King Lear Important Characters

King Lear - protagonist, tragic hero, and eighty-year-old King of Britain who begins his demise with a contest in which his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, must explain how much they love him. This contest results in further bad decisions leading to Lear going mad and ultimately dying.

Cordelia - Lear's youngest daughter who loves him the most but doesn't know how to express it, so he gives her no dowry, and she goes off to marry the King of France. Her love for her father remains strong until the day she is hanged in prison.

Goneril - Lear's oldest daughter and wife of the Duke of Albany whose ruthless behavior and jealousy for her sister's mutual attraction to Edmund drive her to commit suicide.

Regan - Lear's middle daughter and wife of the Duke of Cornwall shows her malice much like her sister, especially when she kills a servant. She is poisoned by Goneril for loving Edmund.

Gloucester - an earl and father to Edgar and an illegitimate son Edmund. He is an adviser and friend to Lear who has trouble seeing that Edmund is lying to him until he has his eyes plucked out by Cornwall, which helps him see the truth that his son Edgar is the one who truly loves him. He dies of a heart attack.

Edgar - Gloucester's older son is initially fooled by his brother Edmund's lies to set him up, so Edgar disguises himself as poor Tom, a crazy beggar, during which time he reunites with his father, then ultimately kills his brother in a duel. He is left with Albany to rule in the end.

Edmund - Gloucester's bastard son who wants his father's inheritance, so he lies to his father and brother, allows his father to lose his eyes, fights and loses to Edgar in a duel and takes responsibility for Cordelia's death

Kent - loyal friend to King Lear who is banished for speaking the truth after Lear's bad decision to not give Cordelia any land. He returns later disguised as Caius to continue to advise Lear and reveals himself as Kent to receive a pardon before Lear dies. Kent is offered to help rule the kingdom but declines the invitation at the end.

Albany - husband of Goneril, who is a good person but waits too long to speak up and do what's right. He learns of his wife's unfaithfulness before her death. He is left to rule in the end.

Cornwall - husband of Regan who is very cruel and gouges out Gloucester's eyes. In retaliation he receives a wound from a servant that ultimately kills him.

Fool - Lear's jester who despite his songs and poems often tells Lear the truth about his decisions and tries to impart wisdom in the guise of nonsense

Oswald - steward of Goneril who is obedient until his death. He was told to kill Gloucester, so he tried, but Edgar killed him first, so he asks Edgar to deliver the letter to Edmund that Goneril wrote as his dying request.

Burgundy - duke initially interested in marrying Cordelia until he learns she will receive no dowry

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King Lear Quotes
King Lear Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 Summary
King Lear Act 1 Scenes 3-5 Summary
King Lear Summary
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King Lear Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2 Quiz
King Lear Act 1 Scenes 3-5 Quiz
King Lear Act 2 Quiz
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King Lear Act 4 Quiz
King Lear Act 5 Quiz
King Lear Act 2 Summary
King Lear Act 3 Summary
King Lear Act 4 Summary
King Lear Act 5 Summary
Literature Summaries
William Shakespeare Facts

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