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King Lear (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 5 Mar 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New Ed edition (5 Mar. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853260959
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853260957
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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

Review

"...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 alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I studied King Lear for my Enlgish Literature A-Level and this was a brilliant copy for that purpose. There is ample room for annotation and the book also provides explanation of words which may not be understood and provides other useful information. This copy of the play is perfect for students and I would recommend it to anyone. As for the play itself, it is highly enjoyable and dramatic and has definately increased my enjoyment of Shakespeare.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection provides accesss to a valuable range of critical readings of 'Lear', ideal for A level and undergraduate students, particularly if without access to a university library. The introduction provides as very useful summary of develops in criticism of the play, including the 'newer' approaches such as historicist and feminist criticism, and examples of these approaches are included in the anthology.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Decent version to use if studying or teaching the text. Clearly laid out with sufficient space to annotate.
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Format: Paperback
Maybe the fifteenth time I've read Lear (this time in the tiny red-leather RSC edition, during morning walks). Always impressed, especially with the curses and curse-like screeds. I can't stand Lear onstage, particularly the blinding of Gloster (so spelled in this edition). How sharper than a serpants teeth it is / to have a thankless child--though having a thankless parent like Lear, Act I Sc I, ain't so great either. I do love the Russian film Lear with music by Shostakovich, and the King's grand route through his bestiary of hawks and eagles.
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.
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
'King Lear' is probably one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and is currently the one most studied at A-Levels. It is famed for it's depiction of the infirmity of old age and complex family politics. In some respects I think it'd be rather presumptuous of me to attempt to review Shakespeare. Someone so well known and influential wouldn't benefit from my opinions on their work, plus there are more scholarly and concise reviews out there. But I can comment on these Arden versions. Of all the Shakespeare I've read I've always found the Arden copies to be well laid out and to have excellent commentary and notes on the text. They really add to your understanding of Shakespeares outstanding plays and introduce you to the depth in his work. They have superb paper quality and are bound well, withstanding repeated readings and intensive study. For your collection of Shakespeare you can't do much better than Arden publications, some are quite hard to get hold of but it's worth the effort.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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Format: Paperback
The Arden Shakespeare is an ideal script, guide and notes for students, young and old, although I would not recommend it to any studying lower than Advanced Level; the Oxford and Cambridge guides and notes are sufficient for GCSE and they have photographs of characters and performances to illustrate.

The Ardens have lengthy sections on backgrounds to the plays and copious annotations and notes on the script itself; on some pages, contingent on the complexity of the text concerned, the notes take up more of the page than the script itself (one reason for not recommending it below Advanced Level). It has a vast source of detail, history and information on the play. They are also very well produced, sewn sections glued in, making them strong and long lasting.

Highly recommended for Advanced Level students or above.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Considering I bought this product to learn quotations for my A Level English Lit exam, it was incredibly disappointing to note the
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.
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Format: Paperback
Although RA Foakes' Arden³ edition appeared some years after those of Wells & Taylor (Complete Oxford) and Jay L Halio (Cambridge) it did not follow their precedent of issuing separate texts based on Quarto and Folio originals. These early texts (Q 1608 and F 1623 respectively) occasionally offer quite different versions of the play and reconciling them to form a single, coherent whole is a task that is, arguably, less elegant than the dual edition solution. By comparison, Arden's text looks cumbersome, with numerous Q and F superscripts surrounding passages found exclusively in one or other source.

Foakes is well aware that his single, 'conflated' text isn't as fashionable as those of the 'revisionists' mentioned above, who believe that the Folio text of Lear represents Shakespeare's revised and final draft, and that modern editors should not pick and mix between Q and F but respect the integrity of the two early sources. While seemingly reactionary, Foakes is in fact countering the new orthodoxy of Halio et al. In his view, their 'dogmatic and purist stance ... abandons the idea of King Lear as a single work of which we have two versions.' He is cautious and level-headed in his approach, acknowledging the limitations of scholarly speculation. And in presenting both Q and F variants he allows the reader to make up his/her own mind.

Aside from this central controversy, the Arden³ Lear has much to offer.
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