Lord of the Flies

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King Lear

King Lear

Author: William Shakespeare

Year: 1608

Famous for: Betrayal, madness, death … and the squelching of freshly-plucked eyes.

Main character: Lear, King of Britain, who makes a very big mistake and spends the rest of the play paying for it.

The scoop:

If you think you and your parents don’t get along, just wait ‘til you encounter the family dysfunction in Shakespeare’s King Lear. This play is all about naïve parents and scheming children. But don’t get any ideas. Even though a lot of the good guys die, the bad guys don’t fare any better.

Things start out badly when Lear, King of Britain, decides to hand over the keys to the kingdom to his daughters. But his youngest daughter, Cordelia, will have none of it, and his two older daughters—Goneril and Regan—turn against him as soon as they’ve got their hands on the goods.

Meanwhile, in a somewhat parallel storyline, the Earl of Gloucester finds himself at odds with his good son, Edgar, when his evil son, the bastard Edmund, convinces him that Edgar is actually scheming against him.

OK, so the family dynamics in this play may require a bit of suspension of disbelief. As does the raging storm, the descent into madness, the scheming against everything and everyone, the impromptu war, and several dramatic death scenes. But one thing you’ll definitely believe by the end of this play is that King Lear is, undeniably, a tragedy—and a brutal one at that.


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