Act I scene i
- The King of England wants to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, the size of which to be determined by their testimonies in court.
- Gloucester has two sons, the elder legitimate, the younger illegitimate.
- The two eldest daughters profess their love for Lear to be “boundless” in speeches of flattery.
- Cordelia states that she loves him according to her bond, no more.
- Lear completely rejects his “favourite” and has her banished
- Kent speaks up and is also banished
- Normandy rejects Cordelia, but the prince of France takes her as his wife
- Cordelia farewells her sisters and says that she knows them for what they are but expresses the hope that they will love their father well
- Goneril and Regan decide to work together to keep Lear under control
Act I scene ii
- Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, appeals to nature and scoffs at the idea that mere custom holds him to be inferior because he is a bastard child
- He reveals how he wishes to dupe his brother Edgar
- He drafts a letter which suggests that the two brothers kill their father and divide his wealth between themselves
- He deceives his father to believe that Edgar is plotting evil
- Edmund tells Edgar that their father is so enraged that Edgar had best arm himself for protection
- Edmund gloats over the ease with which both father and brother have been deceived
Act I scene iii
- Goneril learns that Lear has struck her steward Oswald for scolding the king’s fool
- Oswald is instructed not to wait on Lear with usual efficiency and to say that she is sick if he should ask for her
- Goneril speaks of Lear as an “Idle old man” who foolishly believes that he still possesses the authority he has given away
- She declares that Old men should be treated like babies and that if Lear does not like the treatment, let him go to Regan
- Goneril leaves promptly to see to it that Regan follows her course in dealing with Lear and his knights
Act I scene iv
- Kent, disguised, remains devoted to Lear who declares that Kent be allowed to follow him around,serve him
- Lear calls for Goneril and his fool but Oswald is rude to him, Lear criticises and strikes him and Kent pushes Oswald out of the hall.
- The Fool performs jests and rhymes which provide commentary on Lear’s folly
- Goneril is stubborn and Lear denounces her, he orders his horses and followoers leave immediately
- Albany urges Lear to be Patient
- Lear now regrets preferring Goneril over Cordelia when he leaves Albany expresses utter bewilderment
- Goneril instructs Oswald to deliver a letter to Regan, and scolds her husband for his unreasonable softness in his attitude toward Lear
Act I scene v
- Lear instructs Kent to deliver a letter to Regan in anticipation of his arrival
- The Fool tries to lighten the king’s spirits but Lear soon moves to expressions of self-reproach and melancholy
Act II scene i
- Edmund learns of potential hostility between the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany (conflict between sisters); and that Cornwall and Regan will be staying at his (Gloucester’s) castle that night
- Edmund urges Edgar to flee and convinces Gloucester that Edgar is a villain
- Gloucester proclaims Edgar an outlaw
- Cornwall and Regan seek Gloucester’s council
Act II scene ii
- Kent and Oswald meet at Gloucester’s castle. Kent berates Oswald and beats him
- Edmond enters with rapier drawn, Cornwall orders the peace but sides with Oswald and Kent ends up in the stocks
- Kent stoically accepts his fate
Act II scene iii
- In a soliloquy Edgar explains that know he’s been proclaimed an outlaw
- He escapes capture by being disguised as a beggar
Act II scene iv
- Lear, the Fool and attendants arrive at Gloucester’s castle
- Lear protests against “such violent outrage” as to place his messenger, Kent, in the stocks and demands that Cornwall and Regan be brought to him
- Gloucester returns with Cornwall and Regan who finally meet with the king, and Kent is set free
- Lear asks who placed Kent(Caius) in the stocks when Goneril arrives. The suggestion of conspiracy is increased when Lear discovers that Cornwall also sided against Kent
- Regan attempts to convince her father to return to Goneril’s castle, but he thinks he can stay with her
- Argument between Lear and Regan where she tries to convince him why he needs even one follower
- Lear then denounces both daughters as “unnatural hags” and decides to leave just as a violent storm is heard
- Lear utters “O, Fool! I shall go mad!” before leaving into a violent storm, Goneril., Regan and Cornwall are unmoved by the king’s circumstances
Act III scene i
- Kent meets with a gentleman who reveals that Lear wanders alone with only his jester
- Kent informs the gentleman of the growing hostilities between the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall, and that the king of France is about to lead an invasion of England
- The Gentleman is instructed to go to Dover and hopefully meet with Cordelia
- Kent gives the Gentleman a ring with which he can identify himself
Act III scene ii
- In the wind, rain and thunder, Lear Passionately denounces ingratitude. He call the whether the “servile ministers” of his “two pernicious daughters”
- Kent arrives and persuades Lear to seek shelter
Act III scene iii
- At his castle, Gloucester takes Edmund completely into his confidence
- Gloucester reveals that he has a letter which could incriminate Cornwall, and that there is a foreign power which may come to the king’s aid
- Gloucester decides to go and find Lear
- Edmund decides to betray Gloucester and tell Cornwall all that he has learned
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "King Lear Plot Summary (Act I-III)," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/king-lear-plot-summary-act-i-iii/.
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