* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation:
** At least one critic has wondered if a few particular lines in the play indicate that Lear has sexually abused his two oldest daughters. He refers to Goneril's 'dishonoured body' and the specific wording the two use to lay on the flattery in the love test is rather sketchy. This idea formed the basis for the adaptation ''A Thousand Acres''.
** How much of Goneril's and Regan's plotting is fueled by ambition and jealousy, and how much is concern for keeping the kingdom from collapsing under their senile father? Remember also that the "good guy" army is a foreign invasion from France.
** Some have suggested that Goneril and Regan are children from a previous marriage, while Cordelia is the daughter of TheLostLenore. A lot of productions will give the elder two the same hair colour to highlight this idea.
** Lear's decision to divide up the kingdom in the first place. While ill-thought out, perhaps he genuinely thought it was the right solution. After all, he has three daughters, none of whom have any heirs to ensure the line. Dividing the assets among them and assigning them each a share of land to rule over may have seemed reasonable to him. Of course the love test to decide who gets the bigger share...
** It's notable that Regan appears to be the more bloodthirsty of the sisters. She's the one that turns Lear out into the storm and takes part in Gloucester getting his eyes gouged out. How much of the sisters' scheming is the result of Goneril simply going along with her sociopathic younger sister - possibly realising it's better to have Regan as an ally than an enemy? Goneril's eventual [[spoiler: suicide after poisoning Regan]] suggests that she feels more remorse for what's happened than she lets on. Another of Regan's key characteristics is that she is able to bring out the evilness in others - further supporting the theory that Goneril is heavily under her influence.
** Edmund is often interpreted as a TragicMonster but it's not hard to see him as an EntitledBastard instead (quite literally). He appears to at least have a comfortable status in Gloucester's household - and has a somewhat cordial relationship with his half-brother. He betrays his father simply out of a desire to have even more. Although Gloucester looks down on him, he's not exactly on the streets fending for himself. Edmund basically ruins a bunch of lives because he's greedy. Gloucester can't necessarily recognise him as heir because he's bound by the laws of the state. And being the younger child, he'd still be in second place to Edgar even if he were legitimate.
** Albany is significantly more moral than the rest of the cast but despite his uneasiness at what his wife is doing, he never actively moves to stop her until he discovers his own life is in danger. So is Albany fine to turn a blind eye to the horrors going on around him until he learns that he personally may be affected? Perhaps learning that Goneril was going to kill him anyway persuaded him that he had nothing to lose by challenging her. Another possibility is that Albany never stopped Goneril because [[AllLoveIsUnrequited he actually loved her and was blind to her faults]] to an extent. Note that it's discovering she plans to kill him so she can marry Edmund that persuades him to take action.
** Cordelia is Lear's favourite but she doesn't resort to flattering or ego stroking like the other two. Nor does she seem to think anything bad will come of being honest to her father. Is it possible that earlier in his life - before his senility started setting in - Lear actually preferred being told the truth and that his love for Cordelia is precisely because of her BrutalHonesty?
** There is a massive amount of debate over Lear's line "my poor fool is hanged". Some assume it means that [[spoiler: The Fool who disappeared after Act III has been executed too. Others point to the lower case f - and that an upper case one would have been used if Lear had been referring to The Fool. 'Fool' was also another word for child, and he could be referring to Cordelia in this case]].
* DesignatedHero: Lear for the first half of the play before Goneril and Regan drive him out during the storm. Lear throughout the beginning is an unlikable asshole who's introduced exiling his daughter and adviser, and treats the other two daughters like servants.
* EnsembleDarkhorse:
** The Fool steals the show, more so than usual in this type of play.
** Cornwall does not appear in the play that much - featuring only in Acts 2 & 3 (besides a non-speaking part in the first scene) - yet the memorable eye-gouging scene ensures he makes his mark.
* FairForItsDay: Edmund is the villain and treated as such because he's an illegitimate child. However he's still played tragically and does [[spoiler: repent at the last minute, even if it's too late to save Cordelia]]. It helps that Regan and Goneril are just as nasty in comparison to Edmund, and they don't get played tragically at any point.
* HilariousInHindsight:
** "What, art thou mad, old fellow?" [[http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/u-mad Sound familiar?]]
** The most kind-hearted person in the play is called Cordelia, which becomes hilarious to ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' fans; the show's resident AlphaBitch is Cordelia Chase. Even more hilarious with the spin-off ''{{Series/Angel}}'' where Cordelia TookALevelInKindness to become TheHeart in the same way that this Cordelia is.
* HoYay: A considerable amount between Lear and Kent. Kent is so loyal and devoted to Lear that he disguises himself as a servant to help him once he's been banished - and even braves the storm at his side. [[spoiler: As Lear dies, Kent too implies he may kill himself later so they can be TogetherInDeath]].
* InferredHolocaust: The kingdom by the end is left in the hands of [[spoiler: Edgar and Albany, neither of whom are the most authoritative characters]]. One wonders how things will turn out.
* JerkassWoobie: Lear is a haughty tyrant at the start of the film who banishes Cordelia for not flattering him. He endures a massive BreakTheHaughty and is reduced to hiding out on the moors in the middle of a storm. It's hard not to feel sorry for him when [[spoiler: he reappears holding Cordelia's dead body]].
* MagnificentBastard: Edmund is up there with Iago and Richard III. "Now Gods, stand up for bastards!" Particularly of the magnificent variety.
* MoralEventHorizon:
** Cornwall crosses the line when he tortures Gloucester and gouges his eyes out. It's then considerably cathartic when [[spoiler: one of his own servants murders him]].
** Edmund crosses it when he sets his own father up to be tortured. Just in case there's any doubt, he then orders [[spoiler: Lear and Cordelia to be hanged in prison. Even he ends up regretting this and hastily trying to stop it]].
* OneSceneWonder: The First Servant, who suddenly [[TookALevelInBadass takes a level in badass]] and defies Cornwall.
* SpiritualLicensee: The Manga Shakespeare adaptation of King Lear is the best graphic novel adaptation of TheLeatherstockingTales you will ever see.
* TearJerker: [[TearJerker/KingLear Has its own page]].
* UnintentionallySympathetic: Edmund these days is viewed far more sympathetically than he was in Shakespeare's day. Given that he's snubbed for being an illegitimate child, his villainy comes across as more of a ThenLetMeBeEvil situation. He was expected to be nothing but trouble since he's illegitimate - so he's just doing what's expected of him.
* ValuesDissonance:
** Edmund (like Richard III) appears to be inherently evil as a result of his illegitimacy.
--> "''Some good I mean to do, despite mine own nature.''"
** The scene where Kent is put in the stocks would be far more shocking to Shakespeare's audience. To put it in perspective - Kent is an Earl, and the king's right hand man. The stocks was a punishment reserved for common criminals and peasants. While it seems like a {{Jerkass}} moment to modern audiences, it was a huge KickTheDog when it was written. It tells the audience that Regan and Cornwall are starting to go mad with power, and would be seen almost as shocking as the torture.
* TheWoobie:
** Cordelia counts the most, since she never did anything wrong. She tells her father the truth the whole time, proving that she does love him. She ends up disinherited and humiliated because of this. Even so, when she hears of what her sisters have done, her first thought is to help her father and with no bitterness towards what he's done to her. Kent is even moved to tears at her kindness.
** Edgar is an innocent boy who gets tricked by his half-brother. He easily believes his father hates him, and then has to find the same father lost in the wilderness with his eyes gouged out. Although it happens offscreen, it's said that Edgar stays with him until he dies.
** Gloucester may not start out as this, but the horrors the man has to go through in Act 3 earn him a spot on the list anyway. The torture he suffers is so severe, he tries to commit suicide.
** Albany too when you think about it. Goneril has him under her thumb and he has to sit by while the kingdom falls apart around him. As noted in AlternateCharacterInterpretation, maybe he did have some love for his wife - and then he discovers she views him as an annoyance to be gotten rid of like yesterday's trash. Even if he does the right thing, the poor guy is put through the TraumaCongaLine by the end.
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