King Lear Knows Best

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Georgina Palma
Sep 20, 2023
 by Georgina Palma on Drama Notebook


16 characters, approximately 25 minutes running time. Modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, written by Olivia Arieti.

King Lear finally has a happy ending! In this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Lear comes to his senses before it’s too late. Tell the real story of King Lear, and then have students compare the two resolutions. Hold a class discussion about how each play ends and discuss the merits of both.

Olivia Arieti is a US citizen with a degree from the University of Pisa, lives in Torre del Lago Puccini, Italy, with her family. Her plays have been published by Heuer Publishing, Brooklyn Publishers, Desert Road Publishing, JAC Publishing & Promotions, Independent Playwrights, Green Room Scripts, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, USA and Lazy Bee Scripts, UK. THE TEACHER, an adaptation of A. Chekhov’s story, “The Teacher of Literature”, was produced at the Viaduct Theatre, Chicago, for the Neapolitans Off-Chekhov Festival. SOMETHING IN COMMON was produced by Spokane Radio Theatre, WA. Her poems and short stories have appeared in several literary magazines and anthologies in the USA and UK. You can find her other plays, Santa Claus and the Naughty Gnomes, A Christmas Surprise For Daddy, The Old Woman’s Ring, The Fiddler’s Bride and Scrooge’s Christmas Eve on Drama Notebook’s Script Library.

Excerpt from the Play:

GONERIL – Lear’s oldest daughter
REGAN – Lear’s middle daughter
CORDELIA – Lear’s youngest daughter
GLOUCESTER – A nobleman. Lear’s friend
EDGAR – Gloucester’s son
EDMUND – Gloucester’s illegitimate son
DUKE OF ALBANY – Goneril’s husband
DUKE OF CORNWALL – Regan’s husband
KING OF FRANCE – Cordelia’s suitor
DUKE OF BURGUNDY – Cordelia’s suitor
KENT – A nobleman
TAMARA – Cordelia’s maidservant

King Lear’s palace. The heath.
Scene 1: The throne hall.
Scene 2: The heath.
Scene 3: The throne hall.

Duration: 25 minutes.

PROPS: A tube of Ketchup, a handkerchief (EDMUND), a sword (ALBANY), a sword (EDGAR)


At rise: LEAR is pacing the floor. KENT, GLOUCESTER enter.

KENT (bows)
Have you summoned us, Milord?

Our services to your Majesty.

My noblemen and dearest friends, I have called you because after deep thinking, I have come to a resolution which I’m sure shall be good for my kingdom.

And the resolution, Sire?

I need some relaxation time…let’s say, a vacation so I shall step down the throne and divide my kingdom among my daughters.

KENT (gasps)
Among your daughters? Please come back to your senses, your Majesty, the girls aren’t fit to reign, they spend all their time trying on gowns, jewels and going to balls.

I do not like being contradicted, Earl.

Cordelia only spends time in the library.

Filling her head with foolishness.

With knowledge, Sire, but she is still too young to reign.

The kingdom is mine and I’ll do whatever I want. I’ve heard about a new world, full of beautiful beaches, bananas, coconuts, and lots of pretty queens on holiday. Why not be the first to go there?

Sire, please.

Rain, rain, rain, we only have rain here in England.

We also have hail and snow, Sire.

I want sunshine and lots of fun, folks.

KENT (lowly)
Oh my, he’s gone mad.

The matter is not simple, my Lord.

You’re about my age, Gloucester, why won’t you come with me?

For heaven’s sake, your Majesty, spare me!

The duke of Albany and the duke of Cornwall will have their shares of power too. Have you considered that?

They are two valuable fellows, much better than their wives, trust me. See this white hair? It’s all wisdom, Sirs, all wisdom.

KENT (lowly)
Wouldn’t be too sure…

LEAR (loudly)
Servant! Servant!

KENT, GLOUCESTER raise their arms, helpless.

SERVANT enters.

Have my daughters come at once. I also want their husbands, the duke of Albany, the duke of Cornwall and our guests, the king of France and duke of Burgundy to listen to what I have to say.

Yes, your Majesty. (exits hurriedly)

And now my good men, let’s discuss a few details before those silly girls show up. Follow me.


Wonder where father is. The servant made such haste.

EDMUND enters.

My dear Cordelia, what a pleasant vision.

Don’t waste your tongue on flattery, Edmund. The only guy I care for is my father, your king.

You can’t fool me, I’m sure you have some feelings for the king of France as well. If you should marry him, however could I survive without the sight of your pretty face? You know you are my favorite princess.

You silly boy.


GONERIL (annoyed)
Where’s father? I haven’t even finished brushing my hair.

Let me say that you are even lovelier, your Highness.

Why, thank you, Edmund.

And I didn’t have the time to change my gown.

Nothing would be more becoming on you, Princess Regan.

That’s very kind of you.

And now I will take leave from such sweet creatures as I’ve heard the king has gathered you here for important matters. (bows, exits)

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