YMMV / King Lear

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • 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.
    • 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 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 Tragic Monster but it's not hard to see him as an Entitled Bastard 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.
    • 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 Brutal Honesty?
    • There is a massive amount of debate over Lear's line "my poor fool is hanged". Some assume it means that 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.
  • Designated Hero: 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.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: The Fool steals the show, more so than usual in this type of play.
  • Fair for Its Day: Edmund is the villain and treated as such because he's an illegitimate child. However he's still played tragically and does 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.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Jerkass Woobie: Lear is a haughty tyrant at the start of the film who banishes Cordelia for not flattering him. He endures a massive Break the Haughty 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 he reappears holding Cordelia's dead body.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Edmund is up there with Iago and Richard III. "Now Gods, stand up for bastards!" Particularly of the magnificent variety.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Cornwall crosses the line when he tortures Gloucester and gouges his eyes out. It's then considerably cathartic when 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 Lear and Cordelia to be hanged in prison. Even he ends up regretting this and hastily trying to stop it.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The First Servant, who suddenly takes a level in badass and defies Cornwall.
  • Spiritual Licensee: The Manga Shakespeare adaptation of King Lear is the best graphic novel adaptation of The Leatherstocking Tales you will ever see.
  • Tear Jerker: Has its own page.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: 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 Then Let Me Be Evil situation. He was expected to be nothing but trouble since he's illegitimate - so he's just doing what's expected of him.
  • Values Dissonance: 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 Woobie: Gloucester, Edgar, Cordelia. Although Cordelia counts the most since she never actually did anything wrong.