When Lear realises that his kingdom is plagued by hypocrisy, ingratitude, and vengeance, he rashly gives it away to his three daughters expecting that, in return, they will lovingly care for him during his retirement. In the process, he demands that his daughters describe the scope of their love for him and the two eldest comply effusively.
But his favourite, Cordelia, is made of better stuff and so refuses to take part in such baseless competition. Angered by what he perceives as Cordelia’s disloyalty, Lear banishes her from the kingdom.
Stripped of his title and possessions – all of which had once comprised his identity, Lear is forced for the first time in his life to look honestly in the mirror and he doesn’t like the reflection. The awful truth is that the two daughters who had once easily flattered him, have now viciously turned against him and unable to bear this reality, Lear slowly goes mad.
Meanwhile, when news arrives that Cordelia has raised an army of French troops that have landed at Dover, her wicked sisters ready their own troops and head off for Dover to confront her.
When Lear hears that Cordelia has been defeated, he takes hope in the promise that although now he and she will both be imprisoned, at least they will be united. However, when the order arrives, it is not for Cordelia’s imprisonment, but for her to be put to death, an order that is carried out moments before it is to be rescinded.
Lesson: Flattery is one thing but love is something altogether different. It is a fool that confuses one for the other