The official edition of King Lear from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trustworthy and widely adopted Shakespeare series for scholars and general readers, comprises:
- Newly revised information based original versions
- Comprehensive explanatory notes
- Step-by-step plot reviews
- An introduction to understanding Shakespeare
- A modern analytical article by a top Shakespeare authority
- Fresh images
- A guide to further reading
Keep in mind that the main plot has the complete set of characters while the sub-plot, due to its supporting function, is a simpler one. For these reasons, the sub-plot is more centered on the conflict between its sub-protagonist and sub-antagonist
Protagonist = King Lear | Edmund (sub-plot)
Lear is the central character of the main plot, the title figure, and the guy who sets the action of the story. It is his retirement that fires all of the central chaos.
Most of the other roles align themselves either
- the Fool
or against him:
- Goneril and Regan
who are clearly immoral and treacherous
Moreover, Lear goes through a classic (un)growing-as-a-person process.
In my opinion, Edmund is the protagonist of the sub-plot since it is he that pushes it forward when he decides to pull the carpet from under Gloucester and Edgar's feet.
Antagonist = Goneril and Regan | Edmund
Main Character = Cordelia | Edgar
King Lear os NOT the main character!
We do not see the story through his eyes. We do not agree with his actions.
Impact Character = Antagonists and King Lear
The central philosophical conflict in the story is
good x bad
and how strong bad can become and mess up everything for everyone, even bringing madness or blindness to people.
Guardian = Kent (physical), The Fool (mind)
Contagonist - Albany and Cornwall, and Oswald | Edmund
Sidekick = Kent and Gloucester (to Lear);
Skeptic= Lear and Gloucester| Gloucester
Emotion = King Lear
Reason = Regan
King Lear's structure follows a classic five-part* paradigm inherited from old Aristotelean times. We will try to fit the story into our dramatic structure model used in this website.
* formerly called acts, but renamed here to avoid conflict or confusion
The play has a sub-plot that runs parallel to, and interacts with the main plot but is presented with a little time mismatch of convenience so we can establish the link between them. The analysis will be done step-by-step with those plots "side-by-side".
Let's see what we can come up with.
The first part is the Exposition, or Presentation phase, the segment of the play which introduces the Ordinary World and important characters.
It is Archaic Britain, just before Christianity.
King Lear is getting old, has three daughters, and no male heir.
Gloucester despises his bastard son, Edmund.
This part presents the conflicts and actions that become a major trouble for the protagonist to solve.
It's is curious to mention that, in my opinion, in this story, it is not the Antagonist that sets off the trigger, but, in fact, King Lear, the Protagonist, himself
The segment establishes the main areas of conflict which will drive the story forward.
Without a Prince to succeed him, King Lear decides to split the kingdom among his daughters to avoid any conflicts after his death.
The trigger places struggles between:
- Lear x Cordelia, who is honest, uncompromising
- Lear x Goneril and Regan, his other two daughters, who are vicious
- Cornwall and Edgar x Edmund wants to take their place and power
This act usually is a longer segment that presents the rising action phase where a series of tests and complications build up to:
- recounting and/or preparation
(A sequence of plot sections)
Here we witness the increasing action as the first conflicts develop.
- Lear increasingly loses the respect from his people, as well as his power.
- We see a gap open up between the King and, Goneril and Regan.
- The subplot, centered on Gloucester, and his sons, also develops.
At the same time, this part marks the beginning of a conspiracy orchestrated by Edmund, Goneril, and Regan, now associated villains of the stories.
O moment of crisis, or near=deth for the Protagonist usually happens at this point
King Lear’s central section is the peak sequence, where the action reaches a turning point and when the major crisis occurs.
The height of this play could hardly make a bigger dramatic effect. It centers on a violent storm for Lear. An enormous physical impact represents a turmoil that rages his mind into madness.
The Gloucester subplot also reaches its peak when cruel Cornwall and Regan make The Earl blind in a torture session.
Mid-point is a position in the story that brings enlightenment to the crisis and gives the protagonist new energy to continue his journey.
The recovery sequence begins as King Lear moves towards its resolution.
Edgar (still disguised) reunites with Gloucester and Cordelia returns to Lear.
The King also begins to recover his sanity. Amongst the elements which suggest that the story may be moving towards a good-triumphing-over-evil happy ending are the deaths of Cornwall and Oswald.
Ultimately, however, these signs of a more just world only serve to heighten the catastrophe that unfolds as we move into this section.
The play concludes with a resolution to the various conflicts but not in any way which suggests a simple moral resolution.
The ‘evil’ characters (Goneril, Regan, Edmund) all die but so do Lear and Cordelia establishing the tragic aspect of the story
The play ends with Edgar as he is the one chosen to restore peace to the kingdom.