King Lear: A Guide to the Play

Front Cover
Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001 - 128 pages


In its timeless exploration of familial and political dissolution, and in its relentless questioning of the apparent moral indifference of the universe, King Lear is Shakespeare's darkest tragedy. It is also one of his most timely, for many of the issues it raises resonate loudly within our own era. Perhaps because of its contemporary relevance, it is one of Shakespeare's most frequently produced, taught, and studied works. And the amount of scholarship on King Lear is exceeded only be the complexity which that scholarship reveals. This book is a lucid and thorough guide to the play's roots and legacy.

The volume begins with a discussion of the play's textual history, which is complicated by the different quarto and folio versions. It also addresses the merits of several recent editions. The book then looks at the literary, historical, and cultural contexts that inform the play. This is followed by an examination of Shakespeare's dramatic art, an analysis of the play's themes, and a summary of the different approaches critics have used to elucidate its meaning. A final chapter explores the play's rich production history, and a selected bibliography concludes the volume. As a guide, this reference successfully navigates the tremendous body of available scholarship and is a ready aid for a wide range of readers.

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Contents

Contexts and Sources
13
Dramatic Structure
27
Critical Approaches
63
The Play in Performance
95
Selected Bibliography
117
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 42 - These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us : though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects : love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide : in cities, mutinies ; in countries, discord ; in palaces, treason ; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father.
Page 55 - Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.
Page 55 - Lear. What, art mad ? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears : see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?
Page 59 - The weight of this sad time we must obey ; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most : we, that are young, Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
Page 30 - I never gave you kingdom, called you children. You owe me no subscription; then let fall Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand, your slave, *> A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man. But yet I call you servile ministers, That will with two pernicious daughters join Your high-engendered battles 'gainst a head So old and white as this.
Page 97 - Thou, nature, art my goddess ; to thy law My services are bound : Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom ; and permit The curiosity of nations to deprive me, For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines Lag of a brother? Why bastard?
Page 5 - And my poor fool is hang'd. No, no, no life? Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more. Never, never, never, never, never.
Page 47 - Have humbled to all strokes : that I am wretched Makes thee the happier : heavens, deal so still ! Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly ; So distribution should undo excess, And each man have enough.
Page 46 - O, reason not the need : our basest beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous : Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man's life's as cheap as beast's : thou art a lady ; If only to go warm were gorgeous, Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st, Which scarcely keeps thee warm.

References to this book

About the author (2001)

JAY L. HALIO is Professor of English at the University of Delaware. He edited the volume on King Lear for the New Cambridge Shakespeare series (1992), and The First Quarto of King Lear (1994). He has published numerous articles and several other books, including Romeo and Juliet: A Guide to the Play (1998), and Understanding The Merchant of Venice (2000), both available from Greenwood Press.

Bibliographic information