King Lear

Topics: William Shakespeare, King Lear, Family Pages: 5 (829 words) Published: September 19, 2013
By: Abdifitah Mohamud


Teacher: Harleen Banga

Date: Aug, 23, 13

King Lear: Parallel Plots

William Shakespeare wrote one of his tragedies, ‘King Lear,’ a play which focuses on the

betrayal within families and the effects it has on those surrounded – whether they be direct

family members or just people who have been associated alongside them for a very long time.

Whilst the play is set within the context of a king, his earls, his daughters and the sons of the

earls and a looming war, the play is not confined to a set time within history and it is not limited

to concerns only relevant to that social period. The play presents universal issues which speak

utter volumes and storms within heads to make you wonder if this could happen to anyone you


‘King Lear’ follows two parallel plot lines, the first is that of Lear himself, with his three

daughters, and the other is the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons. The play is based on the

mythical king of the Britons, King Leir. The beginning of ‘King Lear’ introduces readers to the

major characters; the earls of Gloucester and Kent, King Lear, Edmund and Edgar (Gloucester’s

sons), and Goneril, Regan and Cordelia – the three daughters of Lear. The issue in the opening

stages of the play refers to Lear abdicating his throne and splitting his kingdom into three for his

daughters. However, there is a catch, and that’s the fact that Lear will give the most prized part

of his kingdom to the daughter who professes the most love to him. It is known that Cordelia is

the favourite daughter; therefore it’s assumed that she would be the daughter to receive the

prized part of the kingdom – however this is not the case. Gloucester and Lear are both

tormented, and their favoured child recovers their lives. In the early beginning of the play,

Cordelia says that her love for her father is the love between father and daughter, no more, no

less."Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty according

to my bond, no more nor less."(Act 1 Scene 1 Pg. 13 lines 93-95)This earns her an unwanted

marriage to the King of France and sets in motion the tragic tale of Lear after he has lost his

kingdom to his scheming daughters.

The Earl of Gloucester and his sons – Edgar and Edmund – follow a similar plot line. Whilst

Lear has three legitimate daughters, Gloucester has a legitimate son, Edgar, and an illegitimate

son, Edmund. Like Goneril and Regan, Edmund is set out for his fathers’ inheritance and title –

regardless of the fact that he is the illegitimate son and therefore is not eligible to receive his

fathers’ inheritance. However, he’s willing to try. He forges a letter to his father from Edgar

riddled with conspiracy to take over their father’s title and fortunes. Gloucester is less than

pleased and sends out for Edgar’s arrest. Edgar becomes the Cordelia in Lear’s plot line, and in

his need to survive, he lowers himself on the wheel of fortune – turning him into a state of

penury where he becomes Poor Tom.

As soon as Lear has realized that he’s lost his kingdom and Edgar has lowered his social

standing considerably, the plot then shapes itself into a tale of madness where the blind are

leading the blind and the fool becomes the wisest man of the group. Lear, Poor Tom, the Fool

and Caius (the Earl of Kent under disguise to look out for Lear) enter a storm and the real

madness of the tale takes place. The storm represents what is going on in Lear’s head and readers

are able to witness the mock trial Lear holds of his two daughters, charging them for their

behaviour. The two plots combine when the Earl of Gloucester stumbles into their midst as a

blind man – in which Poor Tom (who is Edgar), attends to him and where he learns about the

betrayal he and his father went through.

While there...
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