Study Guide

Lear

by Edward Bond

Lear Summary

Summary

Act I
Lear opens at the site of a wall King Lear is having built in order to keep enemies out of his kingdom. Two workers carry a dead laborer onstage just before Lear enters with Lord Warrington and Lear's daughters, Bodice and Fontanelle, among others When Lear sees the dead man, his primary concern is with the resulting delay to the building of the wall, and he shoots the worker who accidentally caused the man's death. Bodice and Fontanelle object to Lear's violence and reveal their own plans to marry Lear's enemies, the Duke of North and the Duke of Cornwall, respectively. Lear's daughters believe their marriages will lead to peace, but Lear believes that only the wall can protect his people. After Lear and the others leave, Bodice and Fontanelle reveal the plans they share with their husbands to attack Lear's armies. In Scene 2, as Lear prepares for war, Warrington informs him that each daughter has written separately, each asking Warrington to betray Lear, then the other daughter In Scene 3, each of the daughters complains about her husband and reveals plans to have him killed.

In Scene 4, the audience discovers that the sisters' armies have been victorious, but Bodice and Fontanelle each has failed at having her husband killed Warrington, now a prisoner whose tongue has been cut out, is brought before the sisters. Bodice calmly knits while Warrington is tortured by her soldiers Fontanelle calls for increased violence against Warrington, then deafens him by poking Bodice's knitting needles into his ears. Warrington is taken out by a soldier.

In Scene 5, Lear, m the woods, finds bread on the ground and eats it. Warrington, crippled, and for whom the bread is intended, sneaks up behind Lear with a knife but leaves when the Gravedigger's Boy arrives with bread and water for Lear. The Boy asks Lear to stay with him and his wife. Scene 6 takes place at the Boy's house, where Lear finds out how the Boy lives. The Boy has two fields and his pregnant wife, Cordelia, keeps pigs. When Lear goes out with the Boy, Warrington returns with a knife, and the Boy\s wife calls out, saying that the Wild Man has returned. While Lear sleeps, Warrington returns with a knife, attacks Lear, then leaves.

In Scene 7. the Boy complains to Lear about the king who caused so much suffering for the workers building his wall, but asks Lear to stay. A sergeant and three soldiers come on stage looking for Lear. Warrington's body is discovered plugging the well. The soldiers kill the Boy, rape Cordelia, and kill the pigs. The Carpenter arrives and kills the soldiers. Lear is taken prisoner.

Act II
In the first scene, saying Lear is mad. Bodice and Fontanelle bring him before a judge. When asked about Bodice and Fontanelle, Lear denies that they are his daughters. Bodice has her mirror given to Lear, as she believes that madmen are frightened of themselves. Lear sees himself in the mirror as a tortured animal in a cage. He is found mad and taken away. Bodice tells Fontanelle that there are malcontents in the kingdom and that there will be a civil war. Fontanelle replies that the rebels are led by Cordelia.

In Scene 2, the Gravedigger's Boy's Ghost appears to Lear in his cell. Lear asks the Ghost to bring him his daughters. The apparitions that appear are of Bodice and Fontanelle as young girls. Lear and his daughters talk as the two girls sit with their heads on his knees. Lear asks the daughters to stay, but they leave him. The Ghost reappears and asks Lear if he can stay with him. Lear agrees, saying they will be comforted by the sound of each other's...

(The entire section is 1476 words.)