King Lear of Britain has three daughters - Goneril who is married to the Duke of Albany, Regan, married to the Duke of Cornwall, and Cordelia who is unmarried, but has a number of suitors.
King Lear divides his kingdom amongst his three daughters and demands from each an assurance of love for him. Both Goneril, the eldest, and Regan, the middle daughter, satisfy Lear's demands and are given their portion of the land. Cordelia, the youngest daughter, refuses to participate in what she views as a false public showcase. Lear is angered by her reply and disowns her, giving her share of the kingdom to her sisters.
The Earl of Kent is disturbed by what he witnesses and tries to change the King's mind. Lear, exploding in fury at Kent's intervention, banishes him as well. One of her suitors, the King of France is so moved by Cordelia's honesty that he promises to marry her, even without a dowry.
Edmund, the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, plots to turn his father against his legitimate brother Edgar.
Kent, in disguise, is taken on as a servant to King Lear. Lear vows to spend alternate months with Regan and Goneril, but the two elder sisters plan to mistreat him. Arriving with his retinue at Goneril's, Lear is refused entry for his hundred knights. He curses her and departs for Regan. Goneril sends a letter to Regan and by the time Lear arrives, Regan and Cornwall have left their home. Gloucester and his house are overtaken by Regan. Edgar, who has been tricked by Edmund, flees the house fearful for his life and outlawed by his father.
Kent is put into the stocks by Regan for being rude to Oswald. When Lear is furious with Regan and Goneril for treating his servants so badly, they reply that he no longer needs any knights. Lear, Kent and the Fool leave in the night and hide in a farmhouse. They meet with Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom.
Cornwall, at the urging of Regan, blinds Gloucester for his loyalty to Lear. Edmund is lusted after by both Goneril and Regan. Cornwall is wounded by a servant. Gloucester, blind and bleeding, sets out. Edgar meets his father and guides him to Dover. When Gloucester wishes to jump from the cliff, Edgar tricks him and reveals his true identity. They meet with Lear and Cordelia, who has gathered a French army to fight for her father's kingdom.
In the fight against the armies of Regan and Goneril, Lear and Cordelia are captured. Edgar fights a battle with Edmund who is mortally wounded and reveals that he has given orders for Lear and Cordelia to be killed. Goneril, jealous of Regan's love for Edmund, poisons her sister and stabs herself. Edgar returns and tells of Gloucester's death. Lear enters with the dead body of Cordelia. Kent reveals his true identity to Lear. Believing that Cordelia is still alive, Lear dies. Albany asks Edgar and Kent to rule Britain with him.