King Lear:Thinking himself old before his time, King Lear allows his vanity to get the better of him when he asks his daughters to publicly declare their love for him. When his plan goes awry and one of his daughters refuses to do it, he cuts her off and leaves her powerless. He divides up Britain between his other two daughters, Regan and Goneril, only to later find out they don’t want him around. Pushed to insanity because of his decision, he learns to hate his two daughters who outwardly spoke their love for him, and love the daughter who refused. Shakespeare shows Lear to have an extremely passionate nature that leads him into trouble that can harm his himself and his comrades.
Goneril: The eldest of his daughters, Goneril is the first to start the disagreements with her father. Once he relinquishes control to her, she loses her need for him, and with it, her love. She is greedy and devious, planning to kill her own husband, the Duke of Albany, to take another man. She is also shown to be cruel and envious.
Regan: Much like her sister Goneril, Regan is exceptionally greedy. When her father comes to her for aide, she turns him away and rejoices in his being trapped out in the storm. Also like her sister she has a cruel nature in that she cheers for her husband putting out the Earl of Gloucester’s eyes. Also like her sister, she is envious and deceitful which becomes the death of her when Goneril poisons her. When her husband, the Duke of Cornwall dies, she shoes no remorse and quickly seeks the marry Edmund.
Cordelia: The King’s youngest daughter who Shakespeare shows to have the best character. When she refuses to profess her love to her father, he leaves her without a dowry, but instead of being bitter and greedy, she accepts it and marries the King of France. She is outraged by her sister’s treatment of their father, and strives only to make amends with the man she loves.
Duke of Albany: Goneril’s husband who is nobler than her brother in law, the Duke of Cornwall is. Albany does not agree with the way his wife treated Lear or Gloucester, and though he fought against Cordelia, he is one of the less cruel and greedy characters in the play.
Duke of Cornwall: Opposite of the Duke of Albany, Regan’s husband is greedy and exceptionally cruel. He delights in popping out Gloucester’s eyes. He rewards Edmund for his betrayal of his father, and dies because of his cruelty.
Earl of Gloucester: Like King Lear, the Earl is an older man who is a terrible judge of character. He tries to help the king when he is in need, and is punished for his efforts by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. When he realizes he made a mistake about his son, he is filled with sorrow and regret for his treatment of him.
Edmund : The Earl of Gloucester’s bastard son who is the greediest of all of the characters. He strives to destroy his legitimate brother and then his father to gain their title and their wealth. He wins their trust and then destroys them. After he achieves this, he also promises himself to both Regan and Goneril, which causes a rift between the women that ends in their death. It was on his orders also that Cordelia was hanged which leads to the death of King Lear.
Edgar: The legitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, Edgar is tricked by his brother and hunted by his father for crimes he didn’t commit. In attempts to save his life, he hides out as a mad beggar and befriends King Lear. When his father leaves the castle with no eyes, he leads him to Dover and prevents him from committing suicide. He informs the Duke of Albany of the treacherous nature of his half brother, and challenges him to a duel for his crimes.
Kent: One of the wiser characters in the play, Kent is a noble who Lear dismisses when he shows displeasure at the treatment of Cordelia. Loyal to his king, he disguises himself and again enters his service. He fights with Oswald over the king’s treatment, and remains one of the only main characters at the end of the play alive and unhurt.
Oswald: Servant to Goneril who dies delivering letters for Edmund.
King of France: Suitor to Cordelia before and after she loses her dowry, the King of France sees that she is a good catch.
Duke of Burgundy: A suitor to Cordelia that abandons his suit when she loses her dowry.
Fool: As often happens in Shakespeare’s plays, the Fool is one of the wiser characters in the play. He realizes immediately the mistake King Lear makes with his daughter, but still serves him out of loyalty.