King Lear Summary and MCQ


King LearThis article provides King Lear Summary and MCQ.

The story is about King Lear, his urge to find out which of his three daughters loves him the best; his folly of misunderstanding one of his daughters; his relying too much on his actually unreliable daughters; and, the tragedy that he has to face due to these two daughters.

King Lear had decided to distribute his kingdom among his three daughters giving the best share to the one who loved him best. The elder two, Goneril and Regan, flattered Lear with their words while the youngest, Cordelia, was unable to use gratifying words to express her genuine love to her father. King Lear, being angry, disowned her. Her share was distributed between the other two daughters. The Earl of Kent opposed the injustice done to Cordelia and got banished. King of France, being impressed by her honesty, married Cordelia. Lear had decided to take turns to live for six months with one of his other two daughters. He had also kept a retinue of hundred knights for himself which was to be supported by his daughters. The daughters clearly suggested while talking in private that they did not really love their father and considered him to be a foolish person.

There also is a sub plot running parallel to the main plot. The Earl of Gloucester had an elder son Edgar and a younger, illegitimate, son Edmund. The latter conspired against Edgar and convinced his father, with the help of a fake letter, that he was planning to usurp the estate. The Earl of Kent returned from exile, disguised himself as Caius and began serving Lear as a servant.

Lear and Caius got in conflict with Goneril’s steward, Oswald, and Goneril clearly showed that she did not respect Lear any more. She asked Lear to behave himself and even cut his retinue short. Being enraged, Lear left to go to Regan. The character of ‘Fool’ is there to give rise to comic relief. He made fun of Lear’s situation at this point.

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King Lear

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Edmund shammed an attack on himself and got Edgar pronounced an outlaw by Regan’s husband, the Duke of Cornwall. Caius had come with Lear’s message for Regan when he came in conflict with Oswald, yet again, and was put in stocks by Regan and her husband. When Lear arrived, he showed his discontent over the way his servant was being treated but his expression of discontent got dismissed by Regan. Goneril also arrived and both the sisters opposed Lear very bluntly. Lear could not tolerate this and, being helpless, went out of the palace. The daughters did not care to stop him despite that a storm was very likely to arrive.

Lear had no companion but the Fool and Kent. Kent helped him to get shelter. Lear also met Edgar who was in the guise of a bedlam beggar. Lear’s genuine madness and Edgar’s feigned madness present a unique contrast as well as comparison.

Edmund betrayed his father as well and informed Regan and Cornwall that his father had been aware of French invasion aimed at restoration of Lear at the throne. Edmund left with Goneril to inform the Duke of Albany, Goneril’s husband, about the invasion. Gloucester, Edmund’s father, was arrested. Regan and Cornwall blinded him. A servant got enraged to see that happening and wounded Cornwall mortally. Regan killed the servant and disclosed to Gloucester that his son Edmund had wronged him. Gloucester also left for the place where Lear was and met disguised Edgar. He wanted Edgar to lead him to the edge of the cliff so as to commit suicide but Edgar saved him by suggesting that he had jumped from the cliff but had been saved miraculously.

Goneril felt attracted to Edmund and when the latter returned to Regan, she even wrote a letter to him fearing that her widowed sister could try to steal him. Regan felt that she was a better match for Edmund. Albany was not happy with the way Goneril had treated Lear. However, he joined his forces to those of Regan to fight against the French army.

Kent led Lear to the French army led by Cordelia. Lear, by now, had lost his mental balance and was feeling particularly conscious of his follies. Regan had sent Oswald to kill Gloucester but Oswald himself got killed by Edgar. Edgar also found a letter in his pocket which had been written by Goneril to Edmund asking him to kill her husband and marry her.

With Kent’s and Cordelia’s efforts, Lear got his senses restored. Albany wanted that they should fight the French forces but not hurt Lear or Cordelia. Regan as well as Goneril desired for Edmund who had shown interest in both. He planned to kill Albany, Lear and Cordelia. The French forces got defeated and Edmund sent the captured Lear and Cordelia off with secret orders to kill Cordelia.

Edgar had shown Goneril’s letter to Albany which she had written to Edmund. When Regan announced that she would marry Edmund, Albany proclaimed him to be a traitor. Regan fell ill and, soon after, died since she had been poisoned by Goneril. Edgar, without revealing his identity, challenged Edmund for a duel and wounded the latter fatally. Then he revealed his identity and disclosed that his father died due to joy and shock of the revelation that Edgar was alive. Albany confronted Goneril with the letter and she fled. She is later reported to have committed suicide.

Edmund, before dying, disclosed his secret orders to kill Goneril and Lear. Albany tried to get the orders reverted but Lear entered with Cordelia’s dead body, after having killed the executioner. Albany wanted him to resume as the king but he died unable to bear anymore the pressure he had been facing. Kent was also requested to be the king but he also refused intending to go for a journey he thought his master was calling him for. Either Albany or Kent became the king, as per two different versions of the play.

King Lear has been particularly criticized for having too serious an ending. Nahum Tate even devised a version of the play giving it a comparatively happy ending and this ending also became quite popular. Shakespeare’s special tendencies of using double plot and comic relief in his tragedies have been very used in this play very successfully and interestingly. Both the plots thrive on the same theme. The significance misunderstanding on the part of a parent regarding his child has been clarified in both the plots.


 Questions Covered in this Quiz/ MCQ

  1. King Lear is based on the legend of:
  2. ‘Leir of Britain’, on whose legend King Lear is based was a:
  3. King Lear was drafted between
  4. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “No one will ever write a better tragedy than …..”
  5. In 1681, who wrote a version of ‘King Lear’ with a happy ending?
  6. Who is credited with the reinstatement of the version of ‘King Lear’ with the tragic ending after Nahum Tate’s version enjoyed great significance for about 150 years?
  7. Which contemporary work written before ‘King Lear’ had a character called Cordelia who dies from hanging as does Cordelia in the mentioned play?
  8. The main source of inspiration for the Gloucester subplot in ‘King Lear’ is believed to be:
  9. Which of these characters survived at the end of the play in the original version of ‘King Lear’?
  10. The major reason for which ‘king Lear’ has faced criticism for is:
  11. Who of the following characters was accompanying Lear during his madness?
  12. The character who committed suicide in ‘King Lear’ was:
  13. Edgar found the letter written by Goneril to Edmund on whose body?
  14. deliberately contributed in the death of which of the following characters:
  15. Which of these disguises does not form part of ‘King Lear’?
Additional Reading materials


Spark Notes

Full text of the play online