There's a king and his name is Lear…and half of the other people in the play are related to him. Basically, he's a big deal.
Brain Snack: If you've ever gone digging around in Shakespeare archives, you may have noticed that there are two printed versions of Lear – the 1608 Quarto, entitled True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King LEAR and his three Daughters and the 1623 Folio, entitled The Tragedy of King Lear. Many critics believe that the 1608 Quarto is Shakespeare's first version of the play and that the 1623 Folio (which includes some substantial revisions) may have been put together by a group of actors. Some modern editions of the play (like the Norton Shakespeare) offer a "conflated" version, which just means the modern editors have shmooshed both versions of the play together to form one big "conflated" play. (Yep, that makes for one very lengthy read. Lucky for you we break down the "conflated" version of the play in our "Summary.")