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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Book Notes
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CONFLICT OF THE BASIC PLOT

On the most basic level, the plot centers on King Lear, who allows himself to be overcome by his evil daughters, Goneril and Regan.

Protagonist

The protagonist and central figure of the play is King Lear, a stubborn and proud man. Because of his lack of good judgment, Lear loses his power and is humiliated by two of his daughters, whom he had trusted.

Antagonist

Lear's antagonist is himself. His pride, stubbornness and lack of judgement allow Goneril and Regan, his two greedy and ambitious elder daughters, to manipulate their father and cast him out.

Climax

The climax occurs when Lear recognizes his lack of power and his inability to rule as king. Outside the castle during a fierce storm, he attempts to call down a curse on his two faithless daughters. He is unsuccessful because he lacks power to carry out his threats and slips into insanity.


Outcome

The play ends in tragedy. Lear allows himself to be destroyed by Goneril and Regan. Although Lear has come to a deeper understanding of humanity, he is driven to death, and all three of his daughters perish as well.

SYMBOLIC CONFLICT

On a larger level, the play is really a tale of good versus evil.

Protagonist

The symbolic protagonist of the play is the force of good, seen in characteristics such as love, kindness, respect, purity, helpfulness, truthfulness, humility, forgiveness and nobility and represented by Cordelia, Edgar, Lear (later in the play), and Gloucester (later in the play).

Antagonist

Throughout the play the forces of evil, such as pride, greed, deceit, disrespect, jealousy and chaos, fight against the forces of good and are seen in a variety of characters, including Edmund, Goneril, Regan, Lear (early in the play), and Gloucester (early in the play).

Climax

The climax occurs in the final scene of the play when the forces of evil overcome the forces of good. Because of Edmund, Goneril and Regan, most of the good characters (Cordelia, Lear, and Gloucester) are defeated and die.

Outcome

The symbolic plot is clearly a tragedy, for the key forces of good have been overcome. Fortunately, however, the evil characters are also all destroyed with the deaths of Regan, Goneril, and Edmund. As a result, there is a hope at the end of the play. The worthy Edgar has been made the new ruler of England, which indicates that good will ultimately triumph, and order will be restored to the kingdom.

Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes


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Free Study Guide-King Lear by William Shakespeare-Free Online Synopsis
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