King Lear Study Guide

How do the following die? Cornwall, Regan, Edmond, Cordelia, Lear Cornwall is stabbed by a servant who tries to prevent Gloucester’s blinding.Regan is poisoned by Goneril who stabs herself at the climax of the Edmund love triangle.Edmond dies shortly after losing a sword fight to Edgar before Edgar reveals himself.Cordelia is hanged via Edmund’s orders which could not be cancelled quickly enough by “Third Messenger”.Lear dies in grief after seeing Cordelia dead.
Tone of King Lear? Generally dark in nature
What does the “crown” of wildflowers symbolize? It is the opposite of a crown with jewels and the like. Represents Lear’s utter loss of power. Also, comparing Lear to Jesus as the “crown” of wildflowers is similar to that of the crown of thorns.
Symbolism of Gloucester’s eyeballs being plucked out? Gloucester is blinded in the same light as Lear is.
When Kent tells Lear “See better”, what is he implying? He is failing to “see” well, in that he refuses to gift his most loyal daughter, Cordelia, a dowry at the beginning of the play.
Who disguises himself as Tom o’Belam and what kind of character is Tom o’Belam? Edgar; a poor beggar who used to be a servant
What character is most like Lear’s? Gloucester
What is different (non-traditional) about King Lear’s fool? He is actually very wise and gives insight on the plot
What is Gloucester accused of when he returns to the castle after sending Lear to Dover? Betrayal of the group intending treason against Lear’s rule.
Who is left living at the end of the play? Edgar, Kent, Albany. Note that it is not stated what happens to the Fool but he is not seen after Act III.
Lear holds a mock trial in the barn scene. Who does he accuse of crimes against him? Regan and Goneril, for betraying him.
What are the themes of the play? Family, power (and the lack thereof), justice, gender roles, society and class, loyalty, compassion and forgiveness
What were some aspects of King Lear that make it especially effective as a play and very provocative in its ideas?
What is the storm meant to represent? The twisting of Lear’s aging, senile mind
Why does Gloucester plan to go to Dover? Since he is blind, he wants to commit suicide by throwing himself off the white cliffs of Dover, because he sees no reason for life.
Who complains about thankless children? Lear, when he is in Tom (Edgar)’s hut during the storm
How does Gloucester get to Dover? Edgar, disguised as Tom O’Bedlam, guides Gloucester to Dover, but fakes his taking to the top of the cliffs, in order to allow Gloucester to think better of committing suicide.
Who tries to prevent Gloucester’s second eye from being put out? A servant does not agree with Cornwall and says he has gone too far so he raises his sword against Cornwall.
Both Goneril and Regan are “crushing on” whom? Edmund
Who is offered the throne at the end but refuses it? Kent
Why is Kent put in stocks? Kent is put in the stocks because he was in an altercation with Goneril’s servant, Oswald, and ended up disrespecting Cornwall. Cornwall put him in the stocks which is seen as disrespectful to the King since Kent is sent as an emissary representing the King.
Who is sympathetic to Lear but fights against the troops led by Cordelia? Albany
Who privately criticizes their father shortly after proclaiming their love for him? Goneril and Regan
What does the wheel of fortune represent? Fate
Who wrote the letter that Gloucester be killed and his estate divided up among his sons? Edmund wrote this as part of his plot to usurp the status of heir from Edgar
Who fails to see the truth about their children early in the play? (2 people) Lear, Gloucester
Why does Edmund resent his brother Edgar? Edmund is an illegitimate son (because he was born out of wedlock) so he is jealous of the opportunities his legitimate brother Edgar has that he doesn’t, so he wishes to usurp the power from his father Gloucester.
How does Lear punish Cordelia? Lear has Cordelia married off without a dowry (gift of land), but the King of France overlooks that and marries her for her realism and honesty alone. CORDELIA IS NOT BANISHED.
Why does Lear punish Cordelia? Cordelia refused to exaggerate her love for Lear, unlike her sisters, stating in few words that she could never realistically love her father more than a man she is married to.
Why does Lear divide his kingdom into three parts? He is aging and feels he can no longer properly lead the kingdom.
Catharsis The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions
Comic Relief Similar to catharsis, but referring to the use of comedy to alleviate strong negative emotion
Deus ex machine An unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.
Falling Action
Fourth Wall The invisible “fourth wall” of the stage setting facing the audience that allows the audience to see the action. The fourth wall could be “broken” if a character makes a remark directed at the audience or one indicating he/she is aware they are in a work of literature.
Freytag’s Pyramid The classic plot structure pyramid consisting of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution/denouement
Hamartia A fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.
Hubris Excessive pride or self-confidence.
Dramatic Irony
Situational Irony
Verbal Irony
Reversal Indicates any bipolar shift in tone or characterization
Rising Action
Stage Direction
Stock character / Archetypes
Suspension of Disbelief The acceptance of situation in literature regarding elements that could never occur in real life, e.g. computers in the 1800s, Axis victory in WWII, etc.
Tragic Flaw
Tragic Hero