Duke of Albany in Shakespeare's King Lear: Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

William Shakespeare's 'King Lear' is filled with greedy and ruthless characters. However, they're not all bad. Read about the Duke of Albany, Goneril's kind-hearted husband who survives the play's high body count and gets the opportunity to be king.

Flattery Rules

The mad King Lear, who is king of Britain, is ready to retire. He has three daughters and decides that the best way to divide his wealth is by playing a game where each of his daughters has to flatter the king. The game backfires. Lear winds up giving away all his wealth to the two daughters, Regan and Goneril, who only pretend to love him. Then he banishes the one daughter, Cordelia, who actually adores her father, just because she refuses to put into words how much she loves her dad.

Lear and his Daughters

Before the evil daughters receive Lear's riches, they must each marry. Goneril marries the Duke of Albany and Regan marries the Duke of Cornwall. Then they both plan and scheme to assure that King Lear loses everything, including what is left of his sanity.

Mr. Nice Guy

When Albany marries Goneril, he obviously becomes very rich and powerful. But unlike most of the characters in King Lear, Albany is actually a pretty nice guy. The play is filled with awful, greedy and power-hungry people who will do anything for control and wealth. This includes his wife Goneril, Lear's eldest daughter, who is both devious and cruel.

The Evil Daughters
Lears Daughters

Albany is the opposite of his wife. He is gentle and caring. He doesn't realize at the beginning of the play that his benevolence will be pitted against Goneril, the Duke of Cornwall and Regan. Each of those characters has their own agenda and wants all the wealth that the kingdom will hand them.

Albany doesn't know that he's also up against an equally power-hungry man named Edmund, the Lord of Gloucester's bastard son, with whom Goneril begins an affair. In fact, the two sisters both have their eye on the scheming Edmund, who pretends to be in love with both Goneril and Regan in order to better his chances that he will one day rule the kingdom. Goneril is so smitten with Edmund that she plans on killing Albany in order to get him out of the picture.

Stronger Than You Think

At first glance, it's easy to think that Albany is a weak character. He doesn't see the obvious greed of his wife, whom he seems to really love. 'I cannot be so partial, Goneril. To the great love I bear you.'

He also doesn't understand why Goneril is so mean to her dad, nor will she tell him. He knows that it's wrong that his wife mistreats Lear, but he doesn't know how to stand up to her.

Albany Tries to Help Lear

Albany's character experiences true growth throughout the play. He becomes stronger as the play progresses. In Act 1, he tells his wife that she is putting them in a bad situation when Goneril fights with Lear, but he still remains fairly meek. By Act 4, he is totally disgusted by Goneril's treatment of Lear. 'O Goneril, You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face.'

Albany Leads

Cordelia, who married the king of France, finds out how cruelly her father is being treated. She brings an army of French soldiers to Britain to help her dad. After Cornwall dies from a stab wound, Albany becomes the ruler of the British military.

Albany is forced to fight Cordelia's French army; he must protect the kingdom. However, he sympathizes with Cordelia and Lear. Albany even makes it a point to say that Lear should be respected and that the British forces are just fighting to protect themselves against the invading French soldiers. Therefore, he contends that if his troops capture Lear and Cordelia, he plans to show them mercy.

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