King Lear – Ed. Best & Joubin
  • Publication Date: March 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815142 / 1554815142
  • 300 pages; 6" x 9"

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King Lear – Ed. Best & Joubin

  • Publication Date: March 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781554815142 / 1554815142
  • 300 pages; 6" x 9"

King Lear is a play for our times. The central characters experience intense suffering in a hostile and unpredictable world. They face domestic cruelty, political defeat, and a stormy external environment that invades them “to the skin.” They constantly question the meaning of their experiences as we watch their emotions range from despair to rage to unexpected tenderness and desperate hope as they are rejected, even tortured. Lear’s daughters, as in a fairy tale, are three strong women. The elder two vie for sexual and political power, while the youngest, Cordelia, is initially banished because of her plain speaking, then returns in a doomed attempt to restore her father to his throne.

King Lear has an unusual performance history. It was significantly revised, by Shakespeare or others, between its first two publications, and was then succeeded by an adaptation that softened the ending so that Lear and Cordelia survived. In our own times King Lear is performed around the world in productions that explore its relevance to contemporary political and environmental challenges.

This edition offers a distinctive ‘extended’ text, taking the later Folio as a starting point and adding the lines that appear only in the Quarto, distinguished by a light gray background. Variations in individual words that are of critical interest are recorded in the margin.

Acknowledgements
Introduction
“Upon a Wheel of Fire”: Performing King Lear on Stage and on Screen
Shakespeare’s Life
Shakespeare’s Theatre
William Shakespeare and King Lear: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Tragedy of King Lear

Appendix A: Shakespeare’s Sources

  • 1. “The Most Indispensable Thing”: A Folk Tale from Germany
  • 2. From Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1136)
  • 3. From John Higgins, The Mirror for Magistrates (1575)
  • 4. From Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, Gorboduc (1562)
  • 5. From Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587)
  • 6. From Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1590)
  • 7. From The History of King Leir (c. 1594)
  • 8. From Sir Philip Sidney, The Arcadia (1590)
  • 9. From Samuel Harsnett, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603)

Appendix B: Literary, Social, and Historical Contexts

  • 1. From Aristotle, Poetics (c. 330 BCE)
  • 2. From Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Monk’s Tale” (c. 1400)
  • 3. From Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poetry (1579)
  • 4. From The Book of Job
  • 5. From John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet (1588)
  • 6. From King James, Basilikon Doron (1603)
  • 7. Selections from Jest Books
    • (a) From A Hundred Mery Talys (1526)
    • (b) From Richard Tarlton, Tarlton’s Jests (1638)
  • 8. Attitudes to Bastards in Shakespeare’s Time
    • (a) A Ballad of the Birth of the Monstrous Child (1562)
    • (b) John Lyly Passes on the Advice of Plutarch (sixteenth century)
    • (c) From Richard Jones, The Book of Honor and Arms (1590)
    • (d) Shakespeare’s Bastards
  • 9. Attitudes to Aging in the Renaissance
    • (a) From “Youth and Age” (fifteenth century)
    • (b) From Psalm 90
    • (c) Montaigne on Aging Parents (1580)
    • (d) Shakespeare and Old Age

Appendix C: Critical Reception

Appendix D: King Lear’s Afterlife

  • 1. From Nahum Tate, King Lear (1681)

Michael R. Best is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Victoria and the founder of the Internet Shakespeare Editions. Alexa Alice Joubin is Professor of English, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Theatre, International Affairs, and East Asian Languages and Literatures at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she serves as founding Co-director of the Digital Humanities Institute. She is the former general performance editor of the Internet Shakespeare Editions.