Talk:King Lear

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Former featured article candidateKing Lear is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for King Lear:

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
  • Cleanup : Synopsis section
  • Expand : Sources, Date and texts, Analysis and criticism, and Performance history sections

1608 Quarto Version[edit]

The lead never states that the original incomplete Quarto version of the play King Lear was categorized as a history rather than a tragedy. If the quarto is worth mentioning then shouldn't the fact that it was called a historical play also be mentioned? MaryamHasan97 (talk) 21:06, 3 March 2017 (UTC)

I think, it lays emphasis on the tragedy and deaths of the play. That is why it is not characterized as a historical play. Also. if it is characterized as a historical play, it seems vague and has no specifics as to what the play is about (Fahmed19 (talk) 01:00, 31 March 2017 (UTC))

The scholarly consensus, excluding Brian Vickers' controversial monograph, is that the 1608 Quarto version is not an 'incomplete version' but a complete variant in itself, probably derived from either an early authorial draft or a later revision (for court performance, for example). As for genre, it's not at all unheard of for plays of the period to be marketed as both "history" and "tragedy", besides which the term "history" was understood much more loosely at the time (Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus being a notable example). However, today Shakespeare's plays are conventionally categorised following the divisions made in the First Folio, which lists Lear, A&C, Coriolanus, JC, etc. as "tragedies" as opposed to the medieval English chronicle "histories" (Richard II - Henry VIII). Whether these F1 genre divisions are robust or arbitrary is perhaps a debate for elsewhere. Adt1605 (talk) 00:40, 25 August 2018 (UTC)

Synopsis (Sandbox)[edit]

Above is our working synopsis. It should be a good deal shorter, in my opinion. Say 500-700 words, but we'll see. See [1] for the policy on summary writing. Wrad (talk) 19:07, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

So do we edit directly on the above synopsis? Tom Reedy (talk) 20:44, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Yep, this is how we've done it in the past, I suppose because it just gives us one spot where we can focus on the synopsis without worrying about it being changed by fly-by editors. If you have another idea, that's fine as well, of course. Wrad (talk) 20:49, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
I've edited and tightened up the sequential accuracy for the first four paragraphs. Much of my doctoral thesis has been on Lear, so this has been quite fun to do! :) Adt1605 (talk) 01:54, 25 August 2018 (UTC)


Here are the sources I just ordered off Amazon. Feel free to add, annotate, or strike items from the list.

  • Foakes, R.A., ed. (1997). King Lear. Arden Shakespeare Third Series. Arden Shakespeare. ISBN 9781903436592.
  • Wells, Stanley, ed. (2008). The History of King Lear. The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199535828.
  • Halio, Jay L., ed. (2001). King Lear: A Guide to the Play. Greenwood Guides. Greenwood. ISBN 9780313316180.
  • Halio, Jay L., ed. (1997). The First Quarto of King Lear. The New Cambridge Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521587075.
  • Halio, Jay L., ed. (2005). The Tragedy of King Lear. The New Cambridge Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521612630.
  • Hopkins, Lisa (2009). Hunter, Ian (ed.). Shakespeare's King Lear. Screen Adaptations. Methuen Drama. ISBN 9781408105924.
  • Weis, Rene, ed. (2009). King Lear: 1608 and 1623 Parallel Text Edition. Longman. ISBN 9781408204122.
  • Muir, Kenneth; Wells, Stanley, eds. (1982). Aspects of King Lear. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521288132.
  • Werstine, Paul (2005). Mowat, Barbara A. (ed.). King Lear. Folger Shakespeare Library. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743484954.
  • Ioppolo, Grace, ed. (2007). King Lear. Norton Critical Editions. W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393926644.

The first two are the Arden and Oxford editions, which I would say are the core sources we should consult as a minimum. Absent an indication of their relative quality I would propose we primarily source the article to the Oxford simply because its edition is more recent (by a decade or so). --Xover (talk) 22:16, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

I'm OK with the Oxford but The Oxford Shakespeare: the Complete Works is the same, right?
I've got several of those but won't be able to post the list until I get home. Tom Reedy (talk) 23:19, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
The standalone edition may have a more up to date text (in Foakes' judgement) than the Complete edition, but as far as I know both Oxford and Arden use the most current text from the standalone scholarly editions for their Complete Works; but the Complete lacks the surrounding scholarly apparatus that is, IMO, the most critical feature. Trawling the journals for what is the many (potentially) conflicting opinions on, say, the sources for the play would be original research, so the idea is to use the Oxford edition as an arbiter of sorts: if they say “this is the current consensus” then we adopt that stance (but obviously note any significant controversies as needed). By singling it out I'd also intended it to be the one suggested source for interested editors to get if they only got one, and use its bibliography as the jumping off point for finding more specific sources. --Xover (talk) 23:37, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
No prob, I have the Oxford standalone edition; I just didn't know I had it. BTW, it was published in 2000 and the 2008 edition is a reprint, not a revision. I've also got the 3rd Arden. If I get any other it will be Grace Ioppolo's, but I'll wait until you tell me it's worth it! I've also got Rowse's annotated complete works that has literally thousands of old pictures. Tom Reedy (talk) 01:43, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Worth noting the Wells Oxford edition is only of the Quarto text. Foakes conflates the Quarto and the Folio, marking lines that only appear in one or the other with superscript Fs or Qs as appropriate. My recommendation for most readers would be the Foakes.Adt1605 (talk) 02:02, 25 August 2018 (UTC)

Marxist reading?[edit]

As someone who had to sit this "syllabus", I have to ask - is there an actual scholarly Marxist reading of King Lear? --Malkinann (talk) 14:51, 24 February 2011 (UTC)

Depends on your definition of “scholarly”; all this litcrit stuff is unscholarly to one degree or another. The latest Arden edition gives brief mention of a Marxist reading on p.45 (and gives a relevant cite), and the Oxford mentions it in passing. They key, for me, to all these readings, is to realize that they are all just different perspectives and value systems from which to interpret the play; and that the “truth” is both none of them and all of them. Lear, for instance, isn't to me a particularly Marxist play: a Marxist reading of it tells you a lot more about the Marxist than about King Lear. But, hey, I'm a biography wonk and tend to zone out whenever the topic gets anywhere near litcrit. --Xover (talk) 17:52, 24 February 2011 (UTC)
I know I'm about 7 years too late for your syllabus, Malkinnan, but I have to gently disagree with Xover. Lear is absolutely a play about concentrations of power, the movement of inheritance, and the legitimation of authority — all big sociological features that Marx helped define and analyse! I'd say the most significant Marxist reading would be Jonathan Dollimore's on Humanism and King Lear from his book Radical Tragedy but there are plenty more! Adt1605 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 02:07, 25 August 2018 (UTC)
@Adt1605: You've no idea how glad I am to hear someone disagree with me! :)
I wouldn't dream of denying the validity of a Marxist reading, I just, personally, didn't feel it was particularly apposite perspective. But I hasten to add that I am not particularly versed in literary criticism (biography and historiography are more my speed), so my opinion on this is worth very little.
However, I note that the article currently doesn't contain a section on Marxist readings. Any chance you'd be interested in adding one? In our articles on the plays we try to cover all significant critical approaches (see, for instance, Critical approaches to Hamlet), so if you see any obvious missing perspectives in the article it would be useful to list them. Pointers to good overviews or particularly significant works would also be very useful.
There are almost 1500 Shakespeare-related articles on Wikipedia and only a handful of editors working in the area: any assistance would be welcomed with open arms! --Xover (talk) 04:33, 25 August 2018 (UTC)
@Xover: My apologies for the slow response, I'd be delighted to help as and when I can. I'll have a little think about Marxist readings, and any other critical approaches, and see what I can add. :) --Adt1605 (talk) 15:17, 26 November 2018 (UTC)

The 1619 Quarto[edit]

So what is the textual importance of this edition, since this article states it is used in modern editions? Was it practically a reprint of the 1608 Quarto, or does it possess any significant variants? -- llywrch (talk) 22:13, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

More or less a reprint. Definitely some interesting variants between Q1 and Q2 but more in terms of phrasing and word-choice — whereas the Folio has hundreds of entirely different lines. Adt1605 (talk) 02:16, 25 August 2018 (UTC)

Opera versions[edit]

I love the play, but in the interests of completeness, there are two opera adaptations that I feel should be mentioned.

I love Reimann's opera, it's done in a totally 12-tone, "modern" style and is one of the few operas in that style that is regularly performed.

There's also an excellent adaptation by the fine Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen:

If it's agreed that they should be added, would they get their own section, say "Opera adaptations" or would they be folded in to the 20th and 21st century section of Performance History?

Thanks for your comments. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Henry Holland (talkcontribs) 04:58, 15 November 2013 (UTC)

@Henry Holland: Thanks for the headsup Henry. You should just go ahead and add these to the chronological sections (be bold!). When someone gets around to a real copy-edit there they may end up being refactored out again, as there are far too many adaptations to include every single one, but in that case the superfluous ones often get moved to a separate article on adaptions of the play. In other words, no need to wait for "permission" for small uncontroversial edits like these; and what you propose to change will be useful in some way or another eventually. As you can see, the Shakespeare articles have few active editors so any contribution is very much appreciated! --Xover (talk) 06:59, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

Gloucester's letter[edit]

The section "Synopsis of dual plot" states that Edmund "shows a letter from his father [Gloucester] to the King of France asking for help against them". I may be misunderstanding something (either in the play or in the synopsis); but I think the letter referred to is from the end of Act III scene 3, and is addressed to Gloucester, informing him of the French invasion; I don't see in the play reference to a letter written by Gloucester. If my interpretation is right, I think this should be corrected in the synopsis; does anyone have any feedback first? Vichordius (talk) 03:16, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

I made the proposed change, having not received any replies to my earlier post. Vichordius (talk) 04:37, 16 July 2014 (UTC)


There's a repetition of sources in this paragraph: Philip Sidneys is citated twice in the text for the same reason. I think one should be erased, but I wanted to be sure and ask another opinion.--MNepi (talk) 09:53, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

Thanks MNepi. I've removed Sidney from the long list of "possible" sources and left the embryonic standalone paragraph that gives a little more information. This list should probably be pruned of the more speculative and loose entries, and what remains expanded upon, but that's a much bigger task. --Xover (talk) 06:42, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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The link was to a summary of the actual source cited from a school curriculum, so I just removed it altogether. --Xover (talk) 05:48, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

Expansion of the decline of King Lear's mental state[edit]

It seems like there could be more discussion regarding the decline of King Lear's mental state - especially the piece regarding Freud's assertion that Cordelia symbolizes death. There could be an overall expansion of how death is thought of in the play; furthermore, there could be potential analysis regarding how there was a lack of an original mother figure for King Lear's daughters (as far as we know) in their formative years that led to both their flattery of Lear and their lack of care for him, taking his love for Cordelia into consideration. All information in the "psychoanalytic and psychosocial interpretations" section seems unbiased and clear - could use further explication. Adreyer2 (talk) 21:25, 13 March 2017 (UTC)Annie Dreyer

I agree, I also think that we are just criticizing King Lear from one point of view. There is no exploration of the other perspectives (Fahmed19 (talk) 01:08, 31 March 2017 (UTC))

Though, "psychoanalytic and psychosocial interpretations" seems clear and unbiased, we are not presented with every alternative/interpretation of the play's depiction of psychological and social behaviors.(Fahmed19 (talk) 01:12, 31 March 2017 (UTC))

File:Edwin Austin Abbey King Lear, Act I, Scene I The Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg to appear as POTD soon[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Edwin Austin Abbey King Lear, Act I, Scene I The Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on September 18, 2017. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2017-09-18. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page. — Chris Woodrich (talk) 02:29, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

King Lear
Act I, Scene I of King Lear, a play by William Shakespeare first performed in 1606, as depicted by Edwin Austin Abbey. Based on the legend of Leir of Britain, it depicts King Lear's gradual descent into madness after he disposes of his kingdom to two of his three daughters based on their flattery. This tragedy has frequently been adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.

In this scene, Cordelia, the youngest of Lear's three daughters, is banished for refusing to profess her love in return for one third of the kingdom. Instead, she proclaims that there is nothing to compare her love to, nor words to properly express it.Painting: Edwin Austin Abbey

Lear's Daughters[edit]

Some one (I can't remember who) wrote a play called "Lear's Daughters" speculating on what the personalities of the three daughters would have been like before the start of the play. Does any one think this could be mentioned in this article?Vorbee (talk) 18:37, 23 July 2018 (UTC)

@Vorbee: You're probably thinking of Elaine Feinstein's 1987 production for the Women's Theatre Group.
Please do feel free to add some information about it. --Xover (talk) 04:45, 25 August 2018 (UTC)

George Bernard Shaw Quote, Twice.[edit]

The last sentence in the Lede: "George Bernard Shaw wrote, "No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear."

Is repeated word-for-word in the Section "Performance History", subsection "20th Century". It's an isolated little "factoid" (there's a word for it, that escapes me atm, "triviata" is what my brain is outputting and I know it's wrong. "irrata"? "errata"?, one of those "literary words" used to describe the mechanics of writing...) Anyways, my "style" sense is that it's distracting, and irritating. Mentioning it once is an interesting little fact to think about while reading, but having it mentioned twice removes focus from the Article and makes the Reader (me, at least) wonder if it's some kind of typo, or what. Stylistically, I just don't like it. It's distracting, and annoying. I wonder if it was done on purpose, or if it's the result of some kind of oversite, and if case B, should something be done about it?2605:6000:6947:AB00:75A9:D270:2421:59E (talk) 10:08, 30 September 2018 (UTC)