Short summary - The Tragedy of King Lear - William Shakespeare

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Tragedy of King Lear
William Shakespeare

The scene is Britain. Action time - XI century. The powerful King Lear, sensing the approach of old age, decides to shift the burden of power on the shoulders of three daughters: Goneril, Regana and Cordelia, dividing his kingdom between them. The king wants to hear from his daughters how they love him, «so that during the partition we can show our generosity».

The first is Gonerilla. Spreading flattery, she says that she loves her father, "just as the children did not love / Hitherto never their fathers." The eloquent Regan echoes her: «I don’t know the joys of others besides / My great love for you, sovereign!» And although the falsity of these words cuts the ear, Lear hears them favorably. The turn of the youngest, beloved Cordelia. She is modest and truthful and does not know how to publicly swear feelings. "I love you as duty tells you, / No more and no less." Lear does not believe his ears: "Cordelia, come to your senses and correct the answer so that you do not regret it afterwards." But Cordelia cannot better express her feelings: «You gave me life, good sovereign, / Raised and loved. In gratitude / I pay you the same. " Lear is furious: «So young and so callous in soul?» - «So young, my lord, and straightforward,» Cordelia answers.

In blind fury, the king gives the whole kingdom to the sisters of Cordelia, leaving her only her directness as a dowry. He allocates to himself one hundred people of protection and the right to live a month with each of the daughters.

Count Kent, a friend and close associate of the king, warns him against such a hasty decision, begs to cancel it: «Cordelia’s love is no less than them <...> Thunders only that is empty from the inside ...» But Lear already bit the bit. Kent contradicts the king, calls him an ebullient old man - which means he must leave the kingdom. Kent replies with dignity and regret: "Since your pride is not at home, / That link is here, but the will is in a foreign land."

One of the contenders for the hand of Cordelia - the Duke of Burgundy - refuses her, which became a dowager. The second contender, the king of France, is shocked by the behavior of Lear, and even more of the Duke of Burgundy. All the fault of Cordelia "in the fearful chastity of feelings, ashamed of publicity." «A dream and a precious treasure, / Be the queen of France beautiful ...» he says to Cordelia. They are deleted. In parting, Cordelia turns to the sisters: «I know your properties, / But, sparing you, I will not call you. / Watch your father, His anxiety / I entrust your ostentatious love. "

Count Gloucester, who had been serving Lear for many years, was saddened and puzzled that Lear had "suddenly, under the influence of a minute" made such a crucial decision. He does not suspect that Edmund, his illegitimate son, is plotting around him. Edmund decided to denigrate his brother Edgar in the eyes of his father in order to take possession of his part of the inheritance. He, having falsified Edgar’s handwriting, writes a letter in which supposedly Edgar intends to kill his father, and adjusts everything so that his father reads this letter. Edgar, in turn, he assures that his father is plotting something unkind against him, Edgar suggests that someone slandered him. Edmund easily injures himself, but presents the case as if he was trying to detain Edgar, who was attempting to assassinate his father. Edmund is satisfied - he deftly braided two honest people with slander: «Father believed, and brother believed. / So honest is he that is above suspicion. / Their innocence is easy to play. » His machinations were successful: Earl of Gloucester, believing in Edgar's guilt, ordered to find him and seize him. Edgar is forced to flee.

The first month Lear lives with Gonerilla. She is only looking for an occasion to show her father who is now the boss. Learning that Lear had nailed her jester, Gonerilla decides to «restrain» his father. «He gave power, but wants to control / As before! No, old people are like children, / And a lesson is required. »

Lyra, encouraged by the mistress, is openly rude to the servants of Goneril. When the king wants to talk about this with his daughter, she avoids meeting with her father. The jester bitterly ridicules the king: "You have corrupted your mind from both sides / And you have left nothing in the heart."

Gonerilla comes, her speech is rude and impudent. She demands that Lear dissolve half of his retinue, leaving a small number of people who will not be "forgotten and run amok." Lear is defeated. He thinks that his anger will affect his daughter: «An insatiable kite, / You are lying! My bodyguards / Tested people of high qualities ... »The Duke of Albanian, the husband of Gonerilla, tries to intercede for Lyra, not finding in his behavior what could cause such a humiliating decision. But neither the father’s anger, nor the husband’s intercession touch the hardhearted. The disguised Kent did not leave Lear; he came to engage in service to him. He considers it his duty to be with the king, who is obviously in trouble. Lear sends Kent a letter to Regan. But at the same time, Gonerilla sends her messenger to the sister.

Lear still hopes he has a second daughter. He will find understanding with her, because he gave them everything - «both life and the state». He orders the horses to be saddled and throws Goneril in his hearts: «I will tell her about you. She / Scratches a wolf with her nails, / Face to you! Do not think, I will return / Myself all the power, / Which I lost, / As you imagined ... "

In front of Gloucester Castle, where Regan came with her husband to resolve disputes with the king, two messengers clashed: Kent - King Lear, and Oswald - Goneril. In Oswald, Kent recognizes the court of Gonerilla, whom he ottuzed for his disrespect for Lira. Oswald raises a scream. Regan and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall, come to the noise. They order to put pads on Kent. Kent is angry with Lear's humiliation: «Yes, even if I were / Your dog’s dog, not an ambassador, / You shouldn’t treat me like that.» Earl of Gloucester unsuccessfully trying to stand up for Kent.

But Regan needs to humiliate her father so that he knows who now has power. She is from the same test as her sister. This is well understood by Kent, he foresees that he is waiting for Lear from Regana: "You came from the rain and under the drops ..."

Lear catches his ambassador in blocks. Who dare! After all, this is worse than killing. «Your brother-in-law and your daughter,» Kent says. Lear does not want to believe, but understands that this is true. «This attack of pain will choke me! / My longing, do not torment me, rush! / Do not approach your heart with such force! »The jester comments on the situation:« A father in rags on children / Brings blindness. / A rich father is always sweeter and on a different account. »

Lear wants to talk to his daughter. But she is tired of the road, cannot accept him. Lear screams, resents, rages, wants to break the door ...

Finally Regan and the Duke of Cornwall come out. The king is trying to tell how Gonerilla kicked him out, but Regan, not listening, offers him to return to her sister and ask her for forgiveness. Before Lear recovered from the new humiliation, Gonerilla appeared. The sisters vied with each other to beat their father with their cruelty. One proposes to reduce the retinue by half, the other to twenty-five people, and, finally, both decide: not one is needed.

Lear is crushed: «Do not refer to what you need. The beggars and those / In need have something in abundance. / Reduce life to necessity, / And a person will be equated with an animal ... ".

His words seem to be able to squeeze tears from a stone, but not from the daughters of the king ... And he begins to realize how unjust he was with Cordelia.

A storm is coming. The wind howls. Daughters leave their father to the mercy of the elements. They close the gate, leaving Lear on the street, "... he is science for the future." Lear does not hear these words of Regana.

Steppe. A storm is raging. Streams of water fall from the sky. Kent in the steppe in search of the king encounters a courtier from his retinue. He trusts him and tells that between the Dukes of Cornwall and Albanian there is "no peace", that in France it is known about the ill-treatment of "our good old king." Kent asks the courtier to rush to Cordelia and tell her «about the king, / About his terrible fateful misfortune», and as proof that the messenger can be trusted, he, Kent, gives his ring, which Cordelia recognizes.

Lear wanders with a jester, overcoming the wind. Lear, unable to cope with mental anguish, turns to the elements: "Howl, whirlwind, with might and main! Burn the lightning! Pour a shower! / Whirlwind, thunder and rain, you are not my daughter, / I do not blame you for heartlessness. / I didn’t give you kingdoms, I didn’t call children, I didn’t oblige anything. So let it be done / All your evil will over me. " In his declining years, he lost his illusions, their collapse burns his heart.

Kent goes out to meet Lear. He persuades Lear to take refuge in a hut where poor Tom Edgar is already hiding, pretending to be crazy. Tom takes Lira in a conversation. Earl of Gloucester cannot leave his old master in trouble. The cruelty of the sisters is disgusting to him. He received the news that a foreign army was in the country. While help comes, it is necessary to shelter Lear. He talks about his plans to Edmund. And he decides once again to take advantage of Gloucester's gullibility to get rid of him. He will report it to the duke. «The old man is gone, I will move forward. / He lived - and enough, my turn. » Gloucester, unaware of Edmund's betrayal, searches for Lear. He comes to a hut, where the persecuted took refuge. He calls Lyra in a haven where there is "fire and food." Lear does not want to part with the poor philosopher Tom. Tom follows him to the castle farm, where their father hides. Gloucester briefly goes to the castle. Lear in a fit of madness arranges trial of his daughters, offering Kent, the jester and Edgar to be witnesses, jury. He demands that Regan open her chest in order to see if there is a stone heart there ... Finally Lyra manages to lay down to rest. Gloucester returns, he asks the travelers to go faster to Dover, since he «overheard the king’s conspiracy».

The Duke of Cornwall discovers the landing of French troops. He sends with this news to the Duke of Albanian Goneril with Edmund. Oswald, who was spying on Gloucester, reports that he helped the king and his followers escape to Dover. Duke orders to capture Gloucester. They seize him, bind him, mock him. Reagan asks the count why he sent the king to Dover, contrary to orders. "Then, so as not to see, / How do you tear out the eyes of an old man / The claws of a predator, like the fang of a boar / Your ferocious sister sticks / The body of the anointed one." But he is sure that he will see "how the thunder will incinerate such children." At these words, the Duke of Cornwall tears his eyes out from the helpless old man. The servant of the count, unable to bear the sight of mockery of the old man, draws his sword and mortally wounds the Duke of Cornwall, but he himself is injured. The servant wants to console Gloucester a little and encourages his remaining eye to look at how he avenged. The Duke of Cornwall before dying in a fit of anger tears out his second eye. Gloucester calls on Edmund's son to take revenge and finds out that he betrayed his father. He realizes that Edgar was slandered. Blinded, heartbroken Gloucester is pushed into the street. Regana escorts him with the words: «Drive to the neck! / Let him find his way to Dover with his nose. »

Gloucester is escorted by an old servant. The count asks to leave him, so as not to incur anger. When asked how he will find the way, Gloucester bitterly replies: «I have no way, / And I do not need an eye. I stumbled / when I was sighted. <...> My poor Edgar, the unfortunate target / blind anger / father of the deceived ... "Edgar hears this. He is called to be the guide of the blind. Gloucester asks to take him to the cliff "large, hanging steeply over the abyss" in order to settle accounts with life.

Gonerilla with Edmund returns to the palace of the Duke of Albanian, she is surprised that the «peacemaker-husband» did not meet her. Oswald talks about the duke’s strange reaction to his story about the landing of troops, the treason of Gloucester: «What is unpleasant, makes him laugh, / What should make us glad, it makes us sad.» Gonerilla, calling her husband "a coward and insignificance," sends Edmund back to Cornwall - to lead the troops. Saying goodbye, they swear to each other in love.

The Duke of Albania, upon learning how the sisters inhumanly acted with his royal father, meets Goneril with contempt: «You are not worth the dust, / Whose wind has showered you for nothing ... All the root knows its own, and if not, / It perishes like a dry branch without juices. » But the one that hides «the face of the beast under the guise of a woman» is deaf to her husband’s words: «Enough! Pitiful nonsense! "The Duke of Albanian continues to appeal to her conscience:" What they did, what you did, / Not daughters, but real tigers. / Father in years, whose feet / Bear would begin to lick reverently, / They brought to insanity! / The ugliness of Satan / Nothing before an evil woman ugliness ... "He is interrupted by a messenger who reports the death of Cornwell at the hand of a servant who stood up for Gloucester. The Duke is shocked by the new atrocities of the sisters and Cornwall. He vows to thank Gloucester for his allegiance to Lear. Gonerilla is concerned: sister is a widow, and Edmund remained with her. This threatens her own plans.

Edgar leads his father. The count, thinking that he is facing the edge of a cliff, rushes and falls in the same place. Comes to himself. Edgar convinces him that he jumped off a cliff and miraculously survived. Gloucester henceforth obeys fate, for the time being she herself will not say: "Leave." Oswald appears, he is instructed to remove the old Gloucester. Edgar fights with him, kills, and in the pocket of the «flatterer of a servile, evil mistress» finds a letter from Gonerilla to Edmund, in which she offers to kill her husband in order to take his place herself.

In the forest they meet Lear, fancifully tidied with wildflowers. His mind left. His speech is a mixture of "nonsense and meaning." The appeared courtier calls Lear, but Lear escapes.

Cordelia, learning about the misfortunes of her father, the cruelty of her sisters, hurries to help him. French camp. Lear in bed. Doctors plunged him into a saving sleep. Cordelia prays to the gods, "father who has fallen into infancy," to return the mind. In a dream, Lyra is again dressed in royal vestments. And so he wakes up. Sees the crying Cordelia. He kneels in front of her and says: «Do not be strict with me. / Sorry. / Forget. I am old and reckless. »

Edmund and Regan - at the head of the British army. Regan is asking Edmund if he has a love affair with his sister. He swears love to Regan. The Duke of Albanian and Goneril come in with drumming. Gonerilla, seeing her rival sister next to Edmund, decides to poison her. The Duke proposes to convene a council in order to draw up a plan for the offensive. He is found by the disguised Edgar and hands him the letter of Gonerilla found at Oswald. And he asks him: in case of victory, "let the herald <...> call you a trumpet." The Duke reads the letter and learns of treason.

The French are defeated. Edmund, having pulled ahead with his army, captures King Lear and Cordelia. Lear is happy to regain Cordelia. From now on, they are inseparable. Edmund orders to take them to prison. Lyra is not afraid of imprisonment: «We will survive in a stone prison / All false teachings, all the greats of the world, / All their changes, their tide and ebb <...> We will sing like birds in a cage. You will stand under my blessing, / I will kneel before you, praying forgiveness. "

Edmund gives a secret order to kill them both.


The Duke of Albanian enters with an army, he demands that he be given the king and Cordelia in order to control their fate "in accordance with honor and prudence." Edmund replies to the Duke that Lear and Cordelia are captured and sent to prison, but refuses to extradite them. The Duke of Albania, interrupting the obscene squabble of the sisters because of Edmund, accuses all three of high treason. He shows Gonerille her letter to Edmund and announces that if no one appears at the call of the trumpet, he himself will fight Edmund. At the third call of the trumpet, Edgar goes to the duel. The duke asks him to reveal his name, but he says that as long as it is "contaminated with slander." The brothers are fighting. Edgar mortally wounds Edmund and reveals to him who the avenger is. Edmund understands: «The Wheel of Fate accomplished / His turn. I am here and defeated. » Edgar tells the Duke of Albanian that shared wanderings with his father. But before this fight he opened up and asked for a blessing. During his story, a courtier arrives and reports that Gonerilla has stabbed herself, before poisoning her sister. Edmund, dying, announces his secret order and asks everyone to hurry. But late, the evil happened. Lear enters, carrying the dead Cordelia. He endured so much grief, and with the loss of Cordelia can not accept. «My poor thing was strangled! / No, not breathing! / A horse, a dog, a rat can live, / But not for you. You are gone forever ... »Lear dies. Edgar is trying to call the king. Kent stops him: «Don't torture. Leave his spirit alone. / Let him move away. / Who needs to be to pull up again / Him on the rack of life for torment? " that Gonerilla had stabbed herself before poisoning her sister. Edmund, dying, announces his secret order and asks everyone to hurry. But late, the evil happened. Lear enters, carrying the dead Cordelia. He endured so much grief, and with the loss of Cordelia can not accept. «My poor thing was strangled! / No, not breathing! / A horse, a dog, a rat can live, / But not for you. You are gone forever ... »Lear dies. Edgar is trying to call the king. Kent stops him: «Don't torture. Leave his spirit alone. / Let him move away. / Who needs to be to pull up again / Him on the rack of life for torment? " that Gonerilla had stabbed herself before poisoning her sister. Edmund, dying, announces his secret order and asks everyone to hurry. But late, the evil happened. Lear enters, carrying the dead Cordelia. He endured so much grief, and with the loss of Cordelia can not accept. «My poor thing was strangled! / No, not breathing! / A horse, a dog, a rat can live, / But not for you. You are gone forever ... »Lear dies. Edgar is trying to call the king. Kent stops him: «Don't torture. Leave his spirit alone. / Let him move away. / Who needs to be to pull up again / Him on the rack of life for torment? " / A horse, a dog, a rat can live, / But not for you. You are gone forever ... »Lear dies. Edgar is trying to call the king. Kent stops him: «Don't torture. Leave his spirit alone. / Let him move away. / Who needs to be to pull up again / Him on the rack of life for torment? " / A horse, a dog, a rat can live, / But not for you. You are gone forever ... »Lear dies. Edgar is trying to call the king. Kent stops him: «Don't torture. Leave his spirit alone. / Let him move away. / Who needs to be to pull up again / Him on the rack of life for torment? "

«What a melancholy soul is not struck, / Times are forced to be persistent» - the words of the Duke of Albanian sound the final chord.