King Lear

September 9

November 9, 2014

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by William Shakespeare
directed by Barbara Gaines

The Story

An aging monarch plans to retire. He choses to abdicate and divide the kingdom between his three daughters, their shares to be determined by the depth of devotion professed to him. His daughters Goneril and Regan lavish Lear with empty words. But his youngest, Cordelia, chooses silence, sitting duty at the root of her attachment. Furious, the old king disinherits her, splits the kingdom between her sisters, then banishes the loyal Kent for speaking out against a king’s foolishness. Cordelia, without title, possession or family, is taken by the King of France as his wife, and together leave her country behind.

Lear’s counselor Gloucester cannot see into the eyes of his children any more than can his king. Deceived by his illegitimate son, Edmund, into believing that Edgar, his elder son and heir, plots his father’s murder, Gloucester disowns Edgar. Forced into hiding and disguised as the homeless madman called “Poor Tom,” Edgar takes refuge. Edmund takes his brother’s place, but sets his sight upon his father’s.

Goneril and Regan prove unworthy stewards of their father and kingdom. Lear, with his Fool and entourage, makes an unwelcome guest in his daughters’ homes. The sisters agree: he can stay, but his followers must go. Dispossessed and fearing insanity, Lear rages out into the night and a torrential storm. His Fool and the loyal Kent, now disguised as a servant, follow Lear and, upon the wild heath, meet “Poor Tom.”

Goneril and Regan turn upon each other, vying for power—and Edmund. But Edmund’s eyes are elsewhere as he plots to usurp his father’s title. Betrayed by his son and mutilated at the hands of Regan and her husband Cornwall, Gloucester seeks out death, asking for help from a madman on the heath named “Poor Tom.”

France declares war, and Cordelia returns with troops to restore Lear’s throne. She finds her father. But the French are defeated, and father and daughter are thrown into prison and secretly sentenced to execution by Edmund. An unknown man appears to challenge Edmund to combat, and the future of family, king and kingdom hang in the balance.

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