a play by William Shakespeare first performed c. 1605. It is a tragedy about Lear, a British king who divides his land and possessions among his daughters. Lear foolishly gives a share each to the two older daughters, Regan and Goneril, who are greedy and cruel, but refuses to give anything to the youngest, Cordelia, who is honest and loyal, because she refuses to compete with her sisters in expressing her love for him. Regan and Goneril later treat Lear badly and Cordelia finally comes to rescue him with a French army. In the battle that follows, however, she is captured and killed. Lear dies too and the play ends. It is one of the greatest of Shakespeare's plays and is known for its speeches about the relationship between parents and children.