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The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

William Shakespeare , Stanley Wells
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 April 2008 Oxford World's Classics
The Oxford Shakespeare offers authoritative texts from leading scholars in editions designed to interpret and illuminate the plays for modern readers

- a new, modern-spelling text, based on the Quarto text of 1608
- on-page commentary and notes explain meaning, staging, allusions and much else
- detailed introduction considers composition, sources, performances and changing critical attitudes to the play
- illustrated with production photographs and related art
- includes 'The Ballad of King Lear' and related offshoots
- full index to introduction and commentary
- durable sewn binding for lasting use

'not simply a better text but a new conception of Shakespeare. This is a major achievement of twentieth-century scholarship.' Times Literary Supplement
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (17 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199535825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199535828
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.1 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Authors

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Product Description


'This is a supremely student-friendly edition that will have far-reaching implications. Teachers throughout the English-speaking world will soon begin adopting Wells's edition for their courses.' (Eric Rasmussen, Shakespeare Survey)

About the Author

Stanley Wells ran the Oxford Shakespeare Department within OUP while the Complete Works was in preparation. He is a former Director of the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ONCE upon a time, probably in 1605, a man called William Shakespeare, using a quill pen, wrote a play about the legendary British King Lear and his three daughters. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An alternative take 19 Dec 2010
By Jon Chambers VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We students of the 70s and 80s didn't realise how relatively simple things were back then (from a textual point of view, anyhow). Nowadays, when it comes to some of Shakespeare's seminal works, it isn't so much a question of which play we're studying as which version of the text. As Wells tells us in his introduction, the 'conflated' editorial tradition of combining the two early sources of 1608 (Quarto) and 1623 (Folio) was begun by Lewis Theobald in 1735 and followed right up until 1986. Wells himself was one of the series editors of the groundbreaking Oxford Collected Works of that year. This volume presented two different versions of King Lear, one based on the Quarto, the other on the Folio.

The thinking behind this illustrates changing attitudes. The Quarto is now seen as an early, working version of the play, not a 'corrupt' or 'unauthorised' one. The Folio meanwhile is viewed as a revised version, by Shakespeare or Shakespeare's company - the product of several years of performance, adaptation and rethinking. Wells bases this single-play Oxford Shakespeare on the Quarto, not because it is a superior text, but because his main rivals (ie Arden and New Cambridge) base their editions on the Folio. This fact alone makes Wells' version worth serious consideration.

Another advantage of this edition is that it includes The Ballad of King Lear. Although published in 1620 (ie some fifteen years or so after the play's composition) it might just cast light, Wells argues, upon some aspects of the play's early stage history. Moreover, here as elsewhere, The Oxford Shakespeare is alone in providing an index of unusual words and phrases used in the play. This excellent innovation helps the reader find the passage they're looking for without the need for a computer search.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the best paperback Lear available 11 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This is the best single-volume edition available of the most moving play ever written. Wells' introduction is wise, tactful, accessible and illuminating; the notes are helpful and unintrusive; and the text is well-presented and sensibly taken from the first, Quarto edition of the play. Certainly the edition to use if you're thinking about staging the play, as the Globe have already realized. A stunning feat of imaginative, empathetic scholarship.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quarto Only 24 Sep 2013
By 333R333
For starters, let me just say that King Lear is obviously one of the most profound masterpieces of human creative endeavor, and is obviously a work of such brilliance that a star rating would only trivialise it.

That out of the way, it's important to note that this is very specifically the HISTORY of King Lear; in other words, the significantly different Quarto version of the play, to which the Folio TRAGEDY of King Lear makes considerable alterations that in my humble opinion, make the quarto text inferior to the Folio text.

A simple example: when Lear, beginning to lose control over his daughters, asks; 'Who is it that can tell me who I am?' the Fool answers, 'Lear's shadow'. Its a brilliant bit of ambiguity wherein the Fool's cryptic response answers both 'who's?' of Lear's question - (who can answer me? & who am I?) - compounding their significance. The Fool is at once the one who 'shadows' Lear, both physically and psychologically, and provides the answer the Lear is slowly turning into a shadow of himself. It is a troubling piece of wordplay which brilliantly hints at Lear's failing grasp on himself and on reality. However, in the Quarto, Lear answers his own question; much of he ambiguity is lost. This and dozens of other small changes collectively point to the Folio text as the superior, indeed, authorially revised, work, and the one which should become the standard text.

Now, I won't carry on about the respective merits of the two versions, that is for readers to decide, but this edition doesn't even collect the variant readings in an appendix like the Oxford Hamlet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Problems with Kindle Edition 8 Dec 2012
By Mike
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Obviously there is nothing wrong with the play or this edition. However the Kindle format is useless. It display of the play text is confusing and jumbled with the notes throughout the play (I also had the same problem with a Kindle edition of Coriolanus). Therefore stick with the paperback until Amazon can get its act together and work this one out (N.B. becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Kindle)
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality of service and product 17 May 2011
This book arrived promptly and in perfect condition. It was offered at a reduced price and, in addition, there was no charge for the postage making it a very economical purchase.
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