King Lear

September 9

October 9, 2014

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by William Shakespeare
directed by Barbara Gaines

The Story

The aging king of England chooses to abdicate his power and divide the kingdom between his three daughters--their shares to be determined by the depth of devotion each professes. His elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, lavish their father with empty words; his youngest, Cordelia, chooses silence, siting duty at the root of her attachment. Enraged, Lear disinherits Cordelia, splitting the kingdom now between her sisters--then banishing his loyal advisor, the Earl of Kent, when he speaks out against a king’s irrational impulsivity. Cordelia, without title, land or family, is embraced by the King of France as his wife and together leave her country behind.

Lear’s counselor Gloucester cannot understand the hearts of his children any more than can his king. Deceived by his bastard son, Edmund, into believing that Edgar plots his father’s murder, Gloucester disowns his elder son and heir. Edgar takes refuge in the countryside, disguised as a homeless madman, called “Poor Tom.” Usurping his brother’s place, Edmund now sets his sights upon his father’s, as well.

Goneril and Regan prove unworthy stewards of their father and kingdom, and Lear, with his Fool and entourage of knights, makes an unwelcome guest in their homes. Dispossessed and fearing insanity, Lear rages out into the night and a torrential storm. His Fool and Kent, disguised as a servant, follow Lear and upon the heath meet “Poor Tom.” Vying for power—and for Edmund—the sisters soon turn upon each other. 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 upon a divided England, and Cordelia returns with troops to restore Lear’s throne. Reunited, father and daughter are thrown into prison, and there sentenced to execution by Edmund. An unknown knight appears to challenge Edmund in combat, and the future of family, king and kingdom hang in the balance.

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