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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An alternative take
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...
Published on 19 Dec 2010 by Jon Chambers

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quarto Only
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...
Published 15 months ago by 333R333


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An alternative take, 19 Dec 2010
By 
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
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.

Despite unpromising beginnings ('Once upon a time, probably in 1605, a man called William Shakespeare, using a quill pen, wrote a play about the legendary King Lear ...') there are, in fact, many reasons why students might want to opt for this particular Lear. Not least, because it skilfully introduces us to a wealth of critical ideas about the play. One of a modern editor's main tasks is to help us sort out the wheat from a mountain of chaff, and a selection of the more influential and important thinking on Lear is neatly summarised in the Introduction. Two bibliographies offer scope for further, independent analysis, while Wells himself is especially illuminating on the play's language and structure.

Excellent editions of King Lear are already out there, especially those by RA Foakes and Jay L Halio. But this one manages to offer something new and stimulating.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quarto Only, 24 Sep 2013
This review is from: The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
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. Normally, I prefer the Oxford Shakespeare over alternative editions, but I find their King Lear is not only too narrowly focused, but is indeed focused on what I would consider to be the inferior text. The Arden edition instead presents a comprehensive text with markings on the page indicating Quarto and Folio variants. It's perhaps not the easiest reading text, but is an excellent scholarly edition, and most importantly presents the fullest breadth of the evolution of Shakespeare's masterpiece.
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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
1.0 out of 5 stars Problems with Kindle Edition, 8 Dec 2012
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Great book, thank you
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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
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F. Jacobsen (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
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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The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics)
The History of King Lear: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) by William Shakespeare (Paperback - 17 April 2008)
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