[[caption-width-right:350:Once upon a time, there was a king with three daughters... and it all goes downhill from there.]]

->''As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,\\
They kill us for their sport.''
-->-- '''Gloucester'''

A {{tragedy}} by Creator/WilliamShakespeare, though the story is older than that, first found in the ''Literature/HistoriaRegumBritanniae'' (the tragic ending ''isn't'', though).

Lear, the elderly king of Britain, decides to step down from the throne and divide his kingdom into three parts to give to his daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. But before he officially seals the deal, he keens that the largest share will go to the daughter who loves him best. Much butt-kissing ensues -- all except from the youngest, Cordelia. Despite being Lear's favorite and having the most love for her father, Cordy's flattery doesn't pass muster, and the senile King [[InadequateInheritor banishes her]] along with his own close friend the Earl of Kent who speaks in her defense. Cordelia's share is divvied up between her elder sisters and Lear announces his retirement, though he insists on keeping one hundred knights, the respect and title of a king, and free room and board at his daughters' homes.

It doesn't take long before Lear wears out his welcome. His daughters, resentful and wary from the outset, quickly tire of the knights causing a ruckus, not to mention the lavish expense of keeping them on staff. Lear flips his lid once more and, rather than compromising with his daughters, he stubbornly denounces them. When Goneril and Regan double down by refusing to take in his knights, Lear, too, refuses their shelter, and is caught out in a thunderstorm while both his followers and his sanity desert him. He is left with only his Fool and the disguised Earl of Kent to care for him.

A closely related subplot follows another family, that of the Earl of Gloucester, another of Lear's close friends. His younger son, the illegitimate Edmund, tricks Gloucester into thinking his legitimate son Edgar is plotting to kill him. Gloucester is duped, and Edgar goes on the run, disguising himself as a homeless madman to escape capture. Edgar falls in with his godfather Lear, while Edmund, resentful of the world who judges him simply because he was born a bastard, decides to show everyone [[BastardBastard what a bastard]] [[KickTheDog he can be]] and seduces not just one but '''both''' of Lear's elder daughters. With a few deft moves, he goes from inheriting nothing to being [[FromNobodyToNightmare potentially the most powerful man in Britain]].

And then the kingdom is attacked by Cordelia's [[SummonBiggerFish new hubby, the King of France]] ... hilarity does NOT ensue.

''King Lear'' is an extremely powerful play, and for quite some time was unpopular with critics and audiences because it made what was once a traditional HappilyEverAfter FairyTale ending massively depressing instead. Honest children are punished while villains prosper, the good characters suffer through madness and despair and are forced to extreme measures merely to survive, a king is forced to face his own sins, and one character is tortured brutally on-stage. The kingdom is left a shattered mess, and, if done right, so is the audience. The ending is so depressing that it was fully rewritten in 1681, so Cordelia survives and [[PromotionToLoveInterest marries Edgar]]; the revision was more popular than the original for over than a hundred years. After World War II and the horrors people saw in it, the original story of Lear made a comeback. Today, it is considered one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, along with ''Hamlet'', ''Macbeth'', and ''Othello''.

The play has been adapted several times for the screen, but no adaptation is more famous than the one that [[RecycledINSPACE moves it to Japan]], [[GenderFlip changes the daughters into sons]], and adds a whole bunch of other stuff, ''Film/{{Ran}}''.

It's also been adapted into literature, such as Jane Smiley's 1991 novel ''A Thousand Acres'', itself adapted into a movie. A reimagining of the story from the [[PerspectiveFlip perspective]] of the Fool was written by [[Literature/{{Fool}} Christopher Moore]].

Oh, and it's [[Recap/TheSimpsonsS11E3GuessWhosComingToCriticizeDinner not a comedy]].

%% Zero content examples have been commented out. Please write up a full example before uncommenting.
* AbdicateTheThrone: Lear's decision to abdicate his throne kicks the entire plot off.
* AccentRelapse: When Edgar is in disguise as 'Poor Tom', he momentarily slips out of his faked accent. Gloucester even remarks that for a moment he spoke more eloquently than normal.
* AcquittedTooLate: [[spoiler: Edmund sends someone to pardon Lear and Cordelia's execution on his deathbed, but he's too late and Cordelia is hanged]].
* AdaptationNameChange: Lear's eldest daughter was Gonorilla according to record. It's changed to Goneril. The youngest daughter was also Cordeilla, as opposed to Cordelia.
* AdaptedOut: Lear's grandsons by Goneril and Regan and their husbands.
* AlasPoorVillain:
** [[spoiler: Edmund repents on his deathbed, lamenting that he was born inherently evil, because he was illegitimate]].
** A lot of productions will portray [[spoiler: Cornwall's death sadly, if his and Regan's marriage is shown to be a happy one]]. It does mark the start of AnyoneCanDie.
* AmbitionIsEvil: Edmund, Regan and Goneril all have high ambitions, making them the main Antagonists.
* AnachronismStew: King Lear is a legendary Brythonic monarch said to have reigned sometime before 400 BC. All the terminology used in the play however is either contemporary to Shakespeare's time or only a few centuries before that. Lampshaded by the Fool, who, after parodying Myth/{{Merlin}}'s Prophecy, notes that Merlin hasn't been born yet.
* AnthropicPrinciple: The play has been criticized for the implausibility of a king divesting himself of his kingdom without any contingency plan to support his own status. That, however, is the necessary condition for the whole rest of the story to develop.
* AntiVillain: The Duke of Albany. From his point of view, all he is doing is defending England from an invasion of France. He knows damn well that Edmund is an untrustworthy bastard and that neither his wife nor sister-in-law are much better, but he feels forced to work with them by circumstance in case the French are here to conquer, which pits him against Cordelia and Lear. This changes near the end when he discovers Goneril's letter intended for Edmund which is an attempted plot on Albany's life, which leads Albany to arrest Edmund and Goneril.
* ArcNumber: Three:
** Lear has three daughters.
** There are three in Gloucester's family - himself, Edgar and Edmund.
** Characters frequently travel in groups of three - Lear, Kent and the Fool; Cornwall, Regan and Goneril.
** There are three survivors by the end.
* AuthorAvatar: The Fool does not exist in the other versions besides Shakespeare's. Like many of Shakespeare's other such characters he's the OnlySaneMan, provides a lot of social commentary and is able to call his master out without being punished.
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: Subverted, as the Earl of Kent is disguised as a servant when he kicks Oswald around.
* BadassBystander: In Act 3 Scene 7 one of Cornwall's servants defies and fatally wounds him, trying to save Gloucester.
* BadassGrandpa: Lear despite being canonically in his eighties kills the executioner who was holding him and his daughter when he executed Cordelia.
* BastardBastard: Edmund gets a lengthy soliloquy on why his bastard status causes him to be treated as a lesser man than his half-brother Edgar. Unlike most examples, his noble father the Earl of Gloucester acknowledges and loves Edmund, but that's not good enough—he wants to be the heir, and he'll do what it takes to make it happen.
* BattleButler: The disguised Earl of Kent becomes this to Lear. Oswald to a slightly lesser extent, as he actively tries to kill Gloucester when he's found with Edgar.
* BattleCouple: Regan and Cornwall blind Gloucester together.
* BeardnessProtectionProgram: Kent shaves off his distinctive beard when he disguises himself as a servant. Some adaptations and productions will have him go even further and give himself a haircut too. Edgar doesn't really do this later in the play, only disguising himself with rags and dirt on his face.
* BetrayalByOffspring: Lear wrongly believes Cordelia to have done this. Regan and Goneril actually do as does Edmund to his father, Gloucester.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: [[spoiler: Goneril kills herself once she's exposed for her crimes, knowing execution is probably the only route for her]].
* BlondeBrunetteRedhead: The Laurence Olivier TV movie - Cordelia (blonde), Regan (brunette) and Goneril (redhead).
* BloodKnight: Cornwall needs very little persuasion to torture Gloucester.
* BodyMotifs: The play is littered with references to eyes. These explore the nature of truth and our understanding of it - Lear is blind to the love of the only daughter who actually cares for him, Gloucester loses his sight for his loyalty to the crown, while Kent and Edgar must disguise themselves to aid it.
* BraveScot: Double subverted with Albany - which is what Scotland used to be called, implying the character to be Scottish - who is at first weak and submissive. But then he stands up to everyone and [[spoiler: is one of the few characters left alive by the end]].
* BreakTheCutie:
** Poor Cordelia, who is disowned, spurned by a suitor then when she reunites with her father is later captured and executed.
** Edgar too - an innocent, seemingly good-hearted young man who gets manipulated by his brother, must hide out in the wilderness and discover his father with his eyes gouged out.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: The Fool. After a silly prophetic speech:
-->'''Fool:''' This prophecy Merlin shall make; I live before his time.
* BreakTheHaughty:
** The entire play does this to Lear: from a haughty king to a broken man who ends up having a DeathByDespair.
** Gloucester. Observe how his behaviour changes after he becomes blind.
** The final scene is a big one for Goneril. Her affair with Edmund is exposed, Albany finally stands up to her, she's reduced to [[spoiler: poisoning her own sister]] and [[spoiler: her lover is killed in front of her]].
* ButtMonkey: Poor, poor Oswald. In almost every appearance he is abused either verbally, physically, or both.
** Old Gloucester, when Edmund steals his property and Cornwall gouges his eyes out.
* CainAndAbel:
** Subverted. Since he was born out of wedlock, Edmund is Edgar's half-brother. However, this doesn't stop Edmund trying to do away with and discredit Edgar in the pursuit for his father's title. Edgar finishes Edmund off in the final act, the religious [[AnAesop Aesop]] being that the true child will always triumph over the bastard.
** If you count Goneril and Regan as one entity then they fit when pitted against Cordelia. They are the two evil sisters who become the play's main antagonists, while Cordelia is the MoralityPet whose absence causes things to fall out of control.
* TheCaligula: Lear, although he doesn't ''really'' begin to lose it until after he's been forced out of what little power he's still hanging onto.
* CanonForeigner: In relation to the source material by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Earl of Gloucester, his sons Edgar and Edmund, and the Earl of Kent were neither present in the ''Literature/HistoriaRegumBritanniae'' nor had any specific analogues.
* CastSpeciation: Goneril and Regan are both the two evil sisters who plot against their father. In order to differentiate them, Regan is TheSociopath who is far more outwardly violent. She's also noted to be the TheCorrupter who inspires wickedness in others. Goneril meanwhile is far more Machiavellian in her actions and is a BitchInSheepsClothing to Lear for most of the play.
* TheChessmaster:
** Goneril plays off her father's ego in order to get one third of the kingdom, manipulates him into disbanding a good portion of his knights and enrages him so much that he runs off to be someone else's problem. [[spoiler: She also poisons her sister when it becomes clear that the two won't be in cahoots much longer]].
** Regan is able to inspire large amounts of cruelty in others, leading to Gloucester getting his eyes gouged out and Lear being driven out into the storm. [[spoiler: She's outwitted by Goneril in the end however]].
** Edmund is the ultimate chessmaster, convincing his father that Edgar is plotting against him. He also pits Goneril and Regan against each other and effectively has control of everyone by the final act.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: This trope is shared between Edmund, Regan and Goneril. Edmund tries to play the two off against one another, while they both sexually pursue him in order to harness his raw ambition for their own benefit. Their interactions become increasingly more fractured towards the end of the play as the three [[TheChessmaster Chessmasters]] try to [[OutGambitted outdo one another]].
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: The Fool vanishes from the play after Act 3, Scene 6, and his whereabouts are never accounted for. Many speculate that the character probably was meant to have died and that the scene explicitly stating or depicting this was lost. His final line about "Going to bed at noon," has been interpreted as {{foreshadowing}} his demise. Another theory is that the Fool and Cordelia may have been depicted by the same actor in the original production, necessitating the disappearance of one when the other reenters the play. Some productions have Lear, while mad, accidentally killing him. Since he is a comic character, The Fool's disappearance may very well indicate the play's shift to the subsequent tragedies that befall [[spoiler: Cornwall and his servant, Oswald, Gloucester, Goneril, Regan, Edmund, Cordelia, and King Lear]]. A line in the fifth act from Lear says "my poor fool is hanged", but the "f" is lowercase - leading to doubt as to whether The Fool was hanged offscreen.
* CouldHaveAvoidedThisPlot: The entire tragedy is set in motion by Lear's completely avoidable decision to disown Cordelia and give the kingdom to Regan and Goneril. He realizes as early as scene 4 that this was a terrible mistake, but by then it's too late.
* DeathByAdaptation: Lear and Cordelia. In all of Shakespeare's literary and historical sources, they survive the conflict and return to power, leaving Lear to die a natural death and pass the throne to Cordelia. (Eventually, she is imprisoned and DrivenToSuicide, but not until long after the play's events are over.)
* DeliberateInjuryGambit: Edmund cutting himself to frame Edgar for assaulting him. "I have seen drunkards do more than this in sport."
* DespairEventHorizon: Lear crosses this twice; first on the heath, after realising his daughters have turned on him, and upon realising his folly in giving them all of his authority. The second time is when he staggers in during the final scene, carrying Cordelia's lifeless corpse. [[DrivenToMadness Both instances lead to madness]], and the second to DeathByDespair.
* DownerEnding: Almost every named character is dead, and it's heavily implied that one of the handful of survivors plans to kill himself shortly.
* DramaticIrony: Gloucester speaks in shock about the behaviour of Lear's own daughters towards him - not realising that Edmund is plotting against him too.
* DrivenToSuicide:
** Goneril stabs herself offstage after Edmund gets fatally wounded by Edgar.
** At the end, Kent implies that he intends to joins Lear after the latter dies.
** Gloucester intends to jump off a cliff, but Edgar prevents this.
* EvenEvilHasLovedOnes: Regan and Cornwall, the two nastiest characters, also appear to have a pretty happy marriage.
* EvilerThanThou: Edmund's ruthless pragmatism generally gets the better of Regan and Goneril's more personal vendettas. They even end up falling in love with him, allowing him to manipulate them.
* EyeScream: After learning that Gloucester is still loyal to Lear, Cornwall has him arrested and his eyes put out.
-->'''Cornwall:''' Out, vile jelly!
* FaceHeelDoubleTurn: In the first act of the play, Lear is set up as the unsympathetic one, while Goneril and Regan appear to be more sympathetic. Then the two sisters' evil deeds come to the forefront, and Lear is treated in such a way that BreakTheHaughty is in full play.
* FailedAttemptAtDrama: When Albany first stands up to Goneril - "you are not worth the dust which the wind blows in your face" - she just finds it funny, given his meek disposition.
* FairyTaleMotifs: The challenge to say how much they love him is straight out "Love Like Salt" fairy tales, such as "Literature/CapORushes". In the tales, however, the girls say something the father misinterprets; Cordelia's flat denial is new.
* FakeAssistedSuicide: The blinded Earl of Gloucester asks a mad beggar (actually his son Edgar in disguise) to lead him to the cliffs of Dover so he can jump to his death. Edgar leads him across level land, claiming it is the clifftop; after Gloucester has harmlessly "jumped," Edgar assumes another persona and tells Gloucester that he has been spared miraculously and that the person who led him to the cliff appeared to be an evil spirit.
* FloweryInsults: In Act II, Scene 2 Kent insults Oswald as "Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!"
* {{Foil}}: Oswald to Kent. Kent is a loyal servant who has his master's best interests at heart. Oswald is basically a slime-ball who flatters insincerely to get what he wants.
* FourIsDeath: The first scene of the fourth act confirms the first CharacterDeath.
* FrenchJerk: Averted. The King of France is by far the more decent of Cordelia's suitors and proves a good and loyal husband to her. Although if you want to get technical, Burgundy is a region of France too - and he refuses to marry Cordelia when she's disinherited.
* GenderFlip: The Fool has sometimes been played by a woman, notably Linda Kerr Scott in a 1990 production.
* GetTheeToANunnery: 'Pillicock sat on Pillicock hill,' ''I cannot conceive you' (though it is a bit more like verbal irony in I.1.11)
-->'''Kent:''' I cannot conceive you.
-->'''Gloucester:''' Sir, this young fellow's mother could.
* GoldDigger: Cordelia has a suitor who drops his suit when her father disinherits her.
* GoodIsDumb: Edgar is the saintly, legitimate child of Gloucester. Thus he's easy for Edmund to manipulate and wrap around his little finger.
* HairContrastDuo: It's not uncommon for productions to cast actresses with the same hair colour to play Goneril and Regan, and a contrasting colour for Cordelia. A planned film in the late 2000s would have had the evil sisters played by blondes Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts while brunette Keira Knightley would have played Cordelia.
* HeelFaceDoorSlam: Edmund uses his last breath to repeal his death sentence upon Cordelia. Naturally, it's too late.
* HenpeckedHusband: The Duke of Albany is rather mild-mannered compared to his evil wife Goneril, and goes along with her plans out of fear. He eventually can't stand it and pulls a HeelFaceTurn.
* HonorBeforeReason: Rather than stroking her father's ego, Cordelia refuses to take part in the love test. Of course as her father's favourite she may have thought he'd appreciate her honesty.
* HopeSpot: Lear eventually reunites with Cordelia and obtains her forgiveness.
* HurricaneOfEuphemisms: Kent's got a mean tongue.
-->'''Oswald:''' What dost thou know me for?
-->'''Earl of Kent:''' A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deny the least syllable of thy addition.
* IndyPloy: Edgar doesn't even know who's really behind the plot against him at first, but he manages to disguise himself, help his friends, uncover the real plot and foil Edmund with little more than the clothes on his back - and at one point, he loses those, too.
* InformedAttribute: It's said that the two sisters' husbands - Albany and Cornwall - dislike each other. They share no scenes together - apart from the first where they don't interact - and this never factors into the plot.
* TheIngenue: Cordelia is a classic example, in contrast to her two scheming sisters. Notably Regan and Goneril have a sexual aspect to them (as they both have affairs with Edmund), whereas Cordelia's marriage is depicted as a loving one. She does however prove to be SilkHidingSteel.
* {{Irony}}: As part of his BreakTheHaughty, Lear expresses sympathy for a poor homeless beggar. Said beggar is actually a prince in disguise.
* JerkassHasAPoint: Edmund calls out the blatantly unfair way society treats bastard children, the foolishness of those who blindly trust in fate or luck, and the tendency of people to blame their troubles on anyone but their own actions.
* TheJester: The Fool, of course. His jokes and clowning often has a pretty scratching criticism of Lear and his conduct attached to them.
* KarmicDeath:
** [[spoiler: Lear dies after having to watch his beloved youngest daughter be hung. The same daughter he disinherited at the start and caused the entire mess in the first place]].
** [[spoiler: Regan spends the whole play attacking other people, and manipulating them into doing unspeakably horrible things. She ends up outwitted by her sister and poisoned]].
* KickTheDog: After Gloucester is blinded, Regan orders the servants to throw him out into the storm. It should also be said that all this happened within Gloucester's own home.
--> "Let him smell his way to Dover."
* KillEmAll: This play has one heck of a body count. But it's a Shakespearian tragedy, so it was to be expected. By the end of it only Edgar, Albany and Kent are left alive. Even then it's hinted that Kent may kill himself too.
* KillTheCutie: [[spoiler: Cordelia will never get a break]].
* LadyOfWar: Affairs in France force Cordelia's husband to remain behind when the French army comes to Lear's aid, and even though a conversation mentions the man assigned to lead in his absence, Cordelia is the only one shown to be in charge.
* LetThemDieHappy: As he's dying, Lear convinces himself that he sees Cordelia moving - dying believing that his beloved daughter is still alive.
* LongList: Kent gives Oswald a list of what he knows him for - "A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch." - also doubling as a PreAssKickingOneLiner.
* LoveHurts: Pretty much all the conflicts from this play spawn from love that is not understood, expressed, or requited.
* ManipulativeBastard: [[BastardBastard Quite literally]] in the case of Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester. Throughout the play, he uses just about every character he meets in order to heighten his own power, no matter what the cost.
* MasterOfDisguise: The Earl of Kent disguises himself as a servant after being banished by King Lear, and Edgar disguises himself as a madman after he is declared an outlaw by his father. Both of them are able to fool close friends and family (and each other) though it's quite possible the Fool sees through Kent's.
* MiddleChildSyndrome: Present within Regan's characterization. As Cordelia is the clear favourite, and Goneril has some status as the oldest sister, a lot of Regan's actions come from trying to match what Goneril does.
* MoreDeadlyThanTheMale: The females are the ones who do the direct killing in the play - Regan killing the servant that stabs Cornwall and Goneril poisoning her sister. By contrast, the males usually kill via executions.
* MurderTheHypotenuse: Goneril poisons her sister Regan to have Edmund for herself.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: In his brief moments of clarity, Lear regrets all the problems he has caused for the other characters.
* NeutralNoLonger: Albany was neutral in the sense that he neither condoned nor protested against the scheming of the others. By the fourth act, he's on the side of good and ends up as one of the few survivors.
* NiceMeanAndInBetween:
** Lear's three daughters. Cordelia is the kind-hearted, generously honest Nice one. Regan is the manipulative, blood-thirsty sociopathic Mean one. Goneril is In-Between - not necessarily nicer than Regan but less outwardly vicious and implied to feel some remorse and regret over what's happened.
** The three daughters' husbands count as well. The King of France is Nice - he marries Cordelia even when she is disinherited. The Duke of Cornwall is Mean - he stocks Kent and gouges Gloucester's eyes out. The Duke of Albany is In-Between - turning a blind eye to a lot of the worse deeds in the play before finally taking action.
* NominalImportance: Subverted with the nameless servant who, outraged at Cornwall's blinding of Gloucester, ''mortally wounds him''. Even if he is quickly killed in turn by Regan.
* NoPronunciationGuide:
** Gloucester can be a tricky one for any productions outside England. Despite the spelling, it's 'gloss-ter'. Getting it wrong into 'glow-ster' or 'gloss-chess-ter' is quite common.
** Regan too. 'Ree-gan' is the correct way, but it's not uncommon to also hear 'ray-gan' or [[Film/TheExorcist 'reggan']].
** And Albany can either be 'all-bany' or 'al-bany'.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: The Fool. Despite being, well, a Fool, he is one of the wisest characters of the play.
* ObviouslyEvil: Edmund is the ''illegitimate son'' and the line from Gloucester telling us this is meant to be a clue in that he's the villain.
* OlderHeroVersusYoungerVillain: Kent, who is forty-eight years old, is one of the most heroic characters in the play. His antagonists are the two wicked sisters, who are much younger.
* OnlySaneMan: Kent is the one who calls Lear out on the ridiculousness of dividing the kingdom and banishing his youngest daughter. He's also sane enough to realise that Lear will still need him once his daughters are in power. Also, The Fool, who is ironically far more wise than any other character.
* TheOphelia: Lear himself becomes a male example. After he's cast out of Regan's household, he slowly goes mad and is found running around on the moors wearing flowers and babbling a MadnessMantra.
* PapaWolf: Lear kills the hangman that was hanging Cordelia.
* ParentalFavoritism: Lear makes clear that Cordelia is his favorite daughter. And he's surprised when the other two treat him so badly. When she's out of the picture, he tries this with the remaining daughters.
* PerfectlyArrangedMarriage:
** France is so enchanted by Cordelia's virtue that he marries her when she is disinherited. Their married life isn't shown, but she seems to be happy.
** An evil version in Regan and Cornwall, who work extremely well together as villains.
* PetTheDog: Goneril seems to have some affection for her servant Oswald.
%%* PlotParallel
* PyrrhicVictory: The defeat of the villain seems worthless when contrasted with how many good people have died.
* ReasonYouSuckSpeech: Albany delivers one to Goneril, telling her that karma will get her in the end. She laughs it off but it's ultimately played straight.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath:
** Lear, while not evil, is a temperamental, power-hungry {{Jerkass}} who thinks only of himself. Unlike most of Shakespeare's {{Tragic Hero}}es, he does see the error of his ways and becomes a genuinely good person by the end... but his transformation comes too late to prevent him from losing everything, including, ultimately, his life.
** Edmund repents at the very last minute and tries to order a pardon for Cordelia's execution. He dies shortly after this.
* SacredHospitality: {{Lampshade}}d by Gloucester before Cornwall gouges out his eyes. "I am your host:/ With robbers' hands my hospitable favours/ You should not ruffle thus."
* SacrificialLion: Cornwall dies at the end of the third act to show that AnyoneCanDie.
* SanitySlippage: Lear. His BreakTheHaughty breaks his sanity too.
* SelfMadeOrphan: Edmund doesn't actually kill his father, but he's totally complacent as even worse things are done to him. This makes Edmund very much an EvilPrince.
* ShooOutTheClowns: The Fool disappears after Act III, meaning the comic relief is absent. That's also when the bodies start piling up.
* ShutUpHannibal: Albany rebukes the villainess Goneril with this, after Edmund loses to a disguised Edgar:
-->'''Goneril''': This is mere practice, Gloucester. By law thou wast not bound to answer an unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished, but cozened and beguiled.
-->'''Albany''': Shut your mouth, dame, or with this paper shall I stop it. [He reveals her letter addressed to Edmund.]
-->[to Edmund]: Hold, sir.
-->[to Goneril] Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil. No tearing, lady! I perceive you know it.
-->'''Goneril''': Say if I do-- the laws are mine, not thine. Who can arraign me for it?
-->'''Albany''': Most monstrous! O! Knowest thou this paper?
-->'''Goneril''': Ask me not what I know. [She flees offstage]
-->'''Albany''': Go after her, she's desperate, govern her.
* SiblingTriangle: Edmund seduces Lear's daughters Goneril and Regan. When Goneril finds out her rival is her sister, she poisons her drink.
* SmallNameBigEgo: Cornwall - a mere Duke - stocks the king's messenger for speaking out of turn. To put it from a modern perspective, it's the equivalent to humiliating someone like an ambassador. This also comes back into play when Cornwall ties up and tortures Gloucester in his own household.
* SmallRoleBigImpact: Cornwall appears in only five scenes (besides a non-speaking part in the first scene) yet he is the one who does the gouging out of Gloucester's eyes. His death also marks the start of the sisters turning on each other - as they both want to marry Edmund.
* SmiteMeOhMightySmiter: The storm scene is the archetypal example -- thunder, lightning and all. Because of Lear's rather unwound state, however, he alternates between cursing nature, asking nature to smite Goneril and Regan, and thanking nature for not being as inhumanely cruel as Goneril and Regan.
* TheSociopath: Regan through and through. She casts her aged father out into the storm, tortures Gloucester and murders one of her own servants. She seems to adore violence, as does her husband.
* SpannerInTheWorks: If Edgar had been caught and killed, or just remained in hiding, Edmund would have become ruler of at least half, if not all, of England. Instead, Edgar accidentally stumbled upon his blinded father Gloucester, who he then saved from Goneril's henchman Oswald. And Oswald just happened to be carrying a letter that implicates Edmund and Goneril in a scheme, giving Edgar a chance to challenge Edmund in public.
* SpellMyNameWithAnS: Lear himself is a recipient of this. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's ''Literature/HistoriaRegumBritanniae'', the king's name was spelled with an "i" as "Leir".
%%* StealthPun: When you remember how the Bible refers to kings, the dichotomy between the wise Fool and the foolish wise man suddenly gets much cooler.
* SymbolicMutilation: Gloucester. There are numerous references to eyes and him in the text. He can't see the truth about his sons [[CainAndAbel Edgar and Edmund]], due to [[BastardBastard Edmund]] though he is quite gullible. Eventually he gets his eyes torn out.
* SweetAndSourGrapes: Cordelia refuses to stroke Lear's ego like her two sisters. Although this earns her no favour with her father, his disinheriting her results in the shallow Burgundy abandoning his offer of marriage (to Cordelia's own pleasure it's implied). And France is so enchanted with her virtue that he marries her dowerless - and makes her his Queen. So Cordelia gets to rule a whole kingdom, as opposed to having to deal with a divided share and her senile father.
* TemptingFate: Edgar, after he's wrongly accused and has to disguise himself as a homeless madman, tries to console himself by saying that he has reached RockBottom and things can only get better for him. Immediately after, he meets his father who has just been blinded.
-->'''Edgar:''' O gods! Who is ’t can say “I am at the worst”?\\
I am worse than e'er I was.\\
And worse I may be yet. The worst is not\\
So long as we can say “This is the worst.”
%%* ThisIsSomethingHesGotToDoHimself: By the end of the play, Edgar is convinced that only he can undo his brother's plot.
* ThrowTheDogABone: Poor Cordelia, disowned by her father and rejected by her shallow suitor from Burgundy. Then the [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming King of France falls for her and values her more than any material dowry.]]
* TokenGoodTeammate: The Duke of Albany to Edmund, Reagan and his wife Goneril.
* TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth: [[spoiler:Cordelia, the most kind and virtuous character in the story, ends up being executed, mostly to make a point about how fleeting happiness is and how unjust the world can be at times.]]
* TookALevelInBadass:
** Edgar begins the story a naive, loyal, dutiful son and brother, and is even frequently interpreted by modern productions to be a bit of a bookworm. However, when Edmund makes a fugitive of him, not only does Edgar set out to save his father and godfather (Lear), but he kills Oswald in combat, nurses his father's wounds and tricks him out of suicidal depression, uncovers his brother's treachery, and defeats said brother, fatally wounding him. Edmund might be a Chessmaster, but Edgar isn't bad at [[IndyPloy thinking on his feet.]]
** The Duke of Albany, who is described as "mild" and "milk-livered" but turns out to be one of the only characters willing to stand up to Regan or Goneril.
* {{Tragedy}}: This is one of Shakespeare's classic four tragedies. Lear's actions bring nothing but doom and misery upon those around him, and his FatalFlaw is the cause of most of them.
* TheUnfavorite: Edmund, to Gloucester. As Gloucester's illegitimate son and Edgar's younger half-brother, his bastardly status motivates him to scheme against Edgar and deceive his father:
-->'''Edmund''': Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom and permit the curiosity of nations to deprive me, for that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines lag of a brother? Why bastard, wherefore base, when my dimensions are as well compact, my mind as generous, and my shape as true as honest madam's issue?
-->'''Edmund''': Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund as to the legitimate. Fine word, "legitimate"! Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed and my invention thrive, Edmund the base shall top the legitimate; I grow; I prosper. Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
* UnholyMatrimony: Regan and Cornwall are the two most bloodthirsty characters in the play, and they seem to feed off each other's evilness. And this seems to make for a happy marriage.
* VillainsDyingGrace: A complete MyGodWhatHaveIDone moment from Edmund as he dies allows the King to be rescued. However, they were too late to save Cordelia.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: In one of the oldest and most famous examples of this trope, The Fool abruptly disappears from the play between Acts 3 and 4. The reigning explanation is that the Fool shared an actor with Cordelia, as he disappears right around the time she reenters the narrative. Different productions handle this in different manners, e.g.
## Playing it straight, sticking to the script and offering no explanation.
## Offering some vague clue, enabling the production to stay true to the script but also offering the audience a degree of closure; for example, in TheMovie adaptation starring Ian Holm, the Fool is shown having trouble breathing in the scene just after the thunderstorm, suggesting hypothermia. This, coupled with the fact that the actor playing the Fool is obviously well into his sixties, implies that the Fool has died between acts.
## Being blatant about it: the recent Royal Shakespeare Company run with Creator/IanMcKellen had an execution scene that served to explain his disappearance and emphasise the growing cruelty of England under Regan and Goneril. The Fool's FamousLastWords were made into his "Merlin prophecy" in Act 3 Scene 2, making for some fun thoughts of terror. (Lear does say, "And my poor fool is hanged," in the final scene, but it's not clear exactly what this means.)
** The Fool's final appearance is often given some symbolic overtone. In addition to the example already given, the Drury Lane Theatre's 2005 production had the Fool tap Tom O'Bedlam/Edgar on the shoulder as he walked off the stage for the last time, passing O'Bedlam his Jester's baton. O'Bedlam was left staring at the baton in his hands with a confused look on his face, then he spouted some inane gibberish and followed the rest of the cast. From that point on, every time O'Bedlam appeared on stage (until he reveals himself as Edgar at the end), he carried the baton with him. Many interpret The Fool's disappearance as being due to his redundancy as comic relief and holy fool once O'Bedlam appears - note that the Fool has few lines in his final scenes, starting from when Tom O'Bedlam is first introduced - and this "passing of the baton" acknowledged that.
** In the {{parody}} version "[[http://www.shakespeare-parodies.com/lear.html How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth]]" by Richard Nathan, the play ends with [[spoiler: the Fool [[MoodWhiplash bounding back onstage]] and saying, "Hey, everyone, I'm back! Did I miss anything?"]]
** Currently the most popular explanation seems to involve Lear killing the Fool during one of his mad moments, such as the 2014 National Theatre production starring Simon Russell Beale, where the Fool ended up being beaten to death by Lear with a bit of pipe in the final scene of Act 1.
** An Irish theatre company called ''Thirteenth Floor'' did a version in 2017 where The Fool is entirely a figment of Lear's imagination, also giving him a GenderFlip to imply that it's the ghost of his dead wife. Very little had to be changed, aside from the other characters not being able to see her. Ironically The Fool continued to appear in the background after her final line.
* WhatTheHellHero: Even though he's the king, multiple characters speak out against [[{{Jerkass}} Lear's behavior]] when he makes his big mistake: disowning Cordelia.
* WouldntHitAGirl: Albany says of much after discovering Goneril's affair with Edmund.
--> "a woman's shape doth shield thee."
* XanatosGambit: Most of Edmund's scheming involves letting two people (his father and his brother, Goneril and Regan) destroy each other while remaining in the trust of both of them.
%%* YouKnowWhatYouDid
* YoungestChildWins: As the play is based on fairy tale tropes, this one is present. Cordelia the youngest is the most moral person in the play, and she's her father's favourite. She ends up disowned and, despite pulling BigDamnHeroes to save her father, she still ends up hanged.
!!The 1681 rewrite provides examples of:
* AdaptedOut: Neither the King of France nor the Fool appear.
* AdaptationalVillainy: Edmund is made even worse as he attempts to abduct and rape Cordelia and dies without repealing his order to hang her.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Lear regains his throne and Edgar and Cordelia are allowed to marry.
* MurderTheHypotenuse: In this version, both Goneril and Regan secretly poison each other.
* PromotedToLoveInterest: Edgar/Cordelia in the 1681 rewrite (Cordelia's original husband, the King of France, naturally doesn't exist in this version).
* SparedByTheAdaptation: Lear, Cordelia and Gloucester all survive.