- 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 (63 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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
Praise for "William Shakespeare: Complete Works"
"A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare's extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever."
-James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of "A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599"
"Two eminent Shakespeareans . . . have applied modern editing techniques and recent scholarship to correct and update the First Folio. . . . Superb."
"-The New York Times"
"A feast of literary and historical information."
"-The Wall Street Journal"
"I look forward to using it over many years, enjoying Bate's perceptive comments, trusting Rasmussen's textual scholarship."
-Peter Holland, president of the Shakespeare Association of America and editor of "Shakespeare Survey"
"From the Trade Paperback edition." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
When the world weary and old Lear decides to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters things start to go wrong. His first two daughters know how to impress the king with their words, but alas his third and favourite daughter is more prone to speaking the truth, thus causing her to be disinherited and ultimately banished. Cordelia this youngest daughter has two suitors, the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France, however Burgundy relinquishes any hold that he may have on her due to the fact that she is now dowerless, not so the King of France who becomes more enamoured due to her forthrightness. Kent tries to intervene for Cordelia but finds himself banished.
It does not take long for Lear to realise his mistake when he is being countermanded and in effect ruled by his two elder daughters. Whilst this is going on Gloucester's bastard son has started his machinations to get his legitimate half-brother disinherited. With loyalty, madness and treachery this play will grab you and keep you absorbed, and will stay with you long after the last page has been read. Lear's decline into madness is powerful stuff, and Shakespeare really gets deep into the psyche of his characters, thus revealing the darkness not in just their souls but in all of us.
This is powerful and heady stuff that will have you gripped. With this edition there are extras that will hopefully help you to appreciate this play more, as well as being of help to an actor coming to this for the first time, or for students.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a lovely read. If however, you are the type of person to heavily sympathise with Cordelia - you are probably a very nice person, but at the end of the day everyone dying in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Sad old git learns too late to distinguish flattery from real lovePublished 5 months ago by MrGyges
This arrived quickly and in good quality, as described. The play is obviously brilliant! My only criticism is that it didn't have the common margin comments to help with the... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very good value for money. Despite its small size you don't have to strain your eyes to read the text. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Shane