depth character study. Cordelia is a difficult character and her actions (or lack of action in many repects) is the catalyst for much of the action that drives 'King Lear's' plotline. For example, she refuses to take part in her father’s "love test" - an event that results in her making a furious, impulsive outburst! She is then disowned and banished. Lear’s treatment of Cordelia and subsequent empowerment of Regan and Goneril (false flatterers) leads to the audience feeling alienated towards him – perceiving him as blind and foolish. Cordelia’s presence in France
offers the audience a sense of hope – that she will return and Lear will be restored to power or at least her sisters will be usurped.
Discover Regan and Goneril in our in-depth character study. There are no other characters as abhorrent or subversive as Regan and Goneril in any of Shakespeare's plays. They are unique and split critics in their interpretations ... the sign of a great character! The two elder sisters, Regan and Goneril, may at first inspire a little sympathy from an audience
not being ‘favorites’ of their father. They may even garner a little understanding when they fear that Lear may easily treat them in the same way he treated Cordelia (or worse considering that she was his favorite). But soon we discover their true natures – equally devious and cruel.
Discover Albany and Cornwall in our in-depth character study. These characters appear to just be extras at the start of 'King Lear
', but they soon become much more than simple consorts - they come into their own as the action progresses. At first, Goneril’s husband Albany seems oblivious to her cruelty and does not appear to be party to her plans to oust her father. Eventually he challenges her. Cornwall, on the other hand, is personally responsible for the play's most violent and cruel scene: the blinding of Gloucester. Although encouraged by Goneril, he performs the act of his own free will. This demonstrates his character; he is easily led and hideously violent. "Turn out that eyeless villain," he says, "Throw this slave upon the dunghill." (Act 3 Scene 7)
Exactly how do these characters interlink? This 'King Lear' Overview will stitch it together for, telling the story in modern English covering just the points you need to know. We have made Shakespeare’s masterpiece, 'King Lear' accessible for new readers and students. Read alongside the original text, our King Lear overview makes the perfect study guide.