King Lear

by

William Shakespeare

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on King Lear can help.

King Lear: Genre 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Act 1, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

King Lear is a tragedy and shares many similarities with the other Shakespearean tragedies. First and foremost, Shakespeare builds the narrative around a single prominent figure (the titular King Lear), who serves as the tragic hero of the play. Generally speaking, a tragic hero possesses a tragic flaw, or some defining weakness that will eventually lead to his downfall. In King Lear, Lear’s tragic flaw is his considerable pride and vanity. His obsession with his own reputation and stature leads him to conduct the “love trial” of his daughters so that he can decide how to divide his kingdom.

This manifestation of Lear’s tragic flaw leads to a nest of conflict between the various parties in the story, and this conflict is another vital component of Shakespearean tragedy, as the play pits its characters against each other: daughter against daughter, daughter against father, father against daughter, son against son, son against father—King Lear has a little bit of everything. The play also has a disastrous ending that is full of death, and this kind of calamity is the final ingredient for a Shakespearean tragedy. The closing moments of King Lear are particularly catastrophic, and the basic tragic prerequisites are all met: disaster or death for the majority of the main characters, including the tragic hero himself.

Act 5, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis:

King Lear is a tragedy and shares many similarities with the other Shakespearean tragedies. First and foremost, Shakespeare builds the narrative around a single prominent figure (the titular King Lear), who serves as the tragic hero of the play. Generally speaking, a tragic hero possesses a tragic flaw, or some defining weakness that will eventually lead to his downfall. In King Lear, Lear’s tragic flaw is his considerable pride and vanity. His obsession with his own reputation and stature leads him to conduct the “love trial” of his daughters so that he can decide how to divide his kingdom.

This manifestation of Lear’s tragic flaw leads to a nest of conflict between the various parties in the story, and this conflict is another vital component of Shakespearean tragedy, as the play pits its characters against each other: daughter against daughter, daughter against father, father against daughter, son against son, son against father—King Lear has a little bit of everything. The play also has a disastrous ending that is full of death, and this kind of calamity is the final ingredient for a Shakespearean tragedy. The closing moments of King Lear are particularly catastrophic, and the basic tragic prerequisites are all met: disaster or death for the majority of the main characters, including the tragic hero himself.

Unlock with LitCharts A+