King Lear


  • Lear - madness is a punishment for acts of madness
    • 'Tempest in my mind'
    • 'O let me not by mad, not mad, sweet heaven'
    • 'dry up her organs of increase and into her womb convey sterility'
  • Glouscester - goes almost mad in his blindness as a punishment for rejecting his legitimate son
    • 'Is wretchedness deprived that benefit to end itself by death?'  
  • Edgar - feigns madness and gains wisedom
    • 'Edgar I nothing am'
    • 'Away, foul fiend who follows me'
  • The Fool - is able to give wise advice to Lear through profesional madness
    • 'They'll have me whipped for lying, thou'lt have me whipping for speaking true, and sometimes I am whipped for speaking true'
    • 'Thou had'st made thy daugthers thy mothers'
    • 'I'd be anything but a fool, but I'd not be thee, nuncle: I am a fool, thou art nothing'
1 of 23


  • Edmund - thirst for power and bitterness drives him to subvert the natural order
    • 'Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit'
    • 'This seems a fair deserving and must draw me that which my father loses' 
  • Goneril and Regan - go mad in quest for power and die as punishment 
    • 'Pluck out his eyes!'
2 of 23


  • Lear gives away his power as a father and as a king - allows his children to be his parents
    • 'Thou'st made thy daugthers thy mothers'
    • 'being weak, seem so'
    • 'Shut up your doors'
  • Gloucesters loses his power over his son as he loses respect for him and puts himself under Edmunds control
    • 'This is a just deserving and i shall have that which my father loses'
    • 'Find this villian, Edmund; it will lose thee nothing'
    • 'Whoremaster man'
  • Edgar gains power as a result of remaing loyal to his father 
    • 'But who comes here? My father, poorly led? World, world, O world!'
    • 'Methought thy very gait did prophesy a royal nobleness'
  • Edmund dies in his pursuit for power as punishment 
    • 'Thou'st spoken right, 'tis true. The wheel has come full circle'
  • Goneril and Regan's quest for power leads them to turn on each other
    • 'more conveinient is he for my hand than you lady's' 
    • 'If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine'
3 of 23



  • Lear age allows him to assume that he will still be respected as a king without having the responsibility of one
    • 'Thou should not be old til thou had'st been wise'
    • 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extend'
  • Lear's need to be loved in his old age leads him to become instantly angered when Cordelia is honest with him
    • 'Here I disclaim all my parental care, propinquity and property of blood'
    • 'What wouldst thou do, old man'
  • Glouscester age blinds him to the fact that Edmund is lying - assumes he loves him 
    • 'idle and fond *******'
    • 'aged tyranny'
  • Glouscester age increases his desire to be loved - makes him easily fly into a rage 
    • 'Abborred villian! unatural, detested, brutish villian'
4 of 23


  • Edgar gains wisedom through his experinces as a beggar - is a better king than Lear 
    • 'But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee life would not yield to age'
  • Cordelia remains loyal despite being rejected by her father - ability to stay rational allows her to become wiser
    • 'I would prefer him to a better place'
    • 'shall find time from this enormous state, seeking to give losses thier remedies'
  • Edmund wants to seize his father land while he is young
    • 'idle and fond *******'
    • 'aged tyranny'
  • Goneril and Regan hold power over Lear by reminding him of his age 
    • 'Old men are babes again
    • 'being weak, seem so'
5 of 23


  • Lear is reduced to nothing 
    • 'I am a fool, thou art nothing'
  • Glouscester sees nothing at the end of the play but 
  • Edgar reduces himself to the lowest section of society - makes him wiser
    • 'Edgar I nothing'
    • 'must take the basest and poorest shape'
  • Edmund has no status at the beginning of the play but has more precedence than Edgar 
    • 'Our father's love is to ******* Edmund as it is to the legitimate'
    • 'who yet is no dearer in my account'
  • Edmund - 'Nothing' - no truth behind his words
    • 'Nothing, my lord'
    • 'whoremaster man'
  • Cordelia - honesty and purity of her words and feelings 
    • 'Nothing, my lord'
    • 'I love you according to my bond, no less'
  • Lear doesn't see her honesty
    • 'Nothing will come of nothing'
6 of 23

Nature and the natural order

  • Lear subverts the natural order by rejecting the divine right of kings and by giving his children control over him
    • 'thou had'st made thy daughters thy mothers'
    • 'reserve your state'
  • Goneril and Regan - subvert natural order by gaining control over thier father and by gaining power at all, as they are women
    • 'Put on what weary negligence you please'
    • 'Tis best to give him his way; he leads himself'
    • 'to willful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be thier schoolmasters'
  • Glouscester subvert the natural order by favouring his illigitmate a son
    •  'Loyal and natural boy'
  • The storm - punishment for Lear and indication of what is going on in his mind  
    • 'Tempest in my mind'
7 of 23


  • Cordelia and Edgar try to reinstate the natural order - Edgar becomes king
    • 'shall find time from this enormous state, seeking to give losses thier remedies'
  • Edgar seeks refugee in nature
    • 'in the happy hollow of a tree escaped the hunt'
  • Cordelia has to die in order for the natural order to be fully restored - she is a woman and a member of Lear's family
    • 'Is this the promised end?'
8 of 23

Sight and blindness

  • Lear is blind to Goneril and Regan's deception - loses his sanity to gain clarity
    • 'See better, Lear'
    • 'I profess myself an enemy to all other joys'
    • 'Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty'
    • 'Truth will be thy dowry'
  • Glouscester loses his sight as a punishment for being blind to Edmund's deception
    • 'Loyal and natural boy'
    • 'unatural, detested villian'
    • 'Pluck out his eyes!'
    • 'Out, vile jelly!'
  • Edmund is blinded by his bitterness and desire for power
    • 'whoremaster man'
    • 'Let me, If not by birth, have lands by wit'
    • 'this is a just deserving, and draw me that which my father loses'
  • Goneril and Regan are both blinded by thier desire for power
    • 'wilful men must make the injuries they themselves procure be thier schoolmasters. Shut up your doors'
    • 'Put on what weary negligence you please'
9 of 23


  • Edgar gains wisedom by experiening the suffering of the poor
    • 'Strike in thier numbed and mortified bare arms pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary'
  • Lear must lose everthing and go mad in order to gain understanding and humanity
    • 'Tempest in my mind'
    • 'I stand before you a poor wrecthed old man'
    • 'Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!'
  • Glouscester must lose his eyes to realises what he has done wrong
    • 'Bless thy eyes, they bleed'
    • 'O my follies! Then Edgar was abused? Kind Gods, forgive me that prosper him'
  • Lear describes his daughters as an illness
    • 'Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blood'
  • Lear curses Goneril
    • 'Dry up her organs of increase and into her womb convey sterility'
  • Edmund's treatment by his father drives him to take everything from him
    • 'there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged'
    • 'whoremaster man'
10 of 23


  • Lear's behavior in Goneril's house drives her to cast him out
    • 'day and night he wrongs me'
  • Edmund suffers for what he does - is killed by Edgar and has slow death
    • 'Thou'st spoken right, 'tis true. The wheel has come full circle'
  • Regan dies slowly are punishment for her crimes
    • 'I am not well, else I should answer from a full-flowing stomach'
    • 'Sick, O sick'
    • 'My sickness grows upon me'
11 of 23


  • Edmund believes his father deserves to be betrayed for commiting adultery
    • 'An admirable evasion for a whoremaster man, laying his goatish disposition on the charge of a star'
  • Regan believes her father deserves to be cast out
    • 'to wilful men the injuries which they themselves procure must be thier schoolmasters. Shut up your doors'
  • Lear is turned mad as a result of his acts of madness
    • 'O let me not be mad. not mad, sweet heaven'
  • Glouscester is punished of acts of blindness with blinding 
    • 'O my follies! 
  • Edgar believes his father deserved to lose his eye for commiting adultery 
    • 'The dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes'
12 of 23


  • Edgar is rewarded for staying loyal to his father
    • 'But who comes here? My father, poorly led. World, world, O world!'
    • 'Methought thy gait did prophesy a royal nobleness'
  • Goneril is punishes herself and Regan for their crimes
    • 'This judgement of the heavens that makes us tremble touches us not with pity'
  • Cordelia is punished for her father's actions
    • 'Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life and thou have none at all?'
13 of 23

The Gods

  • Albion is a pagan country - removed from England 
    • 'By Jupiter, I swear no' 
  • Edmund claims that Nature is his goddess 
    • 'Nature, thou art my goddess'
  • Lear accuses the heavens of turning his daughters against him
    • 'If it be you that stirs these daughters hearts against thier father, fool me not so much'
  • Lear calls upon nature to make Goneril infertile
    • 'Hear, Nature, hear, dear godess, hear: suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful' 
  • Lear claims his separation from Cordelia would be unholy
    • 'the gods themselves throw insence. Have I caught thee?' 
    • 'He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven'
  • Glouscester askes the gods to protect Edgar after Regan tells him that Edmund hates him
    • 'Kind gods, forgive me that and prosper him'
14 of 23

The Gods

  • Glouscester blames the creulty of the gods for his blinding
    • 'O creul! O you gods'
  • Albany asks the gods to have pity on Cordelia 
    • 'The gods defend her'
  • Edgar comments that the gods are just in his final speech - not true with Cordelia
    • 'the gods are just, and our unplesant vices make instruments to plague us'
15 of 23


  • Edgar disguises himself as Poor Tom to hide himself
    • 'I will preserve myself, and am bethought to take the basest and poorest shape'
  • Kent disguises himself as Caius to protect Lear
    • 'If but as well I other accents borrow that can my speech difuse, my good intent may carry through itself to that full issue'
    • 'thy master whom thou lov'st shall fing the full of labours'
  • Edmund deceives his father - allows him to believe he loves him and that Edgar doesn't  
    • 'I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay, or a taste of my virtue'
  • Goneril and Regan deceive Lear with flattery 
    • 'I profess myself an enemy to all other joys'
    • 'Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty'
  • Edgar does not reveal his identity to Glouscester
    • 'Never - O fault! - revealed myself to him'
    • 'his flawed heart, alack, too weak the conflict to support, 'twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief, burst smilingly' 
16 of 23


  • Madness
    • 'Shakespeare hits on two characteristics of certain kinds of mental derangement—the substitution of a symbolic offence for a real one [...] and the obsession with a visual image' Kenneth Muir
    • 'The mind of Lear, staggering between the weight of attachment and the hurried movements of passion, is like a tall ship-driven about by the winds'- Hazlitt

  • Power
    • ‘In his studies of the degradation of powerful men and women Shakespeare inevitably engaged not only with morality but with the nature of power and of political authority’ – Michael Hattaway
    •  'King Lear is ultimately a play about power, property and inheritance' -Dollimore

17 of 23


  • Nothingness
    •  'It should be obvious to us all that our contemporary world, with all its grandiose culture and institutions and technology, could well attend to William Shakespeare’s complex metaphor of divestment, the value of nothing' - Don Foran
    • 'Abrupt blocking and marring of Lear's unified consciousness finds its fatal cause no less in his own choleric temprament than in his failure in his ignominious misunderstanding of Cordelia's truth of nothing' - Goro Suzuki
  • Natural order
    • 'Two natures [Lear and Edmund] imply two societies [old conservatism and cold, reasoning new age]' - Danby
    • Weather 'literalises the play’s crisis of authority as all order-making’ Steve Mentz
18 of 23


  • Sight and blindness
    • 'sage-fool who intuitively knows the truth and doesn't hesitate to speak it’ - Enid Welsford
  • Suffering
    • 'All sincerely “good” characters in the play must, in some way, suffer before they can gain wisdom and truth' - Bob Hart 

    • 'Shakespeare acknowledges that wisdom is only attained by suffering' Billington
  • Justice
    • ‘Goneril’s and Regan’s treatment of their father is not seen simply as cruel and selfish but as a fundamental violation of human nature – as is made dramatically explicit in the speeches which condemn them’ – Inia James Nicholls  
    • Edmund displays ‘the gradual workings of repentance’ – Kenneth Muir
19 of 23


  • The Gods
    • 'Edgar maintains absolute trust in the gods, and the ease with which he communicates with them in times of joy and affliction is a reflection of a life lived in pursuit of the good, ever conscious of the moral order - Frances Biscogli
    • ‘he [Shakespeare] starts from the hypothesis whatever his personal beliefs, that the gods are indifferent.’ - Muir

  • Age
    • 'failing properly to regard their parents, they have been responsible for their sufferings’ - Mark R. Shwehn
    • much of the play’s action is driven by fathers trying to confirm that their children do indeed love them’ - Jennifer Lim 
20 of 23

James I and Elizabeth I


  • On the throne 1559-1603 - ruled for 44 years
  • Tudors reign was full of uncertainty - constant changes in religion
  • Refused to name heir - James was obvious heir
  • Was a woman - refused to marry because she wanted to keep control
  • Tudors had ruled since 1485 - 188 years


  • New power - Stuart and Scottish
  • Restoration of male monarch
  • Sons were Dukes and Cornwall and Albany
  • Promised stability
  • United England and Scotland
21 of 23

Malcontent character

  • Has Machavellian characteristics
  • Dissatified with the way they are treated by society
  • Iago in Othello 1601 - feels he has been overlooked when Othello appoints his lieutenant
22 of 23

Feudalism vs Machivellian politics

  • Medieval feudalism = medieval social heirarchy - royalty and nobles down to peasants and beggars
  • Machivellain politics - believed that rulers needed to be brutal and needed to be feared but not hated in order to rule
  • Shift from feudalism to government based on Machivelli's theories during James I's reign
  • Lead to English Civil War in 1642
23 of 23




This is an amazing set of revision cards. Thank you very much :D

Georgia Jones


These are incredible! Thank you so much!

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all King Lear resources »