“King Lear” is a tragic play written by William Shakespeare in 1605. It is based off on a mythological story about a pre-Roman Celtic King named Leir of Britain. The play was performed for the first time on St. Stephen’s Day in 1606. The ending was changed to be less tragic after the English Restoration of 1660.
King Lear is a man who has fought wars for most of his life. He wants to retire, so he thinks to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, but, he wants to keep his power, just not the responsibilities. He sets out a contest. The daughter who loves him the most can have the best inheritance. His two oldest daughters flatter him grandly. And he loves their empty praises, but when he asks his youngest, and favorite daughter, she tells him the truth. She loves him as a daughter should love her father. He is angry and disowns her.
Lear gives his kingdom to his other two daughters, who promptly try to take his power as well. As his daughters become more cruel to him, he loses his mind. His country is thrown into the war with France. His two daughters against his youngest daughter, who wed the King of France.
In the end, his oldest daughter kills the middle sister and her self, over their desire for a man, and his youngest daughter is hung by that man. Although the war is won by the Brits, Lear loses his daughters, his kingdom, his sanity and last, his life.
Act 1 Scene 1
King Lear’s Palace
The play starts with the Earl of Kent, the Earl of Gloucester, and his bastard son, Edmund. The two earls are talking and Kent asks Gloucester to introduce his son. Gloucester says that even though he is a bastard, he still loves him. Next enters King Lear, the Duke of Cornwall, and the Duke of Albany. Also, King Lear’s daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, with various attendants. King Lear has decided to give up his kingly duties and spend his old age visiting his daughter’s in their households. Before he decided how to proportion his holdings out, he asks each daughter to tell him which of them loves him most. To that daughter he will give the largest portion.
Regan and Goneril spend many verses telling their father how much they love him, “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter.” says Goneril, and “I find she names my very deed of love, Only she comes very short.” professes Regan. But, when he asks Cordelia, she tells him that she loves him as much as a daughter should love her father, “no more nor less”. She also wants to know how her sisters can give all their love to their father when they each have husbands. Don’t their husbands deserve at least half their love?
Lear is furious. He splits his kingdom up between Regan and Goneril, but leaves Cordelia with nothing. “Nothing will come of nothing.” Lear is heartbroken because he loved Cordelia the most and expected more profusions of love from her. Kent tries to get the king to change his mind, but it is set. The more Kent, who has been a loyal servant for years, tries to tell the king that his two oldest daughters are scheming against him, and not to be swayed by their flattery, the more angry the king becomes. Finally, he tells Kent that he has six days to leave the kingdom.
The Duke of Burgundy and King France have both been petitioning for Cordelia’s hand, but when King Lear informs them that not only has he disinherited her, but she has no dowry, the Duke of Burgundy pulls out. The King of France, however, finds her honesty intriguing and offers to marry her. King Lear gives her to him, without his blessing. Meanwhile, Regan and Goneril are scheming. They know they have control of the kingdom, but, they want to take away the rest of their father’s power.
Act 1 Scene 2
The Earl of Gloucester’s Castle
This scene starts out with a soliloquy by Edmund. His is jealous of his half-brother, Edgar, who is the legitimate heir of their father’s estate. Edmund begins to make plans to kill him. He begins his deadly deal by composing a letter in Edgar’s hand writing. The letter says that Edgar is plotting to kill their father, The Earl of Gloucester. Edmund makes to hide the note from his father, which makes him more curious. He insists on reading it, and is shocked but angry. Edmund’s next part of his plan is to tell Edgar that their father is angry at him, and he should carry his sword with him.
Act 1 Scene 3
The Duke of Albany’s Palace
King Lear’s first visit in his retirement, is to his daughter, Goneril. She complains about his knights, telling her steward, Oswald that they are noisy and obnoxious, as is her father. She seems to be trying to provoke a confrontation with her father, by ordering her servants to be rude to her father and his men.
Act 1 Scene 4
A Hall in the Duke of Albany’s Palace
Disguised as a peasant, named Caius, the Earl of Kent arrives at the palace. His honesty and plain talk, endear him to Lear, who brings him into his entourage. The King’s men begin to notice that Goneril’s servants won’t obey them, so Lear asks Oswald where his daughter is so he can have a few words with her about her unruly servants. Oswald ignores him and walks away. When he returns, he is so rude to the king, that he strikes him. Oswald runs away, but is tripped by Caius. Lear sends Oswald to fetch his daughter. The fool steps in and begins his act. In the middle of his comedy is the serious reminder that giving Goneril and Regan his kingdom was a bad idea.
Finally, Goneril enters and informs her father that his men have been disorderly and will have to leave. Lear is shocked. It is treason to treat the King with such disrespect. Goneril tells him that he will have to send away half his knights, at least. He has a hundred knights, and refuses. Lear leaves thinking that Regan will be more gracious and respectful. When he leaves, the Duke of Albany asks Goneril why she was so rude. He is worried, but she says she will send a letter to her sister, and she will ask the same of their father.
Act 1 Scene 5
Court of Duke Albany’s Castle
King Lear gives a message to Caius to deliver to Gloucester. The fool teases Lear about his decision to give his kingdom to his duplicitous daughter. He thinks Regan will treat him the same way Goneril did. The King prays to the heavens that he does not go mad.
Act 2 Scene 1
The Earl of Gloucester’s Castle
Edmund has a spy in his father’s castle. Can a courtier informs him that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan are on their way. He also tells him that he has heard rumors there is discord between Cornwall and Albany.
Sneaky Edmund finds his brother and tells him that the Duke of Cornwall is on his way and he is upset with him for taking the Duke of Albany’s side in their dispute. Edgar has no idea what he is talking about. Then Edmund tells Edgar that their father is on the way and they pull out their swords to put on a show of fighting. Then Edgar flees. Before his father arrives, Edmund cuts his arm with his sword and tells his father that he was cut while trying to protect him from Edgar. Gloucester orders his men to hunt Edgar. When Cornwall and Regan arrive, she speculates that Edgar is one of Lear’s knights, and therefore was put to the idea of killing Gloucester by Lear’s knights, in order to gain his father’s wealth. Then she asks Gloucester to give her advice on answering letters she has received from her father and sister, Goneril.
Act 2 Scene 2
Before Gloucester’s Castle
When Caius, alias, Kent, arrives at the castle, the first person he sees is Oswald. Caius (Kent) is livid at the man’s rudeness and attacks him. The Duke of Cornwall has Caius(Kent) sent to the stocks, and Gloucester thinks it is a bad idea to imprison the messenger of the King. They put him in the stocks, anyway. After everyone leaves, Caius (Kent) takes out a letter he received from Cordelia. She says that she is going to try to improve conditions in Britain from France.
Act 2 Scene 3
Edgar has evaded capture. He decides to disguise himself. He will pose as Tom, a weak minded man who has escaped from an asylum. This happens sometimes, and the people wander around in the woods seeking food and shelter.
Act 2 Scene 4
Before Gloucester’s Castle, Caius (Kent) is in the Stocks
Lear arrives at the castle with one knight and his fool. When he sees Caius (Kent) in the stocks he is shocked. When he demands to know who would do such a thing to his messenger, her is informed it was Regan and Cornwall. Lear calls for them, but they refuse to see him. They claim to be ill, and he thinks maybe that is why they have behaved so strangely. When his daughter does finally appear, Lear tells her of her sister’s rudeness. Regan tells him that maybe she was right. He is old and unreasonable. She suggests he return to Goneril and ask for forgiveness.
When his daughter does finally appear, Lear tells her of her sister’s rudeness. Regan tells him that maybe she was right. He is old and unreasonable. She suggests he return to Goneril and ask for forgiveness. When Lear asks Regan to let him stay with her, she refuses. As he is cursing Goneril, she appears. Regan knew she was coming and the two sisters unite against their father. They tell him that he is weak and feeble. If he wants to stay with either of them, he will have to give up half of his knights. He asks Regan if he can stay with her, but she tells him, he can only have twenty five servants if he does. Then he tells Goneril he will go down to fifty, but she says that deal is off the table. She will not allow him that many servants. Soon, though, they both agree that he can’t have any servants. Furious, Lear leaves. He goes out into the storm and Gloucester begs the daughters to allow him inside out of the weather. But, they refuse and bar the door.
Act 3 Scene 1
Caius, (Kent) comes to the heath in the storm searching for Lear. First he finds a knight, who tells him the king is nearby. Caius (Kent) tells the knight that he overheard talk in the castle that Albany and Cornwall are disagreeing and that France has spies in the English courts. Caius (Kent) sends the knight to Dover, England, which is closest to the French border. There he will find friends for Lear. He gives the knight a ring to show to Cordelia. It will vouch for the man, and let her know who needs help. As the knight leaves, Caius (Kent) continues to search for the King.
Act 3 Scene 2
Another part of the Heath, the storm still rages
When Caius (Kent) finally finds the king, he is ranting about his daughters while he paces at the river’s edge. The Fool is there, too, and is asking him to grovel at his daughter’s feet, so they can get in from the cold. When Caius (Kent) finds them, he urges them to seek shelter with him in a near by hovel. As they enter the hovel, the Fool gives a confusing prophesy.
“When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors;
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors;
When every case in law is right;
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues;
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold I’ the field;
And bawds and whore do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.
Then comes the time, who lives to see’t,
That going shall be used with feet.”
Act 3 Scene 3
Gloucester and Edmund are talking. Gloucester is uncomfortable with the treatment of King Lear by his daughters and Cornwall. When he asked them if he could go out to search for the king and help him in the storm, they forbid it. Taking control of his castle, they ordered him to never speak to the king or make a request on his behalf, again.
Gloucester tells his son about the rumors of a conflict between Albany and Cornwall. He also tells him the French are coming. He must find the king with this information. Gloucester tells Edmund not to tell Cornwall where he is going, as it would probably get him killed. He tells Edmund there is a letter in his room with information about the French invasion. This is the chance Edmund has been waiting for. He immediately tells Cornwall that both his father and brother are aiding King Lear, and he tells him about the letter about the French. Edmund thinks that with his father and brother’s deaths he will inherit.
Act 3 Scene 4
The heath, before a hovel
Caius (Kent) is trying to convince the king to enter the hovel, but, he refuses, choosing instead to spend the time on his knees in prayer. He thinks about the poor that have no protection from the elements. But, he does send the Fool in to shelter.
The Fool promptly comes running out. Tom O’Bedlam (Edgar) is chasing him out. Tom (Edgar) plays the part of the mad man. He says that demons are after him. Lear asks him if bad daughters have been his down fall as well. Lear is losing his hold on sanity. Lear asks Tom (Edgar) what he was before he lost his mind. The man says he was a courtier who spent time with sex and drink. That is when Lear notices Tom (Edgar) is naked, and proceeds to take off his own clothes.
When Gloucester finally finds the group, he tries to convince the king to come back to the castle with him. Lear says he will, but only if he can bring his new friend, Tom (Edgar) with him.
Act 3 Scene 5
Edmund is up to more tricks. He and Cornwall are in this scene. Cornwall is incensed because Gloucester left, and because he saw the letter Gloucester received saying that the French are coming, and he is on their side. Edmund acts like he is repelled by his father’s supposed treason. But, in truth, he is happy. He now has the powerful Cornwall on his side. Cornwall gives Edmund his father’s title, then sends him to find his father. Edmund hopes to find him helping the king, which would be just the nail in he coffin he needs.
Act 3 Scene 6
A Chamber in a Farm House Adjoining the Castle
Gloucester, King Lear, the Fool, Caius (Kent) and Tom (Edgar) all come to a little farm house near Gloucester’s castle. He asks them to wait there, while he searches for food. Lear is losing his grip on sanity more and more. He holds a mock trial for his daughters and has Caius (Kent), Tom (Edgar) and the Fool preside. Tom (Edgar) and the Fool both talk like mad men. Gloucester soon returns with frightening news. He has overheard a plot to kill the King. He asks Caius (Kent) to escort the King to Dover, where there are allies to care for him. Caius (Kent), the King, Gloucester and the Fool leave, but Tom (Edgar) remains behind. He speaks to the audience in his regular voice about how trivial his problems seem when up against King Lear’s.
Act 3 Scene 7
Cornwall gives the letter saying that the French are in Dover, to Goneril to give to her husband, Albany. The he tells Edmund to go with her, he plans to punish his father, and doesn’t want him to witness it. Then he sends men out to find Gloucester. Oswald tells them that Gloucester helped the King escape to Dover. When they capture Gloucester, Cornwall and Regan tie him up. They insult and abuse him. Cornwall says he can’t kill the man without a trial, but he can torture him. When Gloucester swears that he will see his King avenged, Cornwall says he won’t see anything and tears his eye out. Regan insists he remove the other eye, too.
A servant of Gloucester’s steps in saying he cannot stand by and allow this to happen. He and Cornwall fight with swords, until the servant stabs Cornwall. Regan grabs a sword and kills him before he can finish Cornwall off. Then Cornwall takes out Gloucester’s other eye. Gloucester screams for Edmund to help him, but Regan smugly tells him that it was Edmund who betrayed him. Cornwall and Regan leave to treat his wounds, with orders for Gloucester to be thrown out of the house so he can smell his way to Dover. Gloucester’s servants take the time to tend to his wounds before they turn him over to the mad beggar, Tom (Edgar) to lead him away.
Act 4 Scene 1
Tom (Edgar) is pacing about, thinking he doesn’t really have it that bad, when an old man leads his father to him. He overhears his father say to the old man, that he only wishes he could touch his son, Edgar, one last time. When they reach Tom (Edgar), he asks the old man to give Tom (Edgar) some clothes and then he asks Tom (Edgar) to lead him to Dover, or to the top of the highest cliff.
Act 4 Scene 2
Before the Duke of Albany’s Palace
Goneril and Edmund arrive at the courtyard of her palace. She says that she is surprised her husband didn’t meet them part way. Oswald tells her that her husband is not pleased with the way she and her sister treated the King, and he is glad the French are coming, and is not glad Goneril is coming home, he says it is, “The worse”.
Goneril realizes she has lost her husband as an ally. She tells Edmund to go back to Cornwall and ready his troops for the French. She will take over her husband’s troops and meet them. Then she tells Edmund she will send Oswald with messages and gives Edmund a kiss goodbye. She hints to him that she will become his mistress after all this is done.
After Edmund leaves, Albany comes to Goneril. He is furious at her and her sister for driving the King mad. She calls him a coward and tells him to prepare to battle the French invaders. While they are arguing, a messenger comes up with news that the Duke of Cornwall died from the wound he received while tearing out Gloucester’s eyes. Albany is appalled at what Cornwall did to Gloucester, and thinks it is divine vengeance. Goneril just thinks that, now her sister is less powerful, but free to pursue Edmund. She leaves to answer her sister’s letters. Asking where Edmund was while this was going on, Albany is informed that Edmund is the one who betrayed his father, and left knowing full well what they had planned. Albany vows revenge on Edmund and will help Gloucester.
Act 4 Scene 3
The French Camp Near Dover
This scene opens with Caius (Kent) speaking with French gentlemen. Caius (Kent) is informed that the King and Queen of France arrived in England, but the King was called away on a family emergency. He left the Queen (Cordelia) in charge of the army. When asked how she received his letters the Gentleman tells Caius (Kent) that she wept when she heard of her father’s mistreatment. Caius (Kent) tells the gentleman that King Lear is in Dover also, but wavers between sanity and insanity. He is also ashamed to face Cordelia after all he did to her. The gentlemen tell him that their information is that the troops of Albany and Cornwall are marching to oppose the French.
Act 4 Scene 4
The French Camp, a Tent
After hearing that King Lear has hidden himself in the cornfields and covered himself in weeds to hide, where he is singing songs, Cordelia sends her men to find him and bring him to her. She consults a doctor on the possibility of his sanity returning. The doctor informs her that the King needs rest and he has some drugs that will aid in that. A messenger enters informing Cordelia the English troops are nearing. Her French troops stand ready.
Act 4 Scene 5
Regan and Oswald are talking in this scene. Oswald tells Regan that Albany’s army has finally set out. It seems Goneril is a better commander than her husband. Oswald has a letter he is carrying from Goneril to Edmund, and Regan wants to know what is in it. Oswald refuses to give it to her, but Regan can guess that it is a love letter. She tells Oswald that she wants Edmund, and their match would be better, because she is a widow, so it would not be adultery. Then she gives Oswald a token to give Edmund from her. Her last part of the conversation is to offer Oswald a reward if he will kill Gloucester.
Act 4 Scene 6
Fields near Dover
Tom (Edgar) leads Gloucester to Dover. He tells the old man that they are on a cliff, even though they are not, and he can hear the ocean. Gloucester says a prayer for forgiveness, but says he can no longer go on. Then he jumps from what he thinks is a cliff and faints. When Gloucester regains consciousness, Edgar claims to be a gentleman, who saw the old man jump from a cliff and survive. Edgar tells him that the gods want him to survive and that he creature standing next to him at the top of the cliff was a demon. Gloucester decides to accept the decision of the gods and endure his sufferings. Soon, Lear finds them and is wearing a crown of wildflowers. He is babbling about sins and is sounding mad.
Cordelia’s men find Lear and try to take him to her, but he runs away. They give chase. Leaving Edgar and Gloucester behind. Oswald comes across the two of them and tries to kill Gloucester for the reward he was offered. Edgar takes on the persona of a tough peasant and kills Oswald with a cudgel. Before he dies, Oswald entrusts Edgar with the letters. Edgar reads the letters and sees that Goneril is asking Edgar to kill her husband, Albany, so they can be together. Edgar is outraged and vows to show the letter to Albany. Then he buries Oswald and takes his father to safety.
Act 4 Scene 7
A Tent in the French Camp
Lear is on a bed asleep while soft music is playing. Gentleman and others are attending. When he awakens, King Lear is taken to Cordelia, where she forgives him for banishing her. She will not mistreat him as her sisters did. Then they hear that Cornwall is dead and Edmund is leading his troops.
Act 5 Scene 1
The British Camp, near Dover
The scene begins with Regen asking Edmund if he has been with her sister. She wants to know if he loves Goneril. He denies both questions. Albany and Goneril arrive. Albany says that Lear is in the French camp, as are some others that have legitimate grievances with them. But he will fight with Edmund and Regan and Goneril. Since Goneril and Regan each want Edmund, they will not leave the other alone with him. The three of them leave together, but before Albany can leave also, he is stopped by Edgar, who is in disguise as a peasant. He gives Albany the letter he got off Oswald. Then he tells him that if he wants to act on it after the battle, to sound a horn and he will come to assist.
Edmund returns after Edgar leaves and tells Albany the battle is almost there. Then Edmund addresses the audience. He says that he has pledged his love to both women, and will sort it out after the battle is over. If Goneril wants her Albany dead, she can do it herself. And, if Britain wins, and he captures Lear and Cordelia, he will not be merciful.
Act 5 Scene 2
A Field Between the Two Camps
Edgar leaves Gloucester under a tree, while he joins the battle. Soon, he returns and tells his father, the Brits won. Lear and Cordelia have been captured. Gloucester wants to wait there to be captured, also. But, Edgar convinces him his time is not here yet.
Act 5 Scene 3
The British Camp Near Dover
Edmund has Cordelia and Lear as prisoners. Although she expects to confront her sisters, Edmund tells a guard what to do with them, and they are led off. Albany, Goneril, and Regan come in. They ask where the prisoners are, but Edmund says he had them sent away. Regan is not feeling well, but she declares Edmund her husband. Albany confronts Edmund and Goneril on the note and challenges Edmund. Albany blows his horn to call in his champion.
Edgar comes in dressed in armor. He and Edmund fight, Edgar wins. Then he reveals himself to everyone. He tells them that when he told his father who he was, the man died with joy and sadness. A man runs in with a bloody knife. He tells them that Goneril killed herself after poisoning Regan. Then Kent enters and asks for Lear. They ask Edmund, who Albany asked Edgar to leave alive for questioning. He repents his many crimes and tells them that he ordered Cordelia hung. He quickly sends a messenger to stop the execution.
Lear enters carrying Cordelia’s dead body. The messenger was too late, and he has lost his sanity. A messenger enters to say that Edmund is dead. Then Lear asks Edgar to loosen Cordelia’s button and when he thinks he sees her take a breath, he dies. Albany gives Kent and Edgar their titles back. Edgar accepts, but Kent is too tired to keep going, he refuses. The survivors leave the stage while the funeral march plays.
King Lear – king Lear has spent his life at war. He is the King of Britain and is very powerful. Lear is used to being feared and loved. But, he doesn’t understand what real love is. When the King decides to retire, he thinks to maintain his power, without the responsibilities. He wants to split his kingdom up between his daughters but makes it into a contest of who loves him more. He believes his two oldest daughters when they ply him with flattery, but, not his youngest daughter when she is honest. As the truth comes to him, he slowly loses his mind, along with his kingdom.
Cordelia – king Lear’s youngest daughter. She refuses to flatter her father to the extent her sisters do. She is honest with him, and there fore brings his wrath. Her father disowns her, but her honesty makes the King of France marry her, even with out a dowry. She forgives her father for his cruelty, and as the Queen of France leads her troops into battle.
Goneril – king Lear’s oldest daughter. She is aggressive and power hungry. She is the wife of the Duke of Albany and tries to take his army from him while making plans to kill him so she can be with her lover. She is jealous, ruthless and amoral. She mentally tortures her father after declaring her undying love for him. In the end, she poisons her sister, Regan, then when she realizes her husband knows of her plans to have him killed so she can be with Edmund, she kills her self.
Regan – king Lear’s middle daughter. She is the wife of the Duke of Cornwall. She is as ruthless as Goneril and blood thirsty. She helps her husband tear out an old man’s eyes, then kills the man who defends the old man. She and Goneril compete for the everything, they compete for their father’s kingdom, trying to top each other with empty flattering, and they compete for Edmund. Regan declares him her husband after the Duke of Cornwall dies.
Edmund – the villain in the play. He is the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester. Even though he has his father’s love, he wants to inherit his properties. But, the legitimate son, Edgar, will inherit. Edmund hatches a plan to discredit his half-brother and has him executed, preferably by their father. Then he allows his father to be tortured. In the end, he is responsible for the deaths of all three sisters. He dies after battling his half-brother in a sword fight. As he is dying, he tries to repent his crimes.
Edgar – the legitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester. Edgar is smart and brave. He is falsely accused of trying to kill his father, so he disappears into the woods until the matter can be investigated. He poses as the mad beggar, Tom. And, later he poses as a gentleman, then a peasant. Last, he wears a suit of armor to anonymously fight his half-brother, Edmund.
William Shakespeare Biography
Born the son of a glove maker and a rich landowner in 1564, William Shakespeare did not grow up in poverty. He attended good schools and learned all the basics a well rounded young man of means required. But, studying all the great play wrights led to the stage. He was one of eight children and the oldest surviving son, so turning to a career in the theater would not have been what was expected of a well brought up Englishmen, but, Shakespeare was a bit of a rebel.
At the age of 18, he suddenly married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. Six months later they became parents of their first daughter, Susanna. Later they had twins, Judith and Hamnet, but young Hamnet died at the age of 11.
Most scholars feel their marriage might not have been very happy. In his will, written days before his death, Shakespeare only left his wife his “second best bed”. Whether his marriage was ideal, or not, his career as a playwright, director, producer and actor of plays was auspicious.
By the age of 28, in 1592, Shakespeare had already advanced enough in his career to get billing at a London theater. Only two years later, 1594, his plays were only performed by ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’, a troupe on the rise in London. Until her death in 1603 Queen Elizabeth I was his patron. She was a great fan of his work, and although she never visited his theater, he and his troupe gave private performances for her at the palace. After her death her heir King James I became his patron, and the troupe’s name was then changed to ‘The King’s Men”.
‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ and later, ‘The King’s Men were very popular and successful. In 1599 they built the ‘Globe Theater’ by the River Thames (which was destroyed by fire in 1613 and rebuilt in 1614) and in 1608 went on to take over the ‘Blackfriars Theater’. Both theaters were closed in 1642 due to the start of the English Civil War.
Although some scholars question the complete authenticity of Shakespeare’s plays, he is responsible for some of the greatest plays in history, including, but no where near limited to, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘Richard III’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘As You Like It’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘Julius Caesar’ (rumored to be based on a Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, translated by Sir Thomas North in 1579).
As an actor, Shakespeare often took to the stage to perform in his own plays. He is said to have played the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the part of Adam in ‘As You Like It’. In plays by Ben Johnson, he is also listed on the cast lists for ‘Every Man in His Humor’ and ‘Sejanus His Fall’, among others.
The theater was Shakespeare’s life. He had a hand in every aspect of it, from designing the building to choosing props. Even during the years of frequent outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in London between 1603 and 1610, when the theaters were often closed, he kept writing and working. Then on the 23rd of April in 1603, purportedly after a drinking binge, the world lost one of the greatest playwrights of all time. He was only 52 years old and had signed his will only a month prior. He was survived by two married daughters and a wife. Most of his estate was left to his oldest daughter, Susanna, with the stipulation that it be given to the ‘first son of her body’. She had three children who all died without marrying, and his daughter, Judith one child who never had children, either. So, Shakespeare’s (legitimate) line ended. But, not his legacy.
To this day, the plays of Shakespeare have been and are being performed all over the world. His plays are one of the most unifying forces throughout history. Dictators, saints, scholars and dunces can almost all recite at least one line from his plays. Admirers tour his grave sight in Holy Trinity Church to read his epitaph or curse, depending on how it’s viewed, “Good Friend, For Jesus’ sake Forbear/ To dig the dust enclosed here./ Blessed be the man that spares these stones,/ And cursed be he that moves my bones”. When the restoration of the church was performed in 2008, his grave was not touched.