King Lear is about a self-absorbed senior citizen who wants to retire. He wants others, particularly his daughters, to love him as much as he loves himself. He is willing to pay an army of men to carouse with him and this props up his belief in his own importance. He no longer wants the responsibility of running a kingdom.
Perhaps he devoted his whole life to his kingdom. Perhaps he was a good king, as he has some loyal followers, Kent for one. But King Lear is somewhat addled and mistaking his older daughters' fawning praise for love, he divides the kingdom between them.
His youngest daughter, Cordelia, really does love him, but will not buy into the division of the kingdom based on the one-off expression of love that he demands. She is banished, but has a husband who will love her for herself, not for her share of the kingdom.
In the opening scenes of King Lear, the noise of love is mistaken for the deeds and behaviours over time that prove love to be real. Intensity is mistaken for intimacy.
Lear, who is not aware of his failings and believes 100% in his impulses, banishes Kent and Cordelia and the play is off and running.
I am about to see a live performance of King Lear in a park in Vancouver. I will report back soon with an update - looking particularly at how love, both false and real, recognized and unrecognized, lead to the tragic outcomes of this play.
King Lear, Part 2 here. King Lear, Part 3 here.