Pub. Date:
Cambridge University Press
The Tragedy of King Lear

The Tragedy of King Lear

by William Shakespeare, Jay L. Halio


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George Lyman Kittredge's insightful editions of Shakespeare have endured in part because of his eclecticism, his diversity of interests, and his wide-ranging accomplishments—all of which are reflected in the valuable notes in each volume. The plays in the New Kittredge Shakespeare series retain their original Kittredge notes and introductions, changed or augmented only when some modernization seems necessary. These new editions also include introductory essays by contemporary editors, notes on the plays as they have been performed on stage and film, and additional student materials.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521337298
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 10/30/1992
Series: New Cambridge Shakespeare Series
Edition description: Older Edition
Pages: 335
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Jay L. Halio is Professor of English at the University of Delaware.

Date of Death:


Place of Birth:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Place of Death:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

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The Tragedy of King Lear
Cambridge University Press
0521847915 - The Tragedy of King Lear - Updated Edition - Edited by Jay L. Halio


Date and sources of Shakespeare's King Lear

Although King Lear was probably performed earlier at the Globe, the first recorded performance of the play was at the court of King James Ⅰ on St Stephen's Day during the Christmas holidays in 1606, as indicated in the Stationers' Register (26 November 1607) and proclaimed on the title page of the first quarto (1608). Both the king and the playwright must have brought to the performance a keen sense of occasion.1 Shakespeare was a leading member of the company of actors honoured by royal patronage, the King's Men, and he knew that his play touched on a number of sensitive issues. In his first parliament, James had declared his intention of uniting the kingdoms of Scotland and England as one realm, Great Britain, restoring the ancient title and unity to the land. While he received considerable support from the lords and judges, the commons were hesitant and did not jump to ratify the proposal. Against this background of political activity, Lear's speech, 'Know, that we have divided / In three our kingdom', must have been startling indeed.2 James was in a position to see, however, that similar material had attracted theatrical attention as early as Sackville and Norton's Gorboduc (1561) and Locrine (c. 1585) as well as King Leir (c. 1590); moreover, he would quickly have recognised that Shakespeare's play vividly dramatised the tragic consequences of dividing the kingdom, as opposed to unifying it.

Composition of King Lear had begun by spring or summer 1605, possibly sooner. Gloucester's references to 'These late eclipses in the sun and moon' (1.2.91) may allude to actual eclipses in September and October 1605. The anonymous play, 'The moste famous Chronicle historye of Leire kinge of England and His Three Daughters', first entered in the Stationers' Register on 14 May 1594 but performed earlier, was again entered (as 'the Tragecall historie') on 8 May 1605 and published, presumably for the first time, later that year. If Shakespeare's play was responsible for the revival of interest in the old play, whose title page proclaims that it was 'diuers and sundry times lately acted', then King Lear must have been on the boards by early 1605.3 On the other hand, revival of King Leir may have been otherwise occasioned, and composition of Shakespeare's play, clearly indebted to it, may have begun afterwards. It could not have been written before 1603, the date of Samuel Harsnett's A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, since much of Tom o'Bedlam's language derives from that document.4 And if Eastward Ho inspired several passages, then composition occurred after April 1605.5

The great variety of sources of King Lear becomes coherent when we recall the use to which the play puts the material. Although The Chronicle History of King Leir was Shakespeare's principal source, the Lear story goes back as far as Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittaniae (c. 1135). Shakespeare may have read this in the original Latin (no Elizabethan translation exists) or, as Bullough suggests (p. 273), he may have taken details from more recent writers who were themselves directly or indirectly indebted to the Historia. Geoffrey was as interested in the political implications of his Historia as in the social narrative; therefore, he focuses as much upon the consequence of Leir's action in dividing the kingdom between his two older daughters, as upon the initial love contest. The division eventually leads to insurrection as the two dukes, his daughters' husbands, rise up against the old king and strip him of his rights and dignities. Leir flees to France, is reunited with a forgiving Cordeilla, and finally restored to his kingdom. When he dies three years later, Cordeilla succeeds to his throne.

But the story as Geoffrey tells it is not yet over. The dissension that was Geoffrey's leitmotiv from the reign of Brut onwards continues, as Margan and Cunedag, the sons of Cordeilla's sisters, rebel against their aunt and imprison her. Overcome with despair, Cordeilla commits suicide. Further tragedy lies in store for England, as Margan and Cunedag fall out with each other, civil war ensues, and after much of the land has been laid waste, Margan is finally killed. Only then is peace restored to Britain for a prolonged period during Cunedag's reign.

Many of the later accounts of Leir and his three daughters include the episode of Cordeilla's suicide; it is told, for example, in Holinshed's Chronicles, Higgins's Mirour for Magistrates, and Spenser's The Faerie Queene (II.X.27-33), all of which Shakespeare knew. It may be from Cordeilla's death in these accounts that Shakespeare got the suggestion for turning the old Chronicle History from a tragicomedy into tragedy, although his sub-plot, borrowed from Sidney's Arcadia, may also have influenced him.6 From the old play he got the basic outlines of his fable and adapted it to his own purposes, which were quite different from those of the anonymous author.

The old play called itself a 'true chronicle history', meeting a taste for the retelling of 'true' stories from the past with often overt didactic intentions. Holinshed's Chronicles incorporates a span of reigns from Geoffrey of Monmouth (including Cymbeline as well as Locrine and Gorboduc), and Shakespeare was clearly interested in this early phase of British history, besides the events of the fifteenth century which he dramatised earlier in the Henriad. Unlike the anonymous King Leir, which is thoroughly infused with Christian pieties, Shakespeare's play is neither wholly pagan nor wholly Christian, although at certain points Lear speaks with and for the thunder as if he were indeed the thunder god himself.

Other differences between Shakespeare's play and his principal source are significant. While keeping to the main outlines of the Lear story, Shakespeare not only introduced a major second plot, inspired by the misadventures of the Paphlagonian King in Sidney's Arcadia; he also introduced several new characters and episodes that King Leir lacks, such as Lear's madness, the storm, Oswald, and the Fool (who may, however, have been suggested by the Gallian King's jesting companion, Mumford, in King Leir). The rather low comic relief provided by the scenes of the Watch in the anonymous play is omitted, as are several melodramatic incidents, such as Gonorill and Ragan's murder plot7 against their father, and Perillus's offer to let a starving Leir have his arm to eat. The Gallian King has a substantial role in the old play, but Shakespeare limited him to the first scene and eliminated the Gallian Ambassador, sent to invite Leir to France, although the Ambassador's fruitless wanderings from France to Cornwall and Cambria resemble the journeys in Shakespeare's second act. In sum, Shakespeare both condensed and expanded his source to exploit its tragic potential, broaden its range, and, as F. D. Hoeniger has shown, explore the primitive aspects of the legend 'in all its depths and terror'.8

Perhaps the most significant alteration Shakespeare made in the Lear story is the ending. Unlike all previous accounts, King Lear concludes not with the old king restored to his throne, but with Cordelia and Lear dead.9 Though France in King Leir invades Britain victoriously, no one dies in that play - all three sisters are spared. The wicked ones and their husbands become fugitives and are absent from the final scene, which includes no reference to the later fate of Cordella. Unlike his counterpart, Kent, Perillus is not banished, and at the end Leir rewards him for his loyalty. Departing widely from the contours of the old tragicomedy, Shakespeare thus seems intent on stripping away every possible consolation from the action to present it with the starkest reality.10

King Lear is not only about a monarch and his divided realm, but also about a father, his property, and his three daughters. Several contemporary analogues exist, of which the most important are the events surrounding Sir Brian Annesley and his daughters, the youngest of whom was named Cordell.11 An old servant of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Brian held an estate of some value in Kent. In October 1603 his eldest daughter, Lady Grace Wildgoose, or Wildgose, attempted to have her father certified as incompetent so that she and her husband, Sir John Wildgoose, could take over the management of his affairs. The part played by his second daughter, Christian, is unknown, but Cordell opposed the plan, successfully it appears, by appealing to Sir Robert Cecil. She argued that, given his loyalty and long service, her father deserved better than to be judged lunatic in his old age. Sir Brian died in July 1604, and the Wildgooses contested his will, since in it he left most of his property and possessions to Cordell. One of the executors was Sir William Harvey, third husband of the dowager Countess of Southampton, the mother of Shakespeare's early patron. The will was upheld, and after the countess died in 1607, Harvey married Cordell Annesley. It may be that the Annesley case was responsible, at least in part, for the revival of interest in The True Chronicle or for Shakespeare's rewriting it (Bullough, pp. 270-1).

Shakespeare took his second plot from Sidney's Arcadia. Sidney's romance suggested not only a chivalric colouring, as in the duel between Edgar and Edmond, but a more epic sweep than that of the old play and its analogues. Furthermore, through the parallel story of the Earl of Gloucester, modelled on that of the Paphlagonian King, Shakespeare universalised his theme and raised it to 'cosmic' proportions: 'Lear's world becomes the entire world, and it becomes clear that Lear's fate may be the fate of any man.'12

2 The title page of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1590)

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Book II, chapter 10, of the Arcadia (1590) describes the encounter of the princes Pyrocles and Musidorus with an old blind man led by his son, Leonatus. The old man is the deposed King of Paphlagonia, dethroned and blinded by his wicked bastard son, Plexirtus, who persuaded his father first to dislike and finally to seek to destroy his elder, legitimate son. Having accomplished that, Plexirtus systematically took over control of the kingdom so that his father left himself (like Lear) 'nothing but the name of a King'.13 Still not satiated, Plexirtus took the title, too, put out his father's eyes, and cast him off to feel his misery, 'full of wretchednes, fuller of disgrace, and fullest of guiltines'. Shunned by his countrymen, the king is reduced to seeking alms until Leonatus discovers him and leads him on his way, refusing only to help him commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.



KENT I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than
GLOUCESTER It did always seem so to us: but now in the division of
the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most,
for qualities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make 5
choice of either's moiety.
KENT Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so
often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to't.
KENT I cannot conceive you. 10
GLOUCESTER Sir, this young fellow's mother could; whereupon
she grew round wombed, and had indeed, sir, a son for her
cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?

Title] F; M. William Shak-speare / HIS / Historie, of King Lear. Q Act 1, Scene 1 1.1] Actus Primus. Scoena Prima. F; not in Q 0 SD] F; Enter Kent, Gloster, and Bastard. Q 4 kingdom] F; kingdomes Q 5 qualities] F; equalities Q 9 to't] too't F; to it Q

Act 1, Scene 1
0 SD GLOUCESTER F spells the name this way in some SDS and Gloster in others. In SHS, Glouc. is most frequently used, though Compositor E tends to prefer Glo. or Glost. In dialogue, 'Glouster' is Compositor B's preferred spelling, 'Gloster' Compositor E's. Q consistently uses 'Gloster', which reflects the proper pronunciation.

0 SD EDMOND This is the F spelling here and at 21 ; in 1.2 and afterwards F usually uses Bastard in SDs and Bast. in SHs, like Q, but either 'Edmond' or (especially in Acts 3-5) 'Edmund' in the dialogue, where Q uses 'Edmund' consistently. The name was probably suggested by Father Edmonds, the exorcist in Harsnett's Declaration, and by Edmond Peckham, in whose home the exorcisms took place.

1 affected inclined to, loved.

1 Albany When Brute, the first King of Britain, divided his realm, he gave his youngest son Albanact the territory north of the Humber as far as Caithness. Thus it was called Albania and later Albany.

3-4 but . . . kingdom Lear has not revealed all of the plan to his closest advisers. Compare 'darker purpose' (31). As these lines and 32-3 indicate, Lear has already divided up the realm ; hence, the love contest that follows is a sham and not really meant to determine who gets what share. It appears from 81 that he intends to favour Cordelia, and the incentive in 47-8 is false.

4 values rates.

5 qualities i.e. their qualities. F changes Q's 'equalities'.

5 weighed balanced.

5-6 that . . . moiety that the most careful examination of either one's portion cannot determine any preference.

5 curiosity careful examination, scrutiny.

6 moiety share, portion.

8 breeding (1) upbringing, (2) parentage.

9 brazed brazened, hardened.

10 conceive understand. Gloucester plays on the biological sense.

11-13 Sir . . . bed Gloucester's coarse humour must be offensive to Edmond, if he overhears his father speaking thus, as Rosenberg assumes (p. 12).

KENT I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
GLOUCESTER But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder 15
than this, who yet is no dearer in my account; though this knave
came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet
was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the
whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble
gentleman, Edmond? 20
EDMOND No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER My lord of Kent; remember him hereafter as my
honourable friend.
EDMOND My services to your lordship.
KENT I must love you and sue to know you better. 25
EDMOND Sir, I shall study deserving.
GLOUCESTER He hath been out nine years, and away he shall
again. The king is coming.
, and Attendants
LEAR Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.
GLOUCESTER I shall, my lord. Exit 30

16 account ;] Theobald ; account, Q, F 17 to] F ; into Q 22 Kent ; remember] Kent : / Remember F ; Kent, remember Q 28 SD] F ; Sound a Sennet, Enter one bearing a Coronet, then Lear, then the Dukes of Albany, and Cornwell, next Gonorill, Regan, Cordelia, with followers. Q 30 lord] F ; Leige Q 30 SD] F ; not in Q ; Exeunt Gloucester and Edmond. / Capell

14 fault (1) transgression, (2) lost scent, as in hunting, (3) female genitals (Rubenstein, King). Compare Venus and Adonis 691-6, where 'fault' is used in sense (2), and AYLI 4.1.174, where 'fault' is used in senses (1) and (3).

14 issue (1) result, (2) offspring.

14 proper (1) good-looking, (2) right.

15 order of law i.e. legitimate.

15 some year about a year ; compare 1.2.5.

16 account estimation.

16 knave fellow ; often applied to servant or menial. Hence, with an implication of low condition (see OED sv sb 2).

17 something somewhat.

19 whoreson bastard son (like 'knave' above, said jocularly).

26 study deserving 'I shall make every effort to be worthy of your favour' (Kittredge). But the words carry an ominous implication.

27 out abroad. Renaissance nobles often sent their children to be brought up in other noble-men's homes, sometimes in their own country, sometimes abroad.

27-8 away . . . again 'Perhaps these words seal Gloucester's doom' (Muir).

28 SD Sennet A set of notes played on a trumpet or cornet to signal a ceremonial entrance or exit.

28 SD GONERILL F spelling of this name is consistent. Compare the older form 'Gonorill' preferred by Q.

28 SD Q indicates that a 'coronet' is carried in as part of the procession - the one intended for Cordelia, Perrett and Muir believe. It is not clear why F omits this part of the SD. See 133 n. below.

29 Attend Wait upon, escort. Lear's entrance will be conditioned as much by the size and stature of the actor playing the role as by his interpretation of it. See Rosenberg, pp. 22-32.

30 SD Most modern editions include Edmond in this exit, but neither Q nor F gives any indication when he leaves. In the light of subsequent events and the development of his character, there may be justification in keeping him on stage throughout these momentous proceedings until the general exodus at 261. Compare Granville-Barker, p. 229.

LEAR Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
Give me the map there. Know, that we have divided
In three our kingdom, and 'tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths while we 35
Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and
Burgundy, 40
Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters
(Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state), 45

31 shall] F ; will Q 31 purpose] F ; purposes Q 32 Give me] F ; not in Q 32 that] F ; not in Q 33 fast] F ; first Q 34 from our age] F ; of our state Q 35 Conferring] F ; confirming Q 35 strengths] F ; yeares Q 35-40 while we . . . now.] F ; not in Q 40 The princes] F ; The two great princes Q 44-5 (Since . . . state)] F ; not in Q

31-49 Meantime . . . first See Textual Analysis, pp. 77-9 above, for Folio revisions in this passage.

31 we The royal plural.

31 darker purpose secret intention. The sinister sense of 'darker' is submerged.

32 Give me the map Perrett (p. 144), following Koppel, says that Gloucester or Kent carries the map in when they enter, discussing the division. Mack (pp. 89-90) argues that despite its many interrogatives, the play's dominant rhetorical mood is imperative. Berlin (p. 92) disagrees : Lear's progress is from imperative to interrogative, 'from a sure sense of self to a confrontation with mystery'.

33 In three i.e. into three parts, but not equal thirds. See 3-4 n.

33 fast (1) firmly fixed, (2) swift.

34-5 To shake . . . strengths This is Lear's motivation for dividing the kingdom in Q. F expands it and adds a further motive at 44-5. 'Q's ''state" compresses several relevant meanings, including the political and the personal . . . F unfolds the implications in ''state", partly by developing the hint in Q's ''Confirming"' (Jackson, p. 333).

36 crawl Lear speaks figuratively. Although some actors have made him appear weak and senile from the outset, Lear's old age appears vigorous throughout this scene and later, certainly in F. Gary Taylor, 'Censorship', p. 96, discusses F's 'deliberate retrenchment of anything which might too directly suggest senility, the comic senex iratus, or the doddering old man . . .'

36 son i.e. son-in-law. In the sources, none of the daughters has a husband until after the love contest.

38 constant will unswerving intention. Characteristically, as at 33, Lear speaks in absolute terms.

38 publish publicly proclaim.

39 several separate (OED sv adj 1).

39-40 that . . . now The wisdom of Lear's motive here is arguable. Shakespeare's audience would have recognised the dangers, and James I would have been particularly concerned (see p. 1 above). NS cites Matt. 12.25 : 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.' In any event, Lear's good intention does not succeed. At 2.1.6-11, Curan speaks of impending wars between the dukes, and at 3.1.11 Kent mentions 'division' between them.

40 prevented forestalled.

40 France and Burgundy Shakespeare assumes that in the time of which he writes France was not a unified kingdom and that the Duke of Burgundy shared equal status with the King of France. Their rivalry for Cordelia's hand is Shakespeare's invention.

44 both Used elsewhere by Shakespeare before more than two nouns, as in WT 4.4.56.

45 Interest Possession ; compare John 4.3.147, where 'interest' = ownership.

Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge? Gonerill,
Our eldest born, speak first.
GONERILL Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter, 50
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable; 55
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA [Aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
LEAR Of all these bounds even from this line, to this,
With shadowy forests and with champains riched
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, 60
We make thee lady. To thine and Albany's issues
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?
REGAN I am made of that self-mettle as my sister
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart 65

48 nature doth with merit challenge ? Gonerill,] F ; merit doth most challenge it, / Gonorill Q 50 Sir, I love] F ; Sir I do love Q 50 word] F ; words Q 51 and] F ; or Q 54 as] F ; a Q 54 found] F ; friend Q 57 SD] Pope ; not in Q, F 57 speak ?] F ; doe, Q 59 shadowy] F ; shady Q 59-60 and with . . . rivers] F ; not in Q 61 issues] F ; issue Q 63 of] F ; to Q 64 I] F ; Sir I Q 64 that self-mettle as my sister] F ; the selfe same mettall that my sister is Q

48-50 Where . . . matter Metrically irregular lines. F's revision of Q is incomplete or incompletely transcribed. In 48 'Gonerill' is elided (= 'Gon'rill') ; in 50 'Sir' may be an actor's interpolation (Schmidt, Zur Textkritik, cited by Furness).

48 Where . . . challenge Where natural affection along with desert may claim it as due.

50 more . . . matter more than language can convey.

51 eyesight, space, and liberty King notes the dramatic irony behind Gonerill's first comparison, to 'eyesight', and her demand at 3.7.5 that Gloucester should be blinded, which perhaps explains the curious inclusion of this abstraction with the  others.

51 space, and liberty 'freedom from confinement, and the enjoyment of that freedom' (Hunter).

53 grace favour, happiness.

55 breath poor (1) speech inadequate, (2) language impoverished, i.e. by love (King).

55 unable incapable, weak.

56 Beyond . . . much i.e. 'I love you beyond limits, and cannot say it is so much, for how much soever I should name, it would yet be more' (Johnson).

58 Of . . . to this Lear points to the map (32).

59 60 and . . . rivers Q's omission is probably the result of the compositor's eye-skip. See Textual Analysis, p. 277 below.

59 champains level, open country ; compare Italian campagna.

59 riched enriched.

60 wide-skirted meads broad meadows.

64 self-mettle (1) self-same spirit (mettle), (2) self-same substance (metal). Shakespeare uses 'mettle' and 'metal' interchangeably, often playing on both senses regardless of spelling. Compare 2H4 1.1.116 : 'For from his metal was his party steeled'. The pun conveys dramatic irony : Regan's mettle/metal, like her sister's, is hard (King).

65 prize . . . worth estimate my value to be the same as hers. Kittredge believes the form is imperative : 'value me'.

I find she names my very deed of love.
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense possesses,
And find I am alone felicitate 70
In your dear highness' love.
CORDELIA [Aside] Then poor Cordelia,
And yet not so, since I am sure my love's
More ponderous than my tongue.
LEAR To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom, 75
No less in space, validity, and pleasure
Than that conferred on Gonerill. Now our joy,
Although our last and least, to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interessed. What can you say to draw 80

66-7 I . . . profess] F ; two lines divided short, / That Q 67 comes too] F ; came Q *69 possesses] Q ; professes F 71 SD] Pope ; not in Q, F 73 ponderous] F ; richer Q 77 conferred] F ; confirm'd Q 77 Now] F ; but now Q 78 our last and least, to whose young] F ; the last, not least in our deere Q 78 least,] Hanmer ; least ; F 79-80 The vines . . . interessed] F ; not in Q *80 interessed] Jennens ; interest F 80 draw] F ; win Q

66 very deed actual document (from which she can read her love).

67 that in that.

69 the most precious square of sense Of uncertain meaning, the phrase has been variously interpreted. Riverside glosses 'square of sense' as figurative for 'the human body' or 'human life' and cites FQ , ⅸ, 22. In Pythagorean terms, the square is an emblem of the material world, or the world of sense, the physical universe ; the circle, an emblem of the conceptual world, even God Himself. (See S. K. Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony, 1974, p. 111, and compare Leonardo's famous drawing of the human figure inscribed within a square superimposed upon the same figure with outstretched limbs inscribed within a circle - a design that derives from Vitruvius. See G. L. Hersey, Pythagorean Palaces, 1976, pp. 88 ff.)

69 possesses Most modern editors follow Q since the F compositor may have erred through the proximity of 'professe' in 67.

70 felicitate made happy.

73 More ponderous Weightier. A short, hypermetrical line at the end of a speech is not unusual in Shakespeare's mature drama. On short and shared lines (like 71, also), see George T. Wright, Shakespeare's Metrical Art, 1988, pp. 116-42. Wright notes the variety of Shakespeare's metrics in King Lear and analyses a passage (138-48 below) on pp. 104-5.

76 validity value. Compare 5-6.

78 our last and least In revising (or correcting) Q, F makes a more clear-cut distinction in Lear's attitude to Cordelia and reintroduces the France-Burgundy rivalry for her love. Cordelia was not only the youngest daughter but smallest in stature, hence 'least' in both senses.

79 milk of Burgundy Furness and others cite Eccles : 'The pastures of Burgundy, the effect for the cause'. But Burgundy was a great wine-producing country, then as now, and 'milk' contrasting with 'vines' may signify a rich wine ; compare 'Bristol milk'. Compare 253, however, where the King of France refers to 'waterish Burgundy', and n.

80 interessed Most modern editors emend F's 'interest', a variant spelling of the past participle form of 'interess' = 'to admit to a privilege' (OED Interess v 1 : 'to be interessed, to have a right or share', quoting this passage).

80 draw win. 'The gambling metaphor is significant' (NS).

© Cambridge University Press

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Kittredge Edition, p. vii
Introduction to the Focus Edition, p. xiii
The Tragedy of King Lear, p. 1
How to Read King Lear as Performance, p. 131
Timeline, p. 137
Topics for Discussion and Further Study, p. 139
Bibliography, p. 141

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