King Lear


William Shakespeare

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King Lear Characters

Read our modern English translation.

King Lear

The aging king of Britain and tragic hero of the play. Lear, who is used to complete obedience from everyone around him, makes two related major errors: giving up of political responsibility by transferring power… (read full character analysis)


Lear's youngest daughter, whom he disowns when she refuses to flatter him, as her sisters do, during the ceremony in which he hands over power. Cordelia remains loyal to Lear despite his unjust harshness to… (read full character analysis)


Lear's vicious older daughter, who is the first to flatter him in the power-transfer ceremony and the first to insult him afterwards, throwing him and his knights out of her house. Goneril's ruthless temperament contrasts… (read full character analysis)


Gloucester's younger, illegitimate son. Edmund resents the fact that the accident of his birth has deprived him of legal status (and, therefore, an inheritance). He schemes to turn Gloucester against his legitimate son, Edgar, and… (read full character analysis)


Gloucester's elder, legitimate son. Although at first Edgar comes across as a bit naïve, easily duped by Edmund, he later disguises himself successfully as a madman beggar and manages not only to save himself from… (read full character analysis)
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A nobleman of the same rank as Gloucester, banished by Lear in the first scene when he attempts to intercede with the king on Cordelia's behalf. Kent spends most of the play disguised as Caius… (read full character analysis)


Lear's jester, who accompanies him through much of the play. Although his statements come out as riddles, the Fool offers insight into Lear's mistakes and their consequences. Insofar as he stays with Lear, despite all… (read full character analysis)


The husband of Lear's older daughter, Goneril, and a Duke. Albany is kind and generous, in contrast to his malicious wife, and criticizes her for her treacherous behavior toward her father. However, he realizes the… (read full character analysis)


The husband of Cordelia. France is a benevolent character, who takes Cordelia as his wife without a dowry, when she has been rejected by her father, and even sends her back to England with the… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Lear's middle daughter, who shares the vicious traits of Goneril, also flattering him in the power-transfer scene and abusing him thereafter. Regan shows her particularly brutal nature when she aids her husband, the Duke of Cornwall, in blinding Gloucester.
An earl, or nobleman, who is loyal to Lear and similar to him in many ways. Like Lear, Gloucester misjudges his children, trusting his scheming illegitimate son, Edmund, over his honest and good child from his legal marriage, Edgar.
Cornwall is the husband of Lear's middle daughter, Regan, and just as vicious as she is. He disrespects Lear by putting his man Kent in the stocks and, later, violently blinds Gloucester.
Goneril's steward, or chief servant. Oswald's blind obedience to the evil Goneril earns him contempt from the "good" characters Kent and Edgar, and eventually costs him his life.
Gloucester's servant.