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King Lear, king of Britain, is getting older, so he decides that he will give up his throne and divide his kingdom evenly between his three daughters. Before doing so, he decides that he will test his daughters, so he asks each of them to tell him how much she loves him. The two older daughters, Goneril and Regan, offer very flattering answers to the question. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, who also happens to be Lear’s favorite, is quiet. She says that she has no words to describe the love she has for her father. This answer infuriates Lear, and he disowns her. The king of France who has been courting Cordelia, says that he still wants to marry her even though she now has nothing, so she leave with him for France without the blessing of her father.
It does not take long for the king to realize that his decision was not a good one, as his two older daughters begin to undermine and betray him. As a result he begins to slowly go insane. He flees during a huge thunderstorm, along with his Fool and Kent (a loyal nobleman who is in disguise). They wander on the heath.
At the same time, Gloucester, an elderly nobleman, is having problems with Edmund (his illegitimate son) and Edgar (his legitimate son). Edmund is trying to convince him that Edgar is trying to kill him. Gloucester starts a manhunt for Edgar, who runs away and disguises himself as “Poor Tom” (a crazy begger). He also heads out onto the heath.
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Gloucester learns about Lear’s situation and decides to help him even though it is dangerous. Regan and Cornwall (her husband) discover that Gloucester is helping Lear. They accuse him of treason, blind him, and then leave him alone to wander through the land. He ends up being led by Edgar, his disguised son, toward Dover, the city where Lear happens to be as well.
In Dover, a French army lands. They have been sent by Cordelia to save her father. Edmund becomes involved (romantically) with both Goneril and Regan. Albany, the other husband, is becoming sympathetic to Lear. Goneril and Edmund come up with a plan to kill Albany.
Gloucester tries to commit suicide but Edgar saves him. He does this by leading him off of an imaginary cliff.
The English troops, led by Edmund, reach Dover and defeat the French troops. Cordelia is with the troops. Cordelia and Lear are both captured. Edgar duels with Edmund and kills him. It is revealed that Gloucester is killed. Regan is poisoned by Goneril out of jealousy over Edmund. When her actions are revealed to Albany, she kills herself as well. Edmund’s betrayal of Cordelia leads to her being executed in prison. Leer, grief-stricken over the death of Cordelia, dies himself. Left to care for the country are Edgar, Albany, and Kent (the nobleman from the beginning).
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