A line-by-line translation

King Lear

King Lear Translation Table of Contents

When King Lear asks his three daughters how much they love him in order to divide his kingdom, he falls for Regan and Goneril’s flattery, but banishes Cordelia for her honest answer. As conflicts arise once Lear begins to descend into madness, and the nobleman Gloucester worries about his two sons Edgar and Edmund, the British throne hangs in the balance. The Shakescleare version of King Lear includes the original text alongside a complete modern English translation, which can help you unlock the meaning of its most important quotes, such as “Nothing can come of nothing” and “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child.”

Act 1, Scene 1

King Lear divides his kingdom between his daughters based on their flattery. Cordelia and Kent fall out of favor.

Act 1, Scene 2

Edmund shows his father a fake letter implying that Edgar is plotting against him. Edmund feigns concern for Edgar.

Act 1, Scene 3

Lear annoys Goneril while he stays with her. She encourages her servants to be unaccommodating towards Lear's men.

Act 1, Scene 4

Kent (in disguise) becomes a servant of Lear. Goneril enters and upsets Lear. Lear decides to live with Regan instead.

Act 1, Scene 5

Lear sends Kent to Regan. Lear's Fool scolds Lear for his actions. They head to Regan's house.

Act 2, Scene 1

Edmund pretends to fight with Edgar to incriminate him. Edgar flees and Gloucester sends men to find him.

Act 2, Scene 2

Kent (Lear's messenger) and Oswald (Goneril's messenger) fight. Regan and Cornwall put Kent in the stocks.

Act 2, Scene 3

Edgar is being hunted. He decides to disguise himself as Poor Tom, a crazy beggar.

Act 2, Scene 4

Lear discovers Kent in the stocks. The sisters refuse to speak to Lear or to house his men.

Act 3, Scene 1

Kent says that the kingdom is being infiltrated by France. He sends a gentleman to Cordelia to ask for her help.

Act 3, Scene 2

Lear stays outside in a storm. Kent and the Fool encourage him to find shelter.

Act 3, Scene 3

Gloucester tells Edmund that there is a quarrel between the dukes and a possible invasion. Edmund decides to betray him.

Act 3, Scene 4

Edgar (in disguise), Lear, Kent (in disguise), the Fool, and Gloucester meet outside in the storm.

Act 3, Scene 5

In a conversation with Cornwall, Edmund incriminates Gloucester. Edmund plans to prove that he is helping Lear.

Act 3, Scene 6

Lear appears to be losing his mind. Gloucester, Kent, the Fool, and Edgar try to comfort him.

Act 3, Scene 7

The French have invaded Britain. Gloucester is hunted and captured. Cornwall plucks out his eyes.

Act 4, Scene 1

Gloucester enters blindly and Edgar decides to accompany him. Gloucester asks Edgar to take him to a cliff edge.

Act 4, Scene 2

Goneril kisses Edmund. Albany feels disgusted with Goneril. A messenger reveals that Cornwall has died from his wounds.

Act 4, Scene 3

Cordelia and her husband, the King of France, have invaded Britain. Cornwall and Albany's soldiers approach the French.

Act 4, Scene 4

Cordelia searches for her father. Meanwhile, the French army prepares to fight the British.

Act 4, Scene 5

Regan plans to marry Edmund now that Cornwall, her husband, is dead.

Act 4, Scene 6

Edgar pretends to lead Gloucester to a cliff's edge. Oswald enters and attacks Gloucester. Edgar kills Oswald.

Act 4, Scene 7

King Lear has been found and receives medical attention. Lear is reconciled with Cordelia before the battle.

Act 5, Scene 1

Regan asks Edmund to marry her. Edmund is not sure which sister to marry. Edgar gives Albany a letter.

Act 5, Scene 2

The two armies fight and the British win. Lear and Cordelia are captured. Edgar and Gloucester seek shelter.

Act 5, Scene 3

Gloucester, Edmund, Regan, Goneril, Cordelia, and Lear die. Edgar becomes king after Kent refuses.
Matt cosby
About the Translator: Matt Cosby
Matt Cosby graduated from Amherst College in 2011, and currently works as a writer and editor for LitCharts. He is from Florida but now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also makes art, plays the piano, and goes to dog parks.