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Instructor of Candidates for University, Civil Service, and other
Smalone l. 41.
The date of the first production of Shakspeare's King Lear was probably 1606. The play was certainly acted at Court in the December of that year; and Steevens observes that King Lear, or at least the whole of it, could not have been written till after the publication of Dr. Harsnet's Discovery of Popish Impostures, in 1603, because the names of the fiends mentioned by Edgar are taken from that book. The first edition was a small quarto published in 1608, two reprints of which appeared also that year: one of these quartos bore the following title :
Mr. William Shak-speare: His True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humour of Tom of Bedlam. As it was played before the king's Majestie at Whitehall upon S. Stephens night in Christmas Hollidayes. By his Majesties servants playing usually at the Gloabe, on the Bancke-side.—London, Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Churchyard at the sign of the Pide Bull neere St. Austins Gate. 1608.' No other edition prior to that of the folio of 1623 has been discovered. In that folio, however, as compared with the quartos, we find several omissions, additions, and verbal alterations.
The story of King Leir, son of Bladud, refers to a period of British history preceding by about eight centuries the Christian era, and was accessible to Shakspeare in the various legends. given by Geoffry of Monmouth, Holinshed, Higgins (in “The Mirror for Magistrates'), and Spenser (in “The Fairie Queen')