King Lear decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters and subjects them to a love-test to find out which one loves him the most.
Edgar finds a safe place for his father while he joins the battle, but soon returns with news that the battle has been lost and Lear and Cordelia have been taken prisoner.
Poor Tom encounters Lear on the heath and Gloucester does not recognise him as his son when he arrives to help lead Lear to a safer place.
Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, plots against his brother Edgar and convinces his father that Edgar wants to usurp his authority.
Edmund tells Cornwall of his father's plans and of the French invasion and is made the new Earl of Gloucester by Cornwall.
On the eve of the battle, Edmund considers whether to marry Goneril or Regan and decides to get rid of Albany after the battle while making sure that Lear and Cordelia receive no mercy.
On the heath, Lear rages against the storm and against his unkind and ungrateful daughters, refusing to find shelter.
Lear is brought to the French camp and left in the care of a doctor under Cordelia's instructions.
Kent hears of a French invasion and sends news to Cordelia of all that is happening to Lear.
Goneril's servant, Oswald, gets into a fight with Kent and Kent is put in the stocks by Cornwall and Regan.
Edgar tricks the blind Gloucester into believing that he has led him up to the edge of a cliff and when Gloucester throws himself down, he describes his miraculous escape from death.
Albany rebukes Goneril for her fiendish behaviour, but she has transferred her affections to Edmund and Albany swears to revenge old Gloucester.
Cordelia and Lear meet and are reconciled as Lear tries to kneel to ask for her forgiveness.
Lear's Fool warns Lear against foolish behaviour and Lear becomes increasingly concerned that his daughters' disrespectful behaviour will make him go mad.
Lear holds a mock-trial of his two daughters, Gloucester arranges for him to be taken to Dover and Edgar determines to help the king escape.
Edgar finds a way to escape from the men who have been sent to catch him and disguises himself as a lunatic beggar called Poor Tom.
The banished Kent disguises himself and, offering his services to Lear, observes how Goneril and her servants mistreat the king.
Gloucester tells Edmund privately that he has had news of a French invasion and that he will leave the castle to help Lear.
Kent has news that Cordelia wept to hear about her father's treatment at the hands of her sisters and that the French army has assembled to come to his aid.
Poor Tom encounters his blinded father on the heath and Gloucester asks him to lead him to a high cliff so he can end his life.
Edmund and Edgar fight and as Edmund dies, after Goneril has poisoned Regan and then taken her own life, he tries to save Lear and Cordelia, but Cordelia has already been hung in the prison and Lear dies of a broken heart while carrying her dead body.
Lear confronts Cornwall and Regan after Kent has been put in the stocks and they try to convince him to ask Goneril's forgiveness, but he refuses and is driven out into a wild storm.
Cornwall and Regan punish Gloucester by gouging out his eyes and Cornwall is injured by a servant who tries to stop him.
Goneril begins to be disrespectful towards her father and demands that he reduce his train of followers if he wants to live with her.
Edmund convinces his father that Edgar intends to murder him and Gloucester vows to bring him to justice, making Edmund his legitimate son and causing Edgar to flee for his life.
Regan convinces Goneril's servant, Oswald, to help her to win Edmund's affections and kill his father Gloucester.