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King Lear (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 Mar 1994
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King Lear stands alongside Hamlet as one of the most profound expressions of tragic drama in literature. Written between 1604 and 1605, it represents Shakespeare at the height of his dramatic power. Drawing on ancient British history, Shakespeare constructs a plot that reads like a fable in its clear-sighted but terrifying simplicity. The ageing King Lear calls his daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia to witness that he wishes "to shake all cares and business from our age" and divide his kingdom between his three children. When Cordelia refuses to flatter her father with sycophantic words of love, her banishment leads to chaos and civil war as Lear's disastrous "division of the kingdom" gives free reign to the greed and ambition of his two remaining daughters.
As Lear sinks into rage and madness he is deserted by everyone except his "bitter" Fool, the loyal Kent and the exiled Cordelia. The play descends into a nighmarish theatre of cruelty and absurdity as Lear realises he has "ta'en / Too little care" of the poverty and corruption of his kingdom, and his loyal but foolish friend Gloucester has his eyes gouged out. Metaphors of monstrosity and perversions of nature structure the dramatic action, and the play's ending remains one of the most harrowing in all of Shakespeare. Many see a profound despair and nihilism in King Lear, and would agree with Kent's conclusion that "All's cheerless, dark and deadly". Other writers have identified a radical but pessimistic critique of contemporary conceptions of kingship and absolutist authority, yet it remains a remarkable tragedy of public misjudgement and intensely private grief and anguish. --Jerry Brotton
."..an exemplary consideration of all the new bibliographic explication....Halio has done an admirable job. If all editions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries were similarly conceived and presented, study and understanding of Elizabethan-Jacobean-Caroline drama would be greatly improved." William B. Long, TEXT: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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various spelling and grammar issues within the play.
However the play is formatted in an easy to read style and is easy to navigate using the search system. As a student, having Shakespeare in electronic form has long-term benefits due to the ease of note making and bookmarking.
Just what I needed for my son's GCSE drama prep
I suppose this is Shakespeare's great assessment of homelessness. The undeservingly roofless. "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, / That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,/ How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides...defend you/ From seasons such as this?" Lear asks, and reflects, "O, I have ta'en too little care of this!" (3.4.25ff).
Shakespeare even anticipates Marx (not Groucho) when he has the blinded Gloster say, "So distribution should undo excess, / And each man have enough..." (4.1) He is speaking to his disguised son-madman. In fact, social justice emerges throughout this play, a theme as prominent as in Measure for Measure.
Lear is also his only play on retirement, which he apparently recommends against. Or perhaps Lear should have had a condo in Florida? Of course, his hundred knights, a problem for the condominium board, as it was for his daughters. And Shakespeare, who says in a sonnet he was "lame by fortune's despite" also addresses the handicapped here, recommending tripping blind persons to cheer them up.
Of course, Lear has his personal Letterman-Colbert, the Fool, so he doesn't need a TV in the electrical storm on the heath. That's fortunate, because it would have been dangerous to turn on a TV with all that lightening. The play seems also to recommend serious disguises like Kent's dialects and Edgar's mud. Next time I go to a party I'll think about some mud, which reduces Edgar's likelihood of being killed by his former friends.
And finally, the play touches on senility, where Lear cannot be sure at first Cordelia is his daughter.
I'm not sure, but the author may be recommending senility as a palliative to tragedy--and to aging. A friend of mine once put it, "Who's to say the senile's not having the time of his life?"
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