Synopsis: King Lear

Date posted: 5 Nov 2015Author: STC Production: King Lear

Colin Moody, Helen Thomson,Eryn Jean Norvill, Geoffrey Rush and Mark Leonard Winter in Sydney Theatre Company’s King Lear © Heidrun Löhr

King Lear decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. The youngest, Cordelia, unlike her sisters, refuses to make a public declaration of love for her father. She is disinherited and, without a dowry, is married by the King of France. The Earl of Kent defends her and is banished by Lear. 

The two elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, inherit the kingdom together with their husbands.

The Earl of Gloucester, deceived by his bastard son Edmund, disinherits his legitimate son, Edgar, who is forced to go into hiding to save his life.

Lear, now stripped of power, quarrels with both Goneril and Regan about the conditions on which he is to stay with them.

He goes out into a storm, accompanied by his Fool and by Kent, who has disguised himself as a servant to remain with Lear. They encounter Edgar, disguised as a mad beggar. Gloucester goes to help Lear but is betrayed by Edmund and captured by Regan and Cornwall who, as a punishment, put out his eyes.


Lear is taken secretly to Dover, where Cordelia has landed with a French army.

The blind Gloucester meets, but does not recognise, Edgar, who leads him to Dover. Lear and Cordelia are reconciled but in the ensuing battle are captured by Goneril and Regan’s forces.

Both Goneril and Regan are in love with Edmund. Discovering this, Goneril’s husband Albany forces Edmund to defend himself against the charge of treachery. A mysterious figure appears to challenge Edmund and, after fatally wounding him, reveals himself to be Edgar.

News arrives that Goneril has poisoned Regan and then committed suicide. Before dying, Edmund reveals that he has ordered the deaths of Lear and Cordelia.

Mark Leonard Winter, Geoffrey Rush, Eryn Jean Norvill and Helen Thomson in Sydney Theatre Company’s King Lear © Heidrun Löhr

This synopsis is part of the King Lear program, which also features:

  • a note from Artistic Director Andrew Upton
  • interviews with King Lear director Neil Armfield and actors Geoffrey Rush and Robyn Nevin
  • biographies and photos of the cast and crew
  • photos from the rehearsal room
  • and much more!

Pick one up at the theatre for only $10.


King Lear, 24 Nov 2015 - 9 Jan 2016, Sydney Theatre