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William Shakespeare : King Lear
 9781847601742

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Literature Insights

General Editor: Charles Moseley

William Shakespeare

King Lear John Lennard

“…By the end almost everyone is dead or broken” HEB  ☼  FOR ADVICE ON THE USE OF THIS EBOOK PLEASE SCROLL TO PAGE 2

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Literature Insights General Editors: C. W. R. D. Moseley

William Shakespeare: King Lear John Lennard

HEB ☼ Humanities-Ebooks, 2010

Copyright © John Lennard, 2010 The Author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published by Humanities-Ebooks, LLP, Tirril Hall, Tirril, Penrith CA10 2JE

ISBN 978-1-84760-174-2 Pdf ISBN 978-1-84760-175-9 Kindle

Contents

A Note on the Author Acknowledgements Preface 0.1 Introduction 0.2 A note on the texts of King Lear 0.3 Acts and scenes in the Q1 and F1 texts Part 1. Approaching Shakespeare 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4

A Man of the Jacobethan Theatre Companies—Actors—Stages—Audiences Venus and Lucrece Errors and Two Gents

Part 2. Approaching King Lear 2.1 Fathers and Daughters and Fools 2.2 Unity and Division 2.3 A Play by Shakespeare Part 3. Actors and Players 3.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9

Lear Goneril Regan Cordelia Albany Cornwall Burgundy and France Kent/Caius Gloucester

2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 3.14

Edmund Edgar/Poor Tom Oswald The Fool Gentlemen, servants, &c..

Part 4. Acts and Devices 4.1 Acts 4.2 Scenes 4.3 Soliloquy and Colloquy 4.4 Verse, Prose, and Song 4.5 Metatheatre 4.6 Doubling 4.7 Special Effects 4.8 Exits Part 5. Comedic Agony and King Lear Part 6. Critics’ Corner 6.1 Bibliography 6.2 Major films of King Lear 6.3 Web-sites

A Note on the Author Born and raised in Bristol, UK, John Lennard took a B.A. and D.Phil. at New College, Oxford, and an M.A. at Washington University in St Louis. He has taught for the Universities of London, Cambridge, and Notre Dame, the Open University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University on-line; he was from 2004–09 Professor of British and American Literature at the University of the West Indies—Mona. His publications include But I Digress: The Exploitation of Parentheses in English Printed Verse (Clarendon Press, 1991), The Poetry Handbook (OUP, 1996; 2/e 2005), with Mary Luckhurst The Drama Handbook (OUP, 2002), Of Modern Dragons and other essays on Genre Fiction (HEB, 2007; Troubadour 2008), and Of Sex and Faerie: Further Essays on Genre Fiction (HEB/Troubadour, 2010). He is General Editor of HEB’s Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs series, for which he has written on Reginald Hill, Walter Mosley, Octavia E. Butler, Ian McDonald, and Tamora Pierce. For Literature Insights he has also written on Hamlet, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet & Staying On.

Acknowledgements My oldest debt is to Richard Camp, then of Bristol Grammar School, who first taught me King Lear back in the day, and my longest running debt is to the actors and directors of productions I have been fortunate enough to attend, for bringing the play so painfully to life. More proximately, for my adult professional understanding of Shakespeare I owe most to Anne Barton, the late Tony Nuttall, Peter Holland, Adrian Poole, Charles Moseley, and David Edgar. Most proximately I must thank Treena Balds, who undertook the initial line-counts for me and (like Charles Moseley and John Gilroy) read the whole with a sharp eye.

Preface 0.1 Introduction For much of its four centuries of stage-life King Lear has (like Lear’s daughters) been something of a problem child. Dr Johnson complained that “the extrusion of Gloucester’s eyes […] seems an act too horrid to be endured in dramatick exhibition” and, more seriously, alleged as a moral failing that “Shakespeare has suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, what is yet more strange, to the faith of chronicles”. This view was so widely shared that from the later seventeenth to mid-nineteenth centuries the preferred text for performance was an adaptation by Nahum Tate (1652–1715) in which only villains die, Lear regains his throne, the Fool is omitted, and Cordelia marries Edgar in a redemptive comedic ending. Today this seems strange, even absurd, but debates around the cautious, piece­meal restoration of Shakespeare’s version to the stage in the early-mid nineteenth century give pause. Many spectators were as honestly appalled as Johnson by Cordelia’s death, and simply baffled by the Fool—a clear warning to all of the degree to which public sensibility and theatrical perform­ances change, decade by decade. Then again, once ‘Shakespeare’s version’ was restored as the normative text for study and performance King Lear grew in public and critical reputation until in the later twentieth century it came to   Samuel Johnson, ‘Notes on King Lear’ from his edition of 1765, reprinted in e.g. W. K. Wimsatt, ed., Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare (New York: Hill & Wang, 1960; as Dr Johnson on Shakespeare, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969).   Tate’s play is collected in Sandra Gilbert, ed., Shakespeare Made Fit (London: Dent, 1997).   The actor-managers who did so were Edmund Kean (1789–1833), in 1823; William Charles Macready (1793–1873), in 1838; and Samuel Phelps (1804– 78), in 1845.

10  Shakespeare: King Lear eclipse Hamlet as his ‘greatest tragedy’—a play that, like Troilus and Cressida, appealed precisely in its extremity of violence and unremitting bleakness of vision to sensibilities battered by the horrors of two world wars. Yet in the last 30 or so years the very intensity of attention King Lear now attracts has sparked a sometimes bitter and often noisy debate about what exactly Shakespeare’s text is, or was, and how it should be printed—an apparently abstruse set of scholarly questions that lies at the centre of what has become the single most consequential argument in modern Shakespeare studies. Nor can students of the play practically avoid this textual question, for the purchaser of any recent annotated edition is certain to find the text prefaced by an editorial note that is longer and weightier than usual, and may well find them­selves confronted either by pages that fairly bristle with textual notes, or not by a text at all, but two (or even three) significantly differing texts, that may be given (perhaps in parallel) in one volume or split the edition into distinct volumes offering distinct texts. For a series like these Literature Insights, by policy determinedly short and far more concerned with practical study of literature than scholarly dispute per se, this textual battle poses a problem. Students want clear, straightforward discussion of substance, not a constant gibber of notes and caveats about textual issues; but alas, such issues are like the quality of air—while all is well one hardly notices them, but if it is ill they become a pressing urgency, affecting everything to claim priority. I therefore necessarily begin with my own longer-andweightier-than-usual ‘Note on the Text’ to explain what is at stake—a set-up essential to the discussions that follow. But thereafter scholarly problems are ruthlessly relegated to notes, while links in the bibliography make available to interested readers the primary materials, that they may see the evidence for themselves. A word is necessary about casting in the King’s Men, Shakespeare company, who premiered King Lear, probably in 1604–05. All casting matters are tricky, for there is almost no evidence about the first casting of any of Shakespeare’s plays and most of what is said is   See R. A. Foakes, Hamlet versus Lear: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Shakespeare: King Lear   11 speculation. But someone first played each role, and a pool of probable names is known: so the game can be compulsive. It is in no way necessary, but a grasp of the practical necessities and constraints Shakespeare faced in writing (which for a working play­wright of his kind means casting) is very helpful, and inevitably brings more speculative territory into view. So sometimes I speculate, and when I do so it is properly flagged as such. I assume readers have read King Lear at least once and know ‘what happens’. The only thing all readers—particularly those without theatrical experience—are asked to do is to think seriously about the business of acting in a particular space. If possible, visit a theatre, any theatre, sit, breathe, look, and absorb its design. Follow these links to images of a Roman stage, pageant-wagon, and Elizabethan amphitheatre, and look hard at each for a minute. Shakespeare’s King Lear has over four centuries been done in, on, and round about many venues, and no performance is independent of the physical and institutional structures that enable and frame it—buildings, stages, actors, and audiences. If these things are missing from your imagined understanding of the play’s text/s, it will (rightly) seem to you as lifeless as a TV without power; but turn the current on … Additionally, remember that ‘great’ need not mean ‘ponderous’, and that on stage King Lear (like most Shakespeare) almost always does better at a brisk canter than a solemn march—though it is not often done the favour of such brisk­ness. Modern performance of Shakespeare rarely achieves any­thing as short as the ‘two hours’ traffic of our stage’ Shakespeare reckoned on: actors now learn more heavily punctuated texts and deliver lines more slowly and with more pauses; scene-changes slow all action, as may elaborate fights and other stage-business; and, as playing-time creeps ever upward, intervals—for most theatres a financial necessity, driving profits from bars and concessions—become equally a necessity for the audience’s bladders. Bustling comedies, full of happy confusions and wit-cracking dialogue, have some insulation from this pervasive ponderousness but histories and tragedies are vulner­able not only to tedious flat  See also John Lennard & Mary Luckhurst, The Drama Handbook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), ch. 14, ‘The Stage and Auditorium’.

12  Shakespeare: King Lear ness as speech and action are denied natural buoyancy, but to besetting, po-faced earnestness. The comedian Rowan Atkinson, playing a school­master, once growled the line ‘If Shakespeare had meant it to be funny, boy, he would have put a joke in it’—and the real joke (which isn’t so funny) is that Shakespeare did put jokes in it, lots of jokes in all of it, even the tragedies, and we carefully take most of them out, with calamitous results. In approaching King Lear today, this is a central fact. I have been fortunate enough to have seen all of Shakespeare’s plays at least twice, and the major tragedies, including King Lear, in at least a dozen productions apiece. Over 35 years I have seen the slow return to stagepractice of an understanding that Shake­spearean tragedy demands and responds to comedic awareness, and few now expect perform­ances of Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, or Antony and Cleopatra to be wholly sombre from beginning to end. But not all tragedies have fared as well—Coriolanus tends to remain grimly humourless in performance, as does the rarely attempted Timon of Athens, and no Shakespearean play, despite its witty, wisecracking Fool and much haphazard effort, remains more stifled by tragedic decorum than King Lear. Only once have I seen a real attempt on stage to find comedy in the title role, a bizarre AngloJapanese production starring Nigel Hawthorne (1927-2001) that, while far from the best show overall, was probably the most instructive I have ever seen, yet undervalued by critics (see Part 3.1); to which may be added the performance by Laurence Olivier (1907–89) in a 1983 TV film of King Lear where he understood the relations of smiles and threats but in acting that was critically regarded as a curiosity rather than a revelation. Those who disliked these productions commonly found even the idea of comedy misplaced. But the comedic in King Lear is not only to do with the Fool, nor with what is (often idiotically) referred to as   On the distinction of comic and comedic, tragic and tragedic, see Part 1.3 below.   There is a useful summary of 53 UK productions, giving casts and brief extracts from reviews, in John O’Connor & Katharine Goodland, eds, A Directory of Shakespeare in Perform­ance 1870–2005, Volume 1: Great Britain (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 546–621.

Shakespeare: King Lear   13 ‘comic relief’ (see Part 1.3 below). It is to do with the origins of its sub-plot, which Shakespeare took from Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590), a Romance; with its first world/green world structure, typical of his comedies; and above all with Lear’s position as a father of three daughters worrying about dowries—a situation reminiscent of fairy tales like ‘Cinderella’ and typical in commedia dell’arte. As such, Lear has, in theatrical terms familiar to Jacobean audiences, a strong basic identity as a senex, the old man of Roman comedy who in commedia dell’arte became Pantalone, the pantaloon. In Shakespeare’s comedy the senex had already done duty as such father-figures as Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while in tragedy the role fascinatingly informs Old Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Polonius in Hamlet. And just as much as Polonius, from whom he descends theatrically, Lear is generically misplaced, a role built on a comedic armature with comedy’s typical lack of foresight and propensities to blather and meddle, but dropped into tragedy, given a vicious capacity for rage, and set from the beginning on a foolish, deadly course. Phaeton scrabbling at the reins as the horses of the sun ran away with him had as little control as Lear once he announces his plan of national partition and Britain slides inexor­ably into power-grabs, familial war, and national as well as theatrical catastrophe—yet the protagonist in his agony is underlyingly a stage-clown, and it is seeing that clown relentlessly broken on the wheel of his folly, amid the innocents and conspirators he dooms, that makes for the peculiar, lingering pain of Shakespeare’s play. For the reader or spectator who fails to grasp this, the play can easily become a wilderness of horrors, as the massed fatalities of its ending   Terms coined by Northrop Frye for the initial, typically urban or courtly world of Shakespeare’s comedies, and for the second, typically woodland world to which the principal characters sojourn.   Catherine Belsey, ‘King Lear and the missing salt’, in Why Shakespeare? (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), considers all the play’s possible sources, including ‘Cinderella’.   Italian, ‘comedy of the artisans’. A term coined by Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) for a very influential improvised theatre-form of sixteenth-century Venetian origin: actors play roles for which a mask, a walk, habitual props etc. are specified; the story is plotted but dialogue is improvised.

14  Shakespeare: King Lear seemed to Johnson. But once Shakespeare’s method is grasped, his extraordinary technique understood as a central dynamic, horrors are matched by wonders, though bleakness remains. 0.2 A note on the texts of King Lear ‘Early texts’ of Shakespeare— the primary authorities, printed during or just after his lifetime from copy supplied by him or his acting company—are of two kinds, distinguished by size as quarto (Q) and folio (F) texts. Quartos are editions of a single play, and almost all predate the First Folio (F1) of 1623, which collected 36 of 37 plays constituting the Shake­spearean canon (the exception was Pericles). For 19 of those 37 there are between one and six quarto texts, and a folio text; for the other 18 there is only the text from F1. The difficulty is twofold. The lesser problem, which in differing degrees affects all texts, is simply that quartos and Folio alike contain some definite, some probable, and some possible errors. Printing is complex, hand-press printing especially so, and in setting hundreds of thousands of pieces of type upright on their narrow ends in specific order in small trays, mistakes will happen. Besides unintended errors there were also wilful decisions—such as setting verse as prose to gain space, or prose as verse to fill space—that it would not be helpful to reproduce. Early texts are also, to the modern mind, typically short on stage-directions and inconsistent in, for example, spelling and use of speech-prefixes. To deal with such issues one needs to know about the habits of actors and of the printer responsible for a given text, as well as normative practice in the London acting and printing industries, and all editors of Shakespeare (or anyone else of his period) must make decisions about ‘correcting’ these errors. In any particular instance they may (not) make what seems to you (or me) a good choice, but the issue is inescapable, has always been rec  The ‘copy-text’ is that from which the printers set their text.   ‘Folio’ implies that the sheets of paper making up the book have been folded only once each; ‘quarto’ implies that each sheet has been folded twice.   There were reprints of the Folio in 1632, 1663, and 1685—the Second, Third, and Fourth Folios (F2, F3, F4)—but these are without authority, saving only F2, which added Pericles and six plays now not accepted as Shakespearean.

Shakespeare: King Lear   15 ognised, and since editing Shakespeare began in earnest in the eighteenth century has generated a fairly solid consensus about the great majority of such cruces. The second problem is of a different order, and arises because where there is more than one early text of a play there are substantive differ­ences—not mere typos or variant speech-prefixes but clear changes to words, lines, and speeches, rising to omission or addition of entire scenes. In the case of Hamlet, for example, there are three variant texts: Q1 (1603), the ‘Bad Quarto’, which at c.2000 lines is half the length of the others and very different; Q2 (1604), the ‘Good Quarto’ of c.3700 lines; and F1 (1623), the ‘Folio text’ of c.3550 lines, which drops c.230 of Q2’s lines, adds c.70 of its own, and (slightly) changes many more. Since the nineteenth century there has also been an ‘eclectic’ or ‘conflated’ text of c.3850 lines, generated by editors who combine all lines in Q2 and F with some lines and stage-directions from Q1. And therein lies the problem, because that procedure of combining texts assumes all existing versions are complement­ary—that there was once a ‘perfect’, ‘complete’ Hamlet, ‘just as Shakespeare wrote it’, of which Q1, Q2, and F1 are partial records and that can best be recovered by combin­ing everything that survives. Where there are direct clashes one version must be preferred—usually F1, with quartos relegated to a supporting role—but any unique portion should, in this theory, be retained. This idea dominated editing practice for a century. The book that began a great debate was Gary Taylor’s and Michael Warren’s The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of King Lear (1983), and the subtitle bluntly states its case—that Q1 and F1 do not represent incomplete versions of the same play, but rather first and revised versions. The revision is assumed to be by Shakespeare himself, but editorially it does not matter whether that is so, for if we have a version and a revision it can make no sense to conflate them; one might as well superimpose photo­graphs of a child aged one and aged five and claim the result as the ‘real’ child. And without going into   For a longer discussion of Shakespearean editing, using Hamlet 5.1 as an example, see Lennard & Luckhurst, The Drama Handbook, ch. 3. Line-counts cannot be absolute because methods of counting stage-directions, headings, blank lines, and part-lines that are or end complete speeches vary.

16  Shakespeare: King Lear detail, this revisionist argument has over a quarter-century persuaded a majority of Shakespearean scholars that ‘conflated’ Q+F texts, norm­ ative before the 1980s, are editorial constructs considerably further away from ‘what Shake­speare actually wrote’ than either Q or F. King Lear was chosen as a test case because while its Q1 (1608) and F1 (1623) texts differ markedly, they are not as variant as, say, the ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ quartos of Hamlet. One entire scene in Q1, Kent and a Gentleman talking for 55 lines about the arrival of Cordelia with the Army of France, is omitted in F (where it would be Act 4, scene 3), and several other substantial chunks of Q1 also go missing, notably in 1.4 (‘The lord that counselled thee / To give away thy land’), 3.6 (the ‘mock-trial’), 4.2 (‘Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile’), and 5.3 (‘This would have seemed a period / To such as love not sorrow’), amounting in total to some 300 lines present in Q1 but not in F1. Conversely, F1 adds some 100 lines not in Q1, notably in 2.4 (‘Winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that way’) and 3.2 (‘I’ll speak a prophecy before I go’). And beyond these additions and omissions of lines, there are altered speech-prefixes (transferring lines between speakers) and hundreds of word-changes that alter without wholly changing the sense, and are not readily explicable as anything except deliberate revisions. So much is fact, but attempts to characterise or further interpret the differences between Q and F, and to assess their effect in performance, have produced much interesting argument and very little consensus. Yet the truly important consequence of the debate has been to demolish the old, monolithic image of Shakespeare as ‘The Bard’, frozen and error-free, and offer in its place a dynamic image of Shakespeare as a working man of the theatre, cooperating and collaborating with actors to evolve performance and as willing to revise as any serious commercial dramatist (see Part 1). After the antitheatrical Shakespearean scholarship of the early-mid twentieth century this is as startling and judicious a development as the statue coming to life in Mozart’s Don Giovanni (or Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale)—   There is a Q2, deliberately misdated ‘1608’ but actually printed in 1619; it reprints Q1, and has no independent authority.   Q1, like most quartos, does not have act divisions.

Shakespeare: King Lear   17 and its effects have run in parallel, for example, with readmission of comedic humour to performances of the tragedies. For editors, however, the problem is acute, and in practice means taking one of four options—choosing Q1 or F1 as a copy-text, sticking defiantly to a conflated text, or presenting more than one text—and the trend has been strongly towards the last. The Oxford Complete Shakespeare (1986) first printed Q1 and F1 in sequence, and were followed by Norton (1996); World’s Classics chose Q1 (2001), Longman opted for a parallel text (1993), and Cambridge for separate editions (1992, 1994). Riverside 2 (1997) and Arden 3 (1997) maintain a conflated text, but what the proposed Riverside 3 will do is moot, and Arden 3 is horribly cluttered with superscript ‘Q’s and ‘F’s that make it irritating to use. And all these editions, whatever their starting point, practice both the simpler kind of correction and full-blown modernisation of the texts, including stage-directions. My own references are to the parallel texts edited by René Weis (London: Longman, 1993), and I have used Weis’s line-numbering as a basis for line-counts; when I refer to any other text or edition, I specify. Typically a double reference is provided, of the form ‘Qa. b.cde/F.xyz’, meaning that the line can be found in scene a.b, in Q at line cde and in F at line xyz; minor Q/F revisions are ignored in such references, but anything significant is noted. For ease of reference a summary of acts and scenes in Q1 and F1 is given below. All other Shakespearean references are to the Riverside text, 2nd edition, 1997. 0.3 Acts and scenes in the Q1 and F1 texts Act 1

Scene 1: Kent, Gloucester, Edmund, Lear, Albany, Cornwall, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, France*, Burgundy*  (the ‘love-trial) Scene 2: Edmund, Gloucester, Edgar Scene 3: Goneril, Oswald

  Readers are reminded that lines per scene and role vary with editions, and that ‘verse-lines’ (i.e. complete iambic pentameters) divided between speakers may count in two or more roles, so totals may seem not to tally.

18  Shakespeare: King Lear Scene 4: Kent/Caius, Lear, Oswald, Fool, Goneril, Albany Scene 5: Lear, Kent/Caius, Fool

Act 2

Scene 1: Edmund, Curan*, Edgar, Gloucester, Cornwall, Regan Scene 2: Kent/Caius, Oswald, Edmund, Gloucester, Cornwall, Regan Scene 3: Edgar/Poor Tom Scene 4: Lear, Fool, Kent/Caius, Gloucester, Cornwall, Regan, Oswald  (‘O Reason not the need’)

Act 3

Scene 1: Kent, Gentleman Scene 2: Lear, Fool, Kent/Caius  (‘Blow, wind/s, and crack your cheeks’; Fool’s prophecy not in Q) Scene 3: Gloucester, Edmund Scene 4: Lear, Fool, Kent/Caius, Edgar/Poor Tom, Gloucester Scene 5: Edmund, Cornwall Scene 6: Kent/Caius, Gloucester, Lear, Fool*, Edgar/Poor Tom (‘mock-trial’ not in F) Scene 7: Cornwall*, Regan, Goneril, Edmund, Oswald, Gloucester, Servants

Act 4

Scene 1: Edgar/Poor Tom, Old Man*, Gloucester Scene 2: Goneril, Edmund, Oswald, Albany, Gentleman (or Messenger) Scene 3: Kent, Gentleman*  (whole scene not in F) Scene 4/3: Cordelia, Doctor (or Gentleman), Messenger Scene 5/4: Regan, Oswald Scene 6/5: Gloucester, Edgar, Lear, gentlemen, Oswald† Scene 7/6: Cordelia, Kent, Doctor (or Gentleman)*, Lear

Act 5

Scene 1: Edmund, Regan, Albany, Goneril, Edgar Scene 2: Lear, Cordelia, Edgar, Gloucester* Scene 3: Edmund†, Cordelia†, Lear†, Captain, Albany, Goneril†, Regan†, Herald, Edgar, Kent  (final speech-prefix differs in Q & F)

* last appearance † dies

Part 1. Approaching Shakespeare 1.1 A Man of the Jacobethan Theatre The basic facts of William Shakespeare’s life—birth in 1564, education at Stratford Grammar, marriage to Anne Hathaway (1556–1623), children, work, death in 1616—are perfectly clear and without serious doubt; but detail of any kind is sparse, and what exists dubious or unhelpful. For a man born in the mid-sixteenth century this is already a notably full record—Shakespeare has attracted millions of hours of research, and Early Modern English records are better than most—but there is, blazingly, one thing more: that Shakespeare’s central passion, occupation, art, and craft was the Jacobethan theatre,  dominantly the public amphitheatres. As actor, sharer, and resident dramatist of the Lord Chamberlain’s/ King’s Men he was a major player in a particular emergent art, craft, and trade about which much is known and more can be inferred. A basic problem in imagining the Jacobethan theatre is that the   Susanna, 1583–1649; fraternal twins Hamnet, 1585–96, and Judith, 1585–1662   Since the mid-nineteenth century Anti-Stratfordians have believed (often fanatically) that ‘William Shakespeare’ was a front-man for a hidden genius—typically an Earl or Marlowe (who didn’t really die in 1593). Such conspiracy theories must explain how everyone was for centuries duped into crediting the existence of Shakespeare; those promoting Marlowe the official faking of his death, and those promoting earls the complete absence of evidence in surviving records and correspondence. For detail see http://shakespeareauthorship.com/howdowe.html .   A portmanteau of Elizabethan and Jacobean covering 1558–1625, used because Shakespeare’s working life straddles the reigns.   Sharers invested a substantial sum, entitling them to a percentage of net receipts. The eight sharers in Shakespeare’s company played larger roles; minor ones were played by hired men.   The patron of the company was from 1594 the Lord Chamberlain; after 1603 King James assumed that role himself, so the company became the ‘King’s Men’.

20  Shakespeare: King Lear closure of all English theatres from 1642–60 severed professional continuity; theatres built after 1660 were strongly influenced by continental European models dominated by perspectival scenery—quite different from the London amphitheatres of Shakespeare’s day. All older English plays struggled after 1660, losing as much as gaining in being forcibly adapted for and into the new theatre-buildings—a change bluntly recorded in the shift from going, as Elizabethans did, to hear a play, as auditors in an audience, to going (as we still do) to see a play, as spectators of something we hope will be spectacular. So there has since 1660 been a particular sensory and intellectual gap, and to meet Shakespeare on his own ground (where he makes most immediate sense) modern readers must be aware of auditing as well as spectating, and of the theatre-world that supported Shakespeare’s full, passionate, and successful career. Perhaps the most obvious thing about that theatre-world is its energy. London was throughout Shakespeare’s career (c.1590–1613) the largest, most innovative city in Europe. Trade, war, expansion, investment—and new ways of investing—were powerful drivers; England as a whole had also forcibly stopped an activity that had long been important, and the impulses it had satisfied needed a new outlet. Under Roman Catholicism theatre was sacred: mystery cycles were performed in public procession at their appropriate times in the annual liturgical round, while morality plays taught doctrine and miracle plays celebrated exemplary lives. Many people acted and very many more audited, so when Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1533 he couldn’t simply suppress traditions of sacred performance—but the Catholic doctrine and faith they celebrated could only be a problem for an Anglican monarch, so the weight slowly came on, and there is no known English performance of a complete cycle after Coventry in 1574. That date should give pause, for the mystery cycles and morality plays are often firmly labelled as mediaeval, as they are in origin— but they were performed into Shakespeare’s lifetime, and he cer  Sequences of short plays, performed under guild sponsorship, that deal with one of two Christian mysteries: history from creation to doomsday or the life of Christ from incarnation to resurrection.

Shakespeare: King Lear   21 tainly knew about them. Just as importantly, many people he spoke to, worked with, and wrote for were also familiar with the cycles and their performance: but in 1575 the cycles were no more, and theatre will out. The man with the good timing, right idea, and persuasive tongue was James Burbage (d.1597), and the idea he had was in all fundamentals the modern theatre. What may most surprise is just how original an idea it was. Greek theatre, like the mystery cycles, was sacred and classical amphitheatres part of temple-complexes, while Roman theatre was mostly political, usually a poor relation of gladiatorial ‘sports’, and always a matter of direct patronage and official subsidy. Travelling players in the middle ages have left no trace of any permanent stages, so what Burbage wanted in 1576 was radical: a large, purpose-built structure owned and run by professional actors, to be funded through commercial performances. Preconditions for such a venture include a sufficiently large and wealthy catchment area, a workable design for the building, a pool of (would-be) actors, writers able to supply a stream of new plays, a team to handle production, finance, and the public once admitted, the blessings of central government and local authority, and a financier willing to lend a very large sum on the strength of these plans … but Burbage pulled it off, and built in Shoreditch, just east of the City of London, what was simply called The Theatre. It had to be outside the City wall because the City Fathers had religious beliefs (and social convictions) that led them to disapprove of theatre in all forms, but even in Shoreditch other restrictions applied. A great show-woman herself, Queen Elizabeth knew very well just what theatricality could achieve politically, and plays for public performance had to be licensed by her Master of the Revels; offenders could and did find themselves in prison for a month or three, and any playwright venturing towards religion or recognisably current poli  The ‘porter’ scene in Macbeth (2.3) is based on the ‘Harrowing of Hell’ in the mystery cycles, when ‘devil-porters’ are disturbed by Jesus hammering on the gates—but the specificity of this well-known example tends to mask rather than emblematise the far wider and deeper connection between the ‘mysteries’ (d.1574)’, the moralities that continued to be performed, and the ‘Shakespearean Stage (b.1576)’.

22  Shakespeare: King Lear tics did so at their (and the actors’) peril. But it all worked! Within two years a second theatre, The Curtain, was providing competition, and the 1580s saw steady growth, however measured, so by the time Shakespeare came to London, probably in the later 1580s, the stage was in every way set for him. A body of actors had emerged for whom increasingly talented and professionally assured playwrights were beginning to write great roles, and company structures had been created that for the sharers were beginning to produce real wealth. Above all, Londoners had taken to the new entertainment in a big way, and the acting profession, despite its perennial insecurities, was already entrenched in popular and élite cultures. That was the working world Shakespeare entered, and as sharer-playwright of the premier company bestrode from 1594–1613. 1.2 Companies—Actors—Stages—Audiences Theatre is always, of necessity, a practical group business. When it is also putting food on the actors’ tables, and must finance a building as well as covering the initial and running costs of performance, there is no room for mavericks or spendthrifts—yet much about theatre seems to attract, and worse to need and benefit from, people with exactly those qualities. The main answer to this conundrum in Shakespeare’s day was the company, a professional business in which individual interests were merged and individual commitments had to follow. Next to nothing is known about Shakespeare’s career as an actor, so he clearly did not strike his contemporaries as an outstanding stageperformer, but it was as an actor able to put up the necessary cash that he gained his position in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men—and only that position, held as an actor for nearly twenty years, enabled the particular, steady writing career that followed. Shakespeare had started writing plays before he began to do so exclusively for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, but most if not all his earlier plays were for them, so he was to all intents and purposes a (one-)company playwright. His plain duty in writing was therefore   Both as a solo writer and in his even rate of production Shakespeare was (very) unusual.

Shakespeare: King Lear   23 to write for his fellow-sharers, providing in each drama roles that played to strengths, stretched talents, masked weaknesses, and for the company added up to lots of repeat customers. Finance and theatrespace allowed him, in addition to six to eight major roles for himself and his fellow-sharers, up to six hired players for bit-parts etc., and four boys, and all but one of his 37 plays fit that pattern. Of course they also fit infinitely greater, more interesting patterns, but however soaring their ambitions and achievements, the articulating cast of each could be varied only within limits—generous by the standards of modern theatre (which tends for financial reasons to smaller casts), but for Shakespeare a constantly necessary discipline of theatrical creation. At a company level the inevitable tension of mutual obligation and the egoism of performance is reflected in the sharp opinions Shakespeare gave Hamlet about actors who speak ‘more than is set down for them […] though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be consider’d. That’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it’ (3.2.39–45). The dilemma is sharp: if you want to get the best out of actors you must give them a creative job to do, but to make that job possible something much more dictatorial is required. Many actors will play Shakespeare, but relatively few can, in sober fact, produce coherent interpretations of his major roles: they are genuinely very demanding, and it is clear that Shakespeare must have pushed his core sharer-actors hard throughout his career. Richard Burbage (c.1567– 1619), James Burbage’s younger son and the company’s star actor, did something so distinctive in playing the major roles Shakespeare wrote for him that he began to be described not as ‘playing’ but as ‘personating’; during his and Shakespeare’s careers a greater, parallel change occurred as mere ‘players’ (musicians, entertainers) became ‘actors’ (doers of dramatic deeds).   The fixed physical features of a space used for performance, as distinct from places represented or named in performance (respectively, theatrical space within and without).   The exception is Richard III, which seems to have been written for a double-size company.   The elder son, Cuthbert (1566–1636), handled company administration.

24  Shakespeare: King Lear Additionally, and very oddly, English women were not then permitted to act professionally in public, so the female roles in all plays of 1576–1642 had to be taken by beardless boys; not ‘in drag’ in the modern sense, but nevertheless cross-dressed and known by all to be so. A great deal has been written about this strange rule and what it might signify; here the cogent fact is simply that for Shakespeare (as for all writers and actors) boys playing women of all ages was a fixed condition of performance. Little is known about individual boys, but the companies’ main source of supply was choir schools, as the many songs in female roles attest; the potent tragedy of some roles also makes it clear that comparisons with modern drag acts or singlesex-school plays will not do, and that the boys were a true theatrical resource. But exclusion of women was a severe craft limitation that Shakespeare probably found as irksome as the film Shakespeare in Love (1997) suggests; there is certainly a case that he was careful in writing female roles not to demand the kind of breath-length he could from Burbage and other full-grown adults, and in many plays his heroines voice sharp complaint at (performative) restrictions on women. At the same time, as theatre-goers familiar with reconstructed amphitheatres will know, exclusion of women was theatrically a lesser problem than it would be today, because Shakespeare’s theatre did not depend on illusion—the presentation of a fiction as ‘real’. His audiences did not sit in warm, covered darkness, gazing through a proscenium arch into the illuminated world beyond: they stood in the open air or sat in open galleries, certainly on three and perhaps all four sides of a stage, watching by afternoon-light and so constantly seeing one another as well as the actors. There was no convention of silence during performance, dis/pleasure would have been freely   A few older female roles, notably the comic nurse in Romeo and Juliet, are thought to have been played by adults, but all others, from Juliet to Cleopatra, by boys.   The breath-lengths needed to deliver speeches clearly are negotiable, but outlined in F by various punctuation-marks, particularly colons, and must respect subject-verb-object linkages—the acid test being immediate comprehensibility to auditors. The argument is that female roles typically demand less extended delivery on a single breath, not because of anything Shakespeare thought about women, but simply because the boys who played them were smaller.

Shakespeare: King Lear   25 expressed, and Hamlet’s complaint about clowns ad libbing points to freedoms of reception as well as performance, so Coleridge’s famous tag about the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ simply does not apply to the Shakespearean stage. Audiences knew full well at all times what was and was not real, and cannot have ‘suspended disbelief’; rather they ran belief (faith, credit) and disbelief (reason, knowledge) always in joint-harness, and seem not to have distinguished boy-plays-woman from commoner-plays-king, living-plays-dead, or a London stage playing Rome, Damascus, or wherever was needed for a given performance It is this duality between expansive fiction and constraining reality amongst both audiences and actors that underpins the ‘metatheatre’ often noted in Shakespearean plays that have ‘plays-within-plays’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet) or ‘boys-playing-girls-playingboys’ (As You Like It, Twelfth Night). These are certainly metatheatrical, forcefully reminding audiences to think about what they and the actors are presently doing—but so are every use of words like ‘act’, and ‘play’, every dis/guising or deception, every mention in dialogue of a theatrical role or feature, and every moment of daylight perform­ ance. Dramatic verse and song are also metatheatrical, for audiences hearing a song or speech in iambic pentameter do not postulate some strange versifying madness; they know it as convention and accept its composition and delivery as features of a performance by which author and actor (as much as the speaking role) are to be judged. This intense metatheatrical awareness in performance is the single most import­ant feature of the stage- and theatre-design for which Shakespeare structured his works, and as those designs both drove and constrained his development of plots it is important to understand how they worked. There is no surviving image of The Theatre (moved in 1598/99 to become The Globe), but it would have resem  Biographia Literaria (1817), ch. 14; Coleridge was actually discussing the process of reading poetry, not the business of attending drama—on which see his ‘Remarks on the stage’ (1808) and lecture of 1818–19, both in e.g. R.A. Foakes, ed., Coleridge’s Criticism of Shakespeare: A Selection (London: Athlone Press, 1989).   Literally: the timbers were disassembled, moved south of the river, and reassembled.

26  Shakespeare: King Lear bled The Swan, shown in the ‘De Witt’ sketch below—the only known interior drawing of an Elizabethan amphitheatre. A vertical axis structured the understage (accessible through the stage-trap), stage, and half-roof as Hell–Earth–Heavens, while an inset smaller vertical axis made the first-floor windows of the tiring-house (the ‘building’ behind the stage) an ‘Above’ to the stage (Juliet’s window overlooking her garden, battlements etc.). One horizontal axis similarly made the tiring-house at stage-level a ‘within’ to the stage’s ‘without’ (so unseen actors could call out from ‘inside’ a building etc.), while a cross-axis provided leftand right-exits, and a double-width central discovery space (not shown in the sketch). The left/ right distinction could separate factions (Montagues/English­men right; Capulets/Frenchmen left), and informed a convention whereby villains entered left and heroes right. The discovery-space allowed tableaux to be revealed, large props (such as thrones or beds) to be thrust on or off, and processions (weddings, funerals) to enter/exit two abreast; it also allowed central ‘authority entrances’ (arresting the action), and so might be ab/used by (would-be) rulers, but was   A trapdoor in the stage allowing sudden dis/appearances etc.   Or ‘second-floor’ in normal US usage—i.e. the first raised level, one higher than the stage.   The sketch shows only left and right exits, omitting the discovery-space—but it is a copy of a lost original, some playtexts explicitly use a discovery-space, and many more are so structured that a wide central exit is strongly implicit. See Part 2.3, and for detailed discussion of the sketch’s un/reliability R. A. Foakes, ‘Henslowe’s Rose/ Shakespeare’s Globe’, in Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel, eds, From Script to Stage in Early Modern England (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 11–31.

Shakespeare: King Lear   27 also impudently favoured by clowns who could comically thrust their heads or feet out through its curtains. The stage itself, about 43 x 27 feet (13 x 8 m) was flat, so there was no ‘up- or ‘down-stage’, but a central ‘command-point’ (pretty much where the seated figures are placed in the sketch) allowed actors to be seen as well as heard by every member of an audience. Modern practitioners using similar stages find it helpful (especially in crowded scenes) to have designated paired spaces for higher- and lower-rank interlocutors, so that orders always come from one place to be received in another, and acts of defiance, rebellion, or usurpation can be expressed by physical relocation and/or reversal of positions on stage. The other fundamental thing about a Jacobethan amphitheatre is the lack of separation between actors and audit­ors. Most modern theatres have a trans­verse proscenium (‘in front of the scene’) wall dividing the entire build­ing; it is pierced by the proscenium arch that controls spectators’ sight-lines and frames the action. On one side of that wall are the stage and its machinery, actors’ dressing rooms etc., reached by the stage-door; on the other are the auditorium and public areas, and the divide is policed for security and to control access. In amphi­theatres there was no such wall, so audiences were not corralled in a block but pressed close to the action, crowding round three sides of the stage and making any dividing-line between the presented fiction of a play and the ‘real’ world of the theatre very tenuous. In one other important way Jacob­ethan amphitheatrical audiences were unlike most modern audiences: cross-class composition. Nineteenth-century theatre-design enforced social hierarchisation of audiences in stalls, ‘dress-circle’ (where evening dress was required), upper circle, and ‘gods’, and by the later twentieth century, with ticket-pricing as the major agent of exclusion, indoor theatre was in most Anglophone countries primarily a middle-class recreation. But such exclusion of the ‘unwashed’ from ‘respectable’ theatre had barely begun in Shakespeare’s day, and his first audiences at The Theatre included lowly apprentices and day-labourers, tradesmen and their families, merchants, minor and sometimes major nobles,   As in the frontispiece to Kirkman’s The Wits (1662); see http://www.britannica. com/eb/art-13689.

28  Shakespeare: King Lear and visitors of all degree—so he wrote for all understandings. The backchat between Samson and Gregory that opens Romeo and Juliet, all maiden­heads and innuendo, is a laugh for everyone, but the pleasure of the sonnet Romeo and Juliet piece together in their courting dialogue is a rarer gracenote: what matters isn’t that one is ruder/ cleverer than the other, but that Shakespeare had no difficulty using both within one play, trusting all in his audiences to understand variety and take it all in all. It sounds simple, but few playwrights since have been able to write so successfully for so wide an audience, and modern work—particularly on TV—is often sharply divided between ‘up-’ and ‘down-market’ production values and dramatic themes. These facts and conditions—companies, actors, stages, and audiences—were the cornerstones of Shakespeare’s working life. You may in reading carelessly forget to bear them constantly in mind, but Shakespeare in writing never could, or did. 1.3 Venus and Lucrece Plague closed all London theatres from January 1593 to April 1594, and companies had to make do as best they could. Shakespeare evidently spent some time writing two long poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece (often called The Rape of Lucrece), both handsomely published in 1593–4 by a school-friend of his, Richard Field, and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. The usual view is that Shakespeare was seek­ing advancement through flattery and demonstrations of talent, which he probably was, but the paired poems also offer a sharply helpful lesson in his art. Venus and Adonis is a richly com(ed)ic version of the Greek myth in which the nubile Goddess of Love falls deeply in lust with the handsome Adonis—far more interested, as some young men will be, in boar-hunting than in dealing with a peskily naked goddess. She offers herself extravagantly, he sighs in boredom, and eventually leaves (Venus in randy pursuit) to chase a boar—which promptly   For a few weeks late in 1593 weekly deaths dropped and theatres were allowed to open, but the companies mostly had to tour the provinces or rest.   ‘Comic’ simply means ‘funny’, but ‘comedic’ means ‘structured as a comedy’, i.e., crudely, ‘ending in sex/marriage/survival’.

Shakespeare: King Lear   29 kills him. Shakespeare’s main source was Ovid’s Metamorphoses, so the poem ends with the transformation of Adonis into a white-andpurple flower (usually identified as the anemone)—but not before Venus, stumbling over the body, has in her unsatisfied grief given a dire warning: ‘‘Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend; It shall be waited on with jealousy, Find sweet beginning but unsavoury end; Ne’er settled equally, but high or low, That all love’s pleasure shall not match his woe.     (ll. 1135–40) Alas, then, for Romeo and Juliet, and all other Shakespearean lovers whose “course of true love never did run smooth” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1.1.134). The vigorous sestets, rhyming ababcc, fluidly combine the racy narrative (carried in the cross-rhyming quatrain, abab-) with mocking or epigrammatic reflections (in the punchy -cc couplets), so that as in this stanza there is a clear central theme with rich poetic and intellectual orchestration. Lucrece is by comparison overtly trag(ed)ic, a tale of betrayal and loyalty set when Rome was a city-kingdom beginning to conquer neighbours. At a battlefront near home the king’s son, Tarquin, and a group of nobles including Collatine argue as to whose wife is most chaste, and resolve to ride home unannounced. All discover their wives variously compromised save Collatine, whose Lucrece is found sewing with her women—so Tarquin lusts for her. Returning alone the next night, he ignores her pleas for mercy and powerful arguments about the terrible consequences of what he wants to do (the bulk of Shakespeare’s poem), rapes her, and leaves; she then calls an assembly of the nobles who witnessed her chastity, tells all, and signs her accusation in blood by killing herself before them: Even here, she sheathed in her harmless breast   ‘Tragic’ simply means ‘sad’ (in journalism ‘an accident’ implies injury, and ‘a tragic accident’ death/s); ‘tragedic’ means ‘structured as a tragedy’—implying ‘rightly ends in death’.

30  Shakespeare: King Lear A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheathed: That blow did bail it from the deep unrest Of that polluted prison where it breathed. Her contrite sighs unto the clouds bequeathed Her winged sprite and through her wounds doth fly Life’s lasting date from cancelled destiny.    (ll. 1723–9) Appalled, the noble witnesses expel, with the people’s consent, not only Tarquin but the monarchy through which he would have inherited the throne, to make of Rome the first republic—an event of enormous political importance, still very much resonant in Shakespeare’s day and not self-evidently tragedic. The poem is in a more complex stanza than Venus and Adonis, called rhyme royal, ababbcc, which can feature two thumping couplets (aba-bb-cc) to raise the moral(ising) stakes, or as here divide abab-bcc, blurring both couplets to create an unusual, sliding density of narrative that is especially notable in Lucrece’s extraordinary speeches to the threatening yet somehow stilled Tarquin. While framed as narratives, both poems depend on long speeches in dramatic tableaux, and offer respective agendas for Shakespeare’s practices of comedy and tragedy. Venus and Adonis has an active female wooer, a woodland setting, and mock-moral love-talk in plenty, primary ingredients of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and As You Like It. Lucrece sacrifices a woman to patriarchal commodification in an acutely political context, as Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra also do. Put like this the poems seem utterly distinct—but what is instructive are their profound similarities: marble-hearted men, pleading women, death ‘cancelling destinies’, and unrequited desires claiming chaste victims who metamorphose, Adonis into his flower and Lucrece into the Roman Republic. The first part of the lesson the two poems offer is this intimate pairing, evident in all Shakespeare’s art, of comedic and tragedic modes that the practice of theatre often (and criticism still more often) forces widely apart. This means adjusting one’s expectations and labels. Such moments

Shakespeare: King Lear   31 in the tragedies as the irreverent gravediggers in Hamlet 5.1 or the drunken porter in Macbeth 2.3 are often described as ‘comic relief’, as if they were a sort of tea-break from the real dramatic business— but in strong productions they almost always intensify emotion. So do the converse moments studding the comedies that no-one would think of calling ‘tragic relief’: Helena abandoned in Midsummer Night’s Dream 2.1 or Beatrice demanding that Benedick ‘Kill Claudio’ in Much Ado 4.1. It is on a macro-scale the generic motley that pervades Shakespeare’s art, another expression of the impulse that made Hamlet rudely refer to his father’s terrifying ghost as ‘that fellow in the cellarage’ before acting as a clown to gain his awful revenge; that placed the melancholy Jacques amid the joyous nonsense of As You Like It; that had Bottom and his fellow-mechanicals perform in Pyramus and Thisbe a version of Romeo and Juliet as the hilarious finale of a wedding-feast, and set the octogenarian King Lear capering naked in a storm. In most drama one twist is more than can safely be hoped for; in Shakespeare’s almost nothing is straight. The second part of the lesson is the function in both major genres of metamorphosis. Because Shakespeare’s friend and fellow playwright Ben Jonson (1572–1636) described him as having ‘small Latin and less Greek’ it used to be confidently asserted that Shakespeare could read neither language. But this is nonsense: Jonson, a very great classicist, had Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and several European languages, and his remark is like a professor saying ‘well, he only has school Latin’; ‘less Greek’, moreover, implies some Greek, and in grammar schools only those who mastered Latin even started Greek. This matters because it means Shakespeare could (and clearly did) read Ovid in the original, and that matters because Ovid—Publius Ovidius Naso (43 bce–18 ce)—was very clearly and by a long way his favourite poet. The adjectives derived from the great Roman poets—Horatian, Virgilian, Ovidian—are falling into disuse, but to understand Shakespeare as Ovidian is helpful. If Virgil stands for patriotic   Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859) argued the case brilliantly in ‘On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth’, variously collected and posted on line.   Ovid is actually mentioned by Touchstone in As You Like It, at 3.3.8.

32  Shakespeare: King Lear epic and Horace for urbane wit, Ovid stands for dynamic wisdom, in his Tristia (‘Blues’) written in exile as much as his more famous Metamorphoses, assembling myths of reactive change. The latter is the only named book required to be brought on stage in any Shakespeare play (explicitly in Titus Andronicus, implicitly in Cymbeline), and its themes and images are ubiquitous in his writing. Hopes and realities of change are also one of the few constants among his many roles, which seems a simple thing—but most playwrights depend both in tragedy and comedy on decidedly fixed roles and ‘characters’. The two parts of the lesson go together: genres fuse and everyone can change. When a remorseless villain makes us laugh, a rogue tugs despite himself at our heartstrings, or a well-deserving hero/ine leaves us itching for them to come a cropper on any available banana-skin, Shakespeare is not dismayed or disapproving, but interested. Almost no-one in his plays acts wholly to type, or is condemned to remain as they are when the play begins: opportunity will knock and change will happen, for better or worse; it’s how to profit from the inevitability by staying alive to rise a ‘sadder but a wiser’ wo/man that counts. Genre is primarily a process of expectation—and Shakespeare did more to subvert dramatic expectations than any other writer on record. 1.4 Errors and Two Gents Exact dates are uncertain but most agree that Shakespeare’s earliest surviving comedies are The Comedy of Errors and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, probably written in that order in 1591–2. As with Venus and Lucrece, pairing them offers a valuable two-part lesson in Shakespeare’s art. The first part rests on Ben Jonson’s table-talk in 1619, when he walked to Scotland, billeted himself on the hapless Drummond of Hawthornden, and drank the man out of house and home while lecturing him on aesthetics—words Drummond had the wit and forbearance to record. Among a barrage of provocative opinions is the revealing remark that Jonson ‘had an intention to have made a play like Plaut[u]s Amphitrio, but left it off for that he could never find two

Shakespeare: King Lear   33 so like others that he could persuade the spectators they were one’— i.e. Jonson’s plan to adapt a Roman play featuring twins (easy in classical theatre as actors were masked) was inhibited by a lack of twin actors. All well and good—but Shakespeare wasn’t inhibited by anything: The Comedy of Errors is also based on a twin-play, Plautus’s Menaechmi, and borrows from Amphitrio to double its number of twins. Theatrically this spells out a huge difference between Jonson and Shakespeare: bluntly, that Jonson didn’t trust audiences’ imaginations and thought play should, where it could, be real; while Shakespeare did trust imagination, and knew all he had to do was make sure an audience knew what its premises were. It is this more than anything that transforms the inherent metatheatre of Jacobethan amphitheatres (see Part 1.2) into a living thing within Shakespeare’s plots, enabling an astonishing array of roles—Petruchio, Bottom, Falstaff, Hal, Touchstone, Mark Anthony, Hamlet, Feste, Macbeth and Prospero among them—to trust theatre in making their plans and speaking their speeches. When Jonson’s characters do this, as Subtle, Face, and Doll do in The Alchemist, they come to unhappy ends, but in Shakespeare the ‘truest poetry is the most feigning’ and there can be, as Touchstone declares, “Much virtue in If” (As You Like It, 3.3.19–20, 5.4.103). The second part of the lesson rests on a comparison of the two plays. The Comedy of Errors with its close adherence to classical models and strict logic is in many ways a clockwork perfection: its confusable twin masters and twin servants rotate through the possible combinations of mistaken identity with slick precision, and the whole is one of only two Shakespearean plays to observe the classical unities of time, place, and action. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is by comparison a mess: relatively little performed without heavy adaptation, its intertwined plots seem unbalanced and avoid a fray   Ian Donaldson, ed., Ben Jonson (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 604.   See also Jonson’s ‘Prologue’ (in his 1616 Folio) to Every Man in his Humour (1598).   That is, it happens within one day, in a single place, and has no sub-plot. The other play to observe these unities is The Tempest, probably his last as Errors had been his first; the 35 or so in between drive a coach-and-horses through all unities save their own.

34  Shakespeare: King Lear of loose ends only by some outrageous devices in act 5—including an abruptly threatened rape followed by an offer to give the woman away that even now brings readers (and performances) to a nasty stand. Yet Errors was a one-off, while Two Gents in all its un/happy chaos contained the distinctive elements of Shakespearean comedy: interwoven trials of paired lovers, male development from homosocial friendship to heterosexual love, acute metatheatrical clowning, inset-performance, a cross-dressed heroine on a journey, a general move out to the woods, and an array of marriages. Shakespeare, that is, seems only once and flawlessly to have imitated a received model; then he set out to do something quite different and in some ways frighteningly original. Most radical was the move to the woods, for all earlier stage-comedy is firmly urban; in Roman theatre the stage was even called the via (‘road’), because it invariably represented a street in front of houses. Other elements, including paired lovers and such stock-roles as the ‘clever slave’ (turned servant/page), obstructive father of the heroine, and the ‘braggart soldier’, boastful but cowardly—come from Plautine comedy and/or Italian commedia dell’arte, but combine in original ways with the cross-dressed female journey and processes of individual maturation. The clowns, conversely, derive largely from English popular culture and show startling aspects of the Vice, the stage-crafty tempter-figure in morality plays, while Crab, a dog belonging to the clown Launce (or Lance), has the distinction of being the first known   A performance as part of the plot, often referred to as the ‘play-within-the-play’, giving the impression of a ‘Russian-Doll’ type recession of elements varying only in size, but Shakespeare always distinguishes theatrical kinds, and his insetperformances are by amateurs, by travelling players, or of masques.   The obstructive father was called the senex (old man) in Roman comedy, Pantalone in commedia dell’arte; the braggart was a miles gloriosus (self-glorifying soldier), then Il Capitano (the Captain).   A term coined by John Heywood (c.1497–1580) in 1532. As Vices’ attempts to deceive typically include dis/guises, lying, etc., about which they and the audience know but other roles do not, they tend to high metatheatrical awareness and to function as Masters of Ceremonies, chatting intimately to the audience and becoming villains one ‘loves to hate’. Such roles as Richard III, Falstaff, Shylock, and Iago are clearly modelled on the Vice, and others have some of its traits.

Shakespeare: King Lear   35 scripted role for an animal in English drama. This striking heterogeneity, mixing within a theatrical world figures from very different traditions who may find themselves strangely out-of-place or surprisingly make themselves a place, became a distinctive feature of Shakespeare’s writing in all genres. Plot developments and structures are similarly borrowed from disparate places and strangely recombined, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes very productively, and if Two Gents as a whole doesn’t quite grow ‘to something of great constancy’ (Dream, 5.1.26) its many successors did. Two other points are worth making. First, the geography of Errors, wholly set in Ephesus, is simply the town and adjacent sea-coast, but in Two Gents something much stranger happens: all who travel from Verona to Milan go by sea—but neither city is a port, and between them lies only a hundred miles of the Plain of Lombardy. As he famously did again in The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare simply put a sea where he wanted one, caring as little as most auditors for real geography: so there is no point complaining about foolishness or ignorance; the question is why he wanted a sea, and the obvious answer is its symbolism of mutability and metamorphosis, a constant (Ovidian) feature of Shakespeare’s imagery in Two Gents as elsewhere. Such internal dramatic meaning is at least as important as real-world reference, a quality that goes with Shakespeare’s generosity of imagination and inclusion. Second, while the twins of Errors are not repeated (and recur only in the impossibly identical fraternal twins of Twelfth Night), their underlying principle of ‘doubling’ incidents to generate contrasts and parallels is switched to paired lovers and main/sub-plot intertwinings. This allowed Shakespeare to keep the useful density of relationship that doubling brings while escaping the shackles of twin-based plots, and it remained a favourite strategy   See Richard Beadle, ‘Crab’s Pedigree’, in Michael Cordner, Peter Holland,and John Kerrigan, eds, English Comedy (Cambridge: CUP, 1994), pp. 12–35.   Ben Jonson complained to Drummond that “Shakespeare in a play brought in a number of men saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where th[e]r[e] is no Sea near by some 100 miles” (Donaldson, ed., Ben Jonson, p. 599).   ‘Doubling’ may mean only the playing by one actor of two or more roles in the same play; I use it here in a wider sense, as a principle of dramaturgy in which plots are developed by creating parallel or paired characters, incidents, speeches etc., and main/sub-plots track one another.

36  Shakespeare: King Lear in composition throughout his career. The two parts of this lesson also go together. Shakespeare was able to throw away the easy imitative certainties of Errors and open a new comedic path with Two Gents because he trusted his audiences and their imaginations of his fictions. He could cheerfully raid other dramatic traditions, goose stock-roles into new theatrical life, and put seas where he wished for the same reason: he trusted himself and his audiences to trust theatre (Touchstone’s virtuous If), and was willing to try things out. At the same time, the intrinsic shapeliness produced by ‘doubling’, constant similarities and glinting distinctions between roles and events, gave that generosity of imagination a strong frame, and disciplined exuberance.



Part 2. Approaching King Lear 2.1 Fathers and Daughters and Fools For all its eloquent complexities the framework of King Lear is a familiar tale of inheritance contested generationally and between siblings. Maurice Sagoff’s ‘ShrinkLit’ version begins: Daughters three had agèd Lear, Two were rotten, one sincere. and it makes excellent sense never to forget that basic topoi and tropes of Shake­speare’s fearsome tragedy are found in scores of folk-tales and other stories that feature three siblings and turn on the difference of the youngest. Cinderella suffers at the hands of her Ugly Sisters but eventually escapes them, and white-faced Pedrolino in commedia dell’arte is by definition the disregarded and often ill-treated youngest son. So too, in modern work, is ‘Ti Jean’ (i.e. petit or ‘Little John’) in Derek Walcott’s St Lucian folk adaptation Ti Jean and his Brothers (the brothers being ‘Big’ and ‘Middle’ John), and the same three-fold pattern appears in The God­father with Sonny, Freddy, and Michael Corleone. Shakespeare conventionally maps this sibling rivalry onto three daughters with dowries at stake, multiplying and arraying the heroine’s condition in love comedies—but that those dowries are sundered portions of the kingdom of Britain is a clear example of   Maurice Sagoff, ShrinkLits: Seventy of the World’s Towering Classics Cut Down to Size (1970; rev. and expanded ed., New York: Workman, 1980), p. 37.   A topos, pl. topoi (Gk, topos, a place; cf. ‘topography’, ‘topical’) is a scene or condition that a narrative typically deploys, usually as a generic feature such as the saloon-bar and main-street gunfight in Westerns. A trope, pl. tropes (Gk, tropos, a movement towards;cf. ‘tropics’, ‘tropical’) is correspondingly an action or event linking topoi. Thus the trope of shipwreck, say, typically links the topoi of a maritime storm and survivors in an open boat.

38  Shakespeare: King Lear his play’s basic method. The initial fairy-tale situation is, at base, comedic—my daughter’s hand and a third of the kingdom—establish­ ing comedic identities, but the action built on that base is tragedic in the fullest sense, bringing not only one great and many constellated lives to their dooms but racking a nation with war and disaster. The father–daughter disputes in The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream threaten personal misery, even death, but the key-word is ‘threaten’; what happens between Lear and his daughters in 1.1 eventually kills all his immediate family except Albany and spills into catastrophe for the whole land. It is as if an episode of Tom & Jerry were to begin with the usual chase and then show Jerry being killed and eaten in brightest cartoon colour. Before Romanticism writers were not expected to be ‘original’ in plotting; the question was rather how to put one’s own spin on a story. Of Shakespeare’s 37 surviving plays most have known sources from which major characters and events as well as various details were taken, but he was a master of the telling tweak, a small change jagging an old tale into new configuration. The story of King Lear first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century Historia Regum Britan­niae (‘History of the Kings of Britain’) and by 1600 was widely known: it was summarised in Higgins’s Mirror for Magistrates (1574), Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577, 1587), on which Shakespeare often drew for plots, and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596); it also informed an anonymous play of c. 1594, The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Daughters, which with Holinshed was probably Shake­speare’s principal source. But from these various versions of the story Shakespeare picked aspects through which his version could be shaped. The changes almost certainly played to company strengths and indulged his own interests but also served larger strategy. In overview, Shakespeare’s major change was sharply to compress the story. In the sources years elapse between Cordelia’s banishment and Lear’s flight from his other daughters’ houses, and (after   See G. Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (8 vols, London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957–75). King Lear is treated in vol. VII (1973), pp. 267–420.

Shakespeare: King Lear   39 a successful French invasion) between Lear’s and Cordelia’s deaths, which are not connected. In Shakespeare everything is compacted into a short (though indeterminate) period and causal whole, utter disaster flowing from Lear’s enraged quasi-abdication to encom­ pass everyone. In keeping, Lear’s ‘love-trial’ of his daughters in 1.1 is reframed, for in the sources all three are initially unmarried, but in Shakespeare’s play Goneril and Regan are Duchesses of Albany and Cornwall, which makes Lear’s proposal of dividing his kingdom stranger. And—simply, brilliant­ly—Shakespeare removed what is in King Leir and his Daughters the king’s primary motive for his action: Thus to our griefe the obsequies performd Of our (too late) deceast and dearest Queen […]    (King Leir, 1.1.1–2) A new widower’s disturbed desire to abandon responsibilities is comprehensible and pitiable, if a deadly danger in an absolute monarch. But without apparent rationale for his decision Shakes­peare’s Lear is from the first a dotard on a course everyone in Shakespeare’s audiences would have found perverse, reprehensible, and morally abject folly, a king abandoning his subjects with himself—which is pretty much what the Fool says over and over again. Moreover, in most sources the principal male protagonist after Lear is a King or Prince of France, whom Shake­speare reduces to a cameo in 1.1—though he ought to re-appear with his army in Q4.4/ F4.3, and Cordelia’s apparent position in his absence as female commander of the invading forces is odd. The result is greater concentration on Lear as protagonist, and bleakening redistribution of pressure onto other male roles that promotes the evil of Cornwall and Edmund and agony of Gloucester and Edgar. Coming from the other direction, having created space with compaction and omission Shakespeare also made additions, some origi  The problem is addressed in the Q-only 4.3, which begins with news that the King of France is ‘suddenly gone back’ to deal with a crisis, and ‘left behind him general’ the ‘marshal of France, Monsieur la Far’ (Q4.3.1–8). But that Marshal makes no appearance, so Cordelia is the only commander of the French forces on show.

40  Shakespeare: King Lear nal, some grafted in. The Gloucester sub-plot, replicating the father– daughter problems of the main plot in a conflict of loyal legitimate and treacherous illegit­imate sons, is from Sidney’s Arcadia (pub. 1590) but stripped of a happy ending, and so, rather than broadening focus, serves to concentrate it, reflecting familial division and personal ambition so grossly overweening as to encompass patricide and fratricide. The more original additions are those of the Fool, Kent as Caius, loyal to Lear even in unjust banish­ment, and Edgar’s part as the capering bedlamite Poor Tom, also loyal in extremis to an unjust father—and it is through these three highly performative roles that Shakespeare let loose into his intensified, headlong tragedy both metatheatrical self-consciousness (see Part 1.2 above) and the powers of comedy, from verbal wit and bawdy to songs and pratfalls. The metatheatrical linking of the three roles is not often remarked, but the Fool in his professional nature and Kent and Edgar in their dis/guises are all actors-playing-actors, and so force onto their onstage fellows the role of actors-playing-auditors. The mock-trial in Q3.6 (omitted in F), wherein a dotard king, his Fool, and a (supposed) Bedlam beggar sit as justicers to try Goneril and Regan in absentia, and the extraordinary sequence in Q4.6/F4.5 featuring the blinded Gloucester, Edgar in various guises, and an imaginary cliff, are de facto inset-perform­ances. They may not be explicitly so, as are The Murder of Gonzago in Hamlet and Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but they enforce a similar shared metatheatrical awareness among actors and auditors. And while F’s omission of the mock-trial occasions much debate, grant­ing it status as a revision implies that whatever else he was about, Shake­speare’s second thoughts had much to do with the workings of metatheatre. For many critics metatheatre in tragedy seems to pose an inherent problem. In comedy awareness of boys-playing-girls-playing-boys and the theatrical activities of Bottom and other on-stage thespians   ‘Pratfalls’ are literally those resulting in a landing on one’s arse, or ‘prat’; I am thinking particularly of Kent/Caius tripping Oswald in 1.4.   ‘Guising’ and ‘disguising’ are peculiar—radical antonyms that have become all but synonymous. Disguising is literally removing a costume, guising is donning one, so Edgar as Poor Tom is simultaneously disguised in having shed the accoutrements of nobility and guised as a bedlamite.

Shakespeare: King Lear   41 seems congruent, and so intensifies ‘the comedy’; in tragedy it seems to be felt that awareness of it being ‘only a play’, actors painted with a little pig’s-blood, must detract from ‘the tragedy’. This isn’t illogical—but doesn’t seem to have worried Shakespeare, as witness Hamlet, explicitly metathea­trical and, far from being neutered as tragedy, more intense for it. King Lear was written about four years later, and having taken from his comedic repertoire a prating, everadmonish­ing senex as the armature of a new tragic protagonist, Shake­ speare orches­trated the theme by surrounding Lear with two kinds of role-players. On one hand are the grasping hypocrites Goneril, Regan, Cornwall, and Oswald, who know exactly what they do but not the slightest human pity, and on the other three loyal subjects­­— the Fool, Kent, and Edgar, good men loyal to king and father who are racked by pity, and survive to be outspoken only because they consciously adopt dis/guises. Cutting across the pattern is Edmund, a Vice in the mould of Richard III and Iago, and where the schemes of other villains end largely in their own deaths, Edmund’s cleverer villainy, though equally fatal to him, ultimately claims the lives not only of his father but of Cordelia and so, at the last gasp, Lear. The resonances and complexity of this pattern are extensive, and repeatedly recur in Parts 3–4 below. Here I will say only that the difficulties of admitting to and exploiting in performance the comedic elements of King Lear are coincidental with metatheatricality. The Fool and Edgar as Poor Tom are relentlessly comic as well as heartbreaking, but need to function with Kent/Caius, and despite repeated conjunc­tion of the roles (in 1.4, 1.5, 2.4, 3.2, 3.4, 3.6, and 5.3) I cannot recall a production in which the structural relation of Kent, the Fool, and Edgar as performers was made vivid. Kent, often under-directed, is usually eclipsed by the Fool, who (contrariwise) tends to be overdirected and made an isolated figure rather than first among equals in a trio of admonisher–guardians who successively fail. Without over-anticipating Parts 3.11 and 3.13 below it should be noted that the roles of Edgar as Poor Tom and of the Fool are in many ways strikingly original, not in outline but in detail. As Enid Welsford

42  Shakespeare: King Lear made clear decades ago, ‘If the plays of Shakespeare are left out of account, it will be found that the court-fool does not play so prominent a part in Elizabethan drama as might have been expected’, and even within Shakespeare’s work Lear’s Fool stands out. Touchstone in As You Like It and Feste in Twelfth Night are clearly precursors, but Lear’s Fool, achieving in F3.2 disquieting prophecy and in both texts hauntingly absent after 3.6, is of another order, and his dark night of the soul on the stormy heath is tragedic in a way alien to Touchstone and far beyond Feste’s melancholic revenges. Edgar is in outline a stock-role, developing from simple gull to noble revenger, but his disguise as Poor Tom—and what he does with it confronting Lear and his father—is another matter, comparable in the canon only to Ophelia in her ‘mad’ scenes and the Fool himself. What is not unique to King Lear, however, is arraying fool-types. The plays closest to King Lear in composition are probably Measure, for Measure, Macbeth, and Timon of Athens, and both Measure and Timon similarly deploy multiple contrasting fool-roles. Measure has Elbow (a malapropising constable) and Pompey Bum (a coarsely telling pimp–philosophiser); Timon has its own Fool and the curious role of Apemantus, a ‘churlish philosopher’. Additionally, although its date is disputed, the co-existence in All’s Well that Ends Well of Parolles and Lavatch could probably be added to the list, as might the confrontations of Thersites and Ajax in Troilus and Cressida, and of Autolycus and the Clown in The Winter’s Tale. What makes best sense of this intensification from c.1600 of Shakespeare’s long-standing interest in fool-roles and other types of stage-clowning is that in 1598–9 the principal clown in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, William Kemp (dates unknown), who almost certainly ‘created’ (i.e. first performed) the roles of Launce, Bottom, Dogberry, and (perhaps) Falstaff, left the company and was replaced by Robert Armin (c.1563–1615). Both Kemp and Armin had trained under the great clown Richard Tarlton (1530–88), but it seems likely Kemp was a more physical performer and Armin the better musician. He was also more intellectual, and where Kemp published only a brief prose memoir,   Enid Welsford, The Fool: His Social and Literary History (1935; London: Faber & Faber, 1968), p. 243.

Shakespeare: King Lear   43 Kemps nine daies wonder. Performed in a daunce from London to Norwich. (1600), Armin wrote at least one play, The Two Maids of More-clacke (1608) and two treatises on fools and fooling­—Quips upon Questions (1600) and Fool upon Fool (1600), the latter enlarged in 1605 and again in 1608 as A Nest of Ninnies. These works combine theory, observation, and stage-experience, and it is clearly not chance that where Shake­speare wrote Bottom and Dogberry for Kemp, he wrote Feste, Lear’s Fool, and Autolycus for Armin. So much has long been accepted, but it seems clear Armin was also a better ensemble player, demanding fewer set-pieces, and so enabled Shakespeare to array fools within a play. In summary, then, Shakespeare radically stripped and compacted, accelerating plot and depriving Lear of any extenuating motivation, before laying-in a sub-plot that intensifies bleakness of theme, and orchestrating around Lear sincere and insincere groups of dissemblers. In conjunction with Lear’s basic, para­doxical identity as senex and tragic protagonist, the pity and terror of his selfish folly and its consequences for all are most intensely expressed in plaintive wit, jests in extremis, and comedic agony (see Part 5). By the end almost everyone is dead or broken, and redemption via tragedic glory or comedic survival equally unimaginable to the men left standing. 2.2  Unity and Division The kingdom of England that Shakespeare chronicled during the 1590s in the eight historically consecutive history plays from Richard II to Richard III, whose plots cover c.1390–1485, is one that with appalling results falls repeatedly into faction and civil war. The evils stemming from the deposition and murder of Richard II lead to the revolts of Henry IV, and after the brief glory of Henry V to the ‘Wars of the Roses’ that fill Henry VI and Richard III—familial and civil conflict ended only by Henry Tudor’s victory at Bosworth Field and ascension as Henry VII. Dynastic factionalisation of the state and tainting of the suprarational order embodied in monarchy are pro  On the history plays and their background, see C. W. R. D. Moseley, Shakespeare’s History Plays, Richard II to Henry V: The Making of a King (1986; 2/e, Tirril: Humanities-Ebooks, 2009)

44  Shakespeare: King Lear foundly painful, but Shakespeare’s audience knew both that the horrors of the past had given way to the glories of Elizabeth’s reign, and that Elizabeth would soon die childless. The latter thought terrified anyone with wit, and Shakespeare’s history plays (which his tragedies continue) gave extended warning about civil division as well as exploring good and bad rule. By 1604–05 things had changed. The transfer of power to James VI & I in 1603 passed smoothly, dismissing the spectre of civil war for a generation—but James was still taking the measure of his new throne and subjects, so a cautionary tale of what happens to people who become divided over royal inheritance and to a monarch who foments division remained germane. The spectacle of a king banishing the only adviser to challenge his folly and the profound loyalty of that adviser must have been interesting to early audiences of King Lear. But the basic ‘moral’ of horrors arising from faction that spills into armed conflict was already familiar and Shakespeare was preaching to the converted—as we who do not doubt the horror of nuclear war are still attracted to representations of it in print and on film. What is striking is how intense Shakespeare made this tragedic sermon about a catastrophic loss of unity. In both texts the ‘division of the kingdoms’ (in F ‘kingdom’) is stated as a given in line 4, immediately followed by a shameless, witty exchange about adulterous (and as it transpires reckless) begetting of bastards. As early as 1.2 Gloucester complains explicitly to Edmund that ‘Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities mutinies, in countries discord, in palaces treason, and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father’ (Q1.2.100–02/F.98–100), and in F goes on to proclaim that ‘We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves’ (F.103–05). Once alone Edmund rightly mocks his father’s desire to blame the stars rather than men, and his own muscular determination, set against his father’s loquacious irrelevance while (as the audience knows) making a terrible mistake, allows Edmund pro tem some audience favour. But however he scorns self-serving   The ‘in’ before ‘palaces’ is missing in Q, which also reads ‘between’ rather than ‘’twixt’.

Shakespeare: King Lear   45 credulity and indicts the ‘goatish disposition’ of ‘whoremaster man’ (Q.114–15/F.117–18), Edmund has nothing to say about the gross civil and familial disorders Gloucester enumerates in lines now often (as they would not be in a history play) spoken as querulous exaggeration, a set-up for Edmund’s ‘honest villain’ soliloquy. Yet Edmund embodies the familial disorder his father laments, as do events in 1.1; Gloucester is a reporter as much as a prophet, and the audience has already seen—and will go on seeing—love cooling, friendship falling, brothers (and sisters) dividing, mutinies, discord, treason, and patricide, ruinous disorders that will disquietly follow father, daughter, son, and more to their graves. They will also see struggling, desperate, individually redemptive loyalty and Christian virtues, from Cordelia, Kent, Gloucester, Edgar, Albany, and the Fool, to little if any avail. The end of King Lear is like that of Hamlet, a royal line extinct and most or all of another principal family (Gloucester’s, Polonius’s) dead into the bargain; Edgar and Albany survive but neither can bring to the ending anything resembling the hope of new order Fortinbras brings to Denmark. Nor can Edgar, like Horatio a principal witness to core events, offer any understanding to match Horatio’s account: Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, Of accidental judgements, casual slaughters, Of deaths put on by cunning and [forc’d] cause, And in this upshot, purposes mistook Fall’n on th’inventors’ heads  (Hamlet 5.2.381–5) Instead, Edgar (or in Q, Albany) can offer only platitudes heavy with defeat: The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest have borne most; we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long. (Q5.3.315–8/F.299–302) The couplets have virtue, if a day late and a dollar short, but the

46  Shakespeare: King Lear second, in both texts the final lines, is neither self-evidently true nor remotely adequate as a moral summary of events. If ‘the oldest’ are Lear and Gloucester, what they ‘have borne’ was of their own making, and both die of heart-failure when confronted with the consequences of their folly for a loyal child; what the ‘young’ will or will not there­ fore see is beyond prediction. The slide to divided ruin is complete. Of those left standing Albany is widowed and de facto childless, as intent as Lear on withdrawal from rule, and tries to deputise the equally bereaved Kent and Edgar as the next kings. Kent, who may (unlike Albany) have learned something about divided rule, or may only be heartbroken and deathbound, refuses, leaving Edgar (or Albany) to speak the last couplets; whichever takes on the chore, the stage-picture is of isolated individuals (older, middle-aged, and younger men) standing bereft amid disaster. In modern metaphors a dynasty has crashed and burned, leaving no survivors and a host of casualties on the ground; flight recorders reveal the pilot abandoning the controls in a fit of pique followed by a fight between his would-be replacements. No other play by Shakespeare save Troilus and Cressida has an ending so bereft of post-catastrophic meaning, and where Troilus and Cressida survive loss of unity as lovers, Lear, Goneril, Regan, Cornwall, his servant, Cordelia, Gloucester, Edmund, the Fool, Oswald, and unknown numbers of English and French soldiers do not survive Lear’s witless personal, familial, and national self-division. 2.3 A Play by Shakespeare This section applies to King Lear points made in Part 1, ‘Approaching Shake­speare’—summarily that (i) he was a consummate theatre professional, (ii) generic motley and Ovidian metamorphosis pervade his art, and (iii) he habit­ually extended to actors, craft, and audiences strong trust in collective imagination and a generosity of spirit that liberates in performance and resolution. Considered as an object of performance, King Lear is in both texts structurally unremarkable, as role line-counts suggest. Lear is dominant, more than double the length of any other role save Q Edgar and

Shakespeare: King Lear   47 speaking almost a quarter of the play, but nothing like as oversize as Hamlet or Iago (both 1,200+ lines), and shorter than, say, the Duke in Measure, for Measure (800+ lines). The Q/F revision affects almost every role, but if detail is full of implication, gross structure doesn’t change: Kent, Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund remain the next largest roles, their balance with Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, Albany, and Cornwall unaffected. The only striking change, in this sense, is the trimming (more in lines than numbers) of the gentlemen, knights, servants &c. comprising the bit-parts—and much of that is down to F’s omission with 3.4 of one wordy gentleman (a cut also substantially responsible for the drop in Kent’s lines). Readers may be surprised by how short the roles of Cordelia and the Fool are—but that testifies to how power­fully they are written. Scene line-counts show the play is well-balanced and lacks the disproportionate­ly large scenes found in 1 Henry IV, Hamlet, and The Winter’s Tale. 5.2, Edgar and Gloucester, is notably short, but also features in brisk stage-directions the passage of the armies and the battle— the latter boiled down to the curt instruction ‘Alarm and retreat’ (F adds ‘within’, as if to discourage any impulse to spectacular staging). In both versions action flows rapidly, and while there is no obvious polarisation of left/right entrances/exits, they can in many scenes usefully be opposed to signal different directions of travel &c.

King Lear Goneril Regan Cordelia Albany Cornwall Kent/Caius Gloucester Edgar/Poor Tom Edmund Oswald Fool Burgundy + France 17/15 other roles

Q1 (3059 ll.)

F1 (2890 ll.)

709 (23.18%)

712 (24.64%)

183 (5.98) 183 (5.98) 115 (3.76) 148 (4.84) 105 (3.43) 345 (11.28) 323 (10.56) 382 (12.49) 296 (9.68) 79 (2.58) 192 (6.28) 42 (1.37) 188 (6.14)

177 (6.12) 183 (6.33) 107 (3.70) 117 (4.05) 106 (3.67) 296 (10.24) 315 (10.90) 327 (11.31) 280 (9.69) 66 (2.28) 198 (6.85) 42 (1.45) 122 (4.22)

48  Shakespeare: King Lear 1.1 294/304

1.2 163/164

1.3 26/20

1.4 325/317

2.1 129/129

2.2 164/161

2.3 21/21

2.4 278/298

3.1 47/34

3.2 78/96

3.3 23/23

3.4 167/171

3.5 22/23

3.6 108/53

3.7 104/95

4.2 95/64

4.3 55/–

4.4 29/29

4.5 41/41

4.6 275/279

4.7 96/78

5.2 11/11

5.3 318/302

4.1 77/74 5.1 69/58

1.5 49/45

Total lines per act: 1–857/850  2–592/609  3–549/495  4–668/565  5–398/371. Total lines: 3059/2890 All of which said, King Lear equally plainly is remarkable in the roles it offers, and in certain demands on staging. Lear, Edgar, and Edmund have always attracted actors, and Lear is regarded by many as properly the last, oldest ‘great Shake­spearean hero’ to play, as Romeo is first and youngest; since his restoration to performance the Fool has also provided a special test for actors. The question of staging is more complicated. Save for the relatively innovative map (deliberately echoing the map whereby the rebels unrealistically apportion the country among themselves in 1 Henry IV 3.1) the play needs no prop that would not normally be in a Jacobethan propschest (letters, stocks, stool), and even modern directors with full theatrical resources are usually happy to obey F and minimise the battlesequence. But there are, in amphitheatrical staging, the question of the discovery-space, and in all staging the questions of the storm in 2.4–3.4, Gloucester’s blinding in 3.7, and the imaginary cliff over which he jumps in 4.6/5. (See Parts 3.1, 3.9, 3.11, & 4.7.) How the discovery-space was used has always been disputed. Many critics once confidently believed it must have served as an ‘inner stage’ for such inset-performances as The Murder of Gonzago in Hamlet, but consensus is now strongly that this is unworkable. The same logic debars use as the hovel in the storm-scenes of King   Care is needed. The notion that a role ‘should’ be played by an actor of the ‘right’ age is a modern belief fostered by film and TV, which rely on close-ups of the face. It need not apply on stage: Betterton last played Romeo in his late sixties, and Garrick first played Lear aged 25.

Shakespeare: King Lear   49 Lear, but the discovery-space was favoured by kings for authority entrances and by clowns and fools for comic or subversive ones, and it seems unlikely in a play so concerned with kings and fools that joint association with the discovery-space was not exploited in staging. In reading the play it is worth pondering entrances/exits as left/ right or central and keeping track of how that might layer meanings by physically associating particular moments or roles: Lear and his Fool were probably thus interwoven in the original staging of 1.4– 3.6, and the discovery-space also used by Edgar as Poor Tom. The role of Lear was probably created by Richard Burbage, that of the Fool by Robert Armin, but all casting is uncertain. The older female roles of Goneril and Regan needed skilled boys—more so than younger, less eloquent Cordelia—but there is in Shakespeare’s work a notable cluster of older female roles, beginning with these two and extending to Lady Macbeth, the Dowager Countess in All’s Well, Cleopatra, Volumnia in Coriolanus, and Hermione in The Winter’s Tale. All these roles are usually dated 1604–10, and the simplest explanation is that Shakespeare had available a boy he trusted with such parts. Like all Shakespeare the play builds some roles on stockframes—Lear and Gloucester as variants of the senex, Edgar as gull turned revenger, Edmund as Vice, and perhaps France & Burgundy as an Odd Couple—that company actors would functionally have understood whatever occasional complications Shakespeare added. Then again, extremities of speech and interplay of character throughout acts 3–4 make ensemble (inter-)acting of Lear, the Fool, Kent/Caius, Edgar/Poor Tom, and Gloucester a superb challenge, and no modern production has the advantages of the first actors—know  Critics tend to assume so, as Burbage was the company’s reading actor and Lear a leading role, but there is no direct evidence other than an elegy on Burbage, dated to 1619 and attributed to ‘Jo ffletcher’, presumably playwright John Fletcher (1579–1625). This may seem decisive, but the lines listing roles may be an insertion by J. P. Collier, a known faker, and even if written soon after Burbage’s death in 1619 by someone who had seen him act there are serious problems in accepting them at face value.   If Measure is performed with a significant age differential between Isabella and Mariana, the latter also becomes an interesting candidate as a role written for a boy or boys whom Shakespeare thought could pull off personation of age as well as gender.

50  Shakespeare: King Lear ing one another well and having acted together for years in the roles and plays from which these roles and this play had grown. Only in an unusual­ly long run can actors now reach the kind of trust and experimentation that must have been a primary factor in the first performances—and that helps explain how the extraordinary generic motley implicit in simultaneous tragedies of king, fool, beggar and noble must have been handled. Modern proscenium-arch stages, audience wholly in one direction, are also a problem because they forbid articulation to three sides—which is, for example, helpful in staging the ‘mock-trial’ of Q3.6—and (saving soliloquies) inhibit direct address to audiences, which Cordelia, Goneril, and Poor Tom require and almost all the actors can profitably use. The rarely remarked Ovidian presence in King Lear is quite strong, riding that strange, desolate version of a green world that is the stormy heath. In the comedies woods and fields in which fleeing lovers find themselves are wellsprings of change and restoration, and possess a potent metatheatrical charge—a combination clearly illustrated in Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, resorting to the forest for rehearsals and gaining an ass’s head. In earlier tragedies Shake­speare opposed first and green worlds only incidentally—the ‘desert place’ where Lavinia is raped and mutilated, for example— but the battle sequences in Julius Caesar and opposition of Venice and Cyprus in Othello point an upward way, and both King Lear and, in inverted ways, Macbeth depend on opposed interior domestic and exterior heath scenes. Nor has the metamorphic power of the green world gone missing, for it is on the heath that Edgar becomes Tom, and Lear, who ‘hath ever but slenderly known himself’ (Q1.1.280–1/ F.290–1) and wanted to retain ‘all the additions to a king’ (Q1.1.126/ F.134), is reduced to a ‘poor, bare, forked animal’ (Q3.4.96/F.100); as it is the heath the Fool finds so harshly alien that he vanishes, and across which a disguised Edgar leads his blinded father, who ‘stumbled when [he] saw’ (Q4.1.17/F.19) but now sees ‘this world […] feelingly’ (Q4.6.141–3/F.5.141–3). The coronet of flowers Lear   In Shakespeare and other Jacobethan work a ‘desert place’ is one devoid of people, not water or vegetation, so a green-world forest may be or contain a desert; cf. ‘deserted’.

Shakespeare: King Lear   51 often wears in 4.6/5 (illustrated on the cover of Arden 2) is also an Ovidian sign of metamorphic forces that gather as the play rushes to its end. One might also contend, however, that there is a terminal failure of metamorphosis, in which much dies but is not transformed into new life or politics, though the soil is manured with plenty of blood; comparison with the importance of Fortinbras in Hamlet 5.2 is again instructive. Finally there is the issue of Shakespeare’s imaginative generosity about and with performance. The enormous challenges and possibilities of the ensemble acting King Lear requires is part of it—Burbage and Armin must have been professionally delighted by their parts— but, as in Hamlet, there is also death on a generous scale. Just as he arrayed marriages in the last acts of comedies, Shakespeare tended to array deaths in the last acts of tragedies and the wholesale slaughter of 5.3 (which sees off at minimum Goneril, Regan, Edmund, an offstage Gloucester, Cordelia, and Lear) is as much imposition of final equality as any comedic reconciliation. This is in part a means of generic control, but also works to make those left alive seem excluded from a share in the deathly ending—inviting comparison with the endings of As You Like It and Twelfth Night, where Jaques and Malvolio exclude themselves by exiting, and leave behind powerful, unsettling impressions of absence. The final testimony to Shakespeare’s generosity is how much he leaves up to the actors, and how much they must, willy-nilly, leave up to an audience. No-one could claim King Lear lacks finality, yet questions unanswered in any text include what happened to the Fool? what on earth the King of France thought he was doing in sanctioning an invasion? what the devil Lear thought he was doing in the first place? who will succeed him? what will become of England? and whether any justice has been done. To leave so much calculatedly open when so much has happened, so much more been richly said, is characteristic of Shakespeare.

  Tragedies may ‘end in death’, comedies ‘in marriage’, but it does not follow that four deaths or marriages make for greater tragedy or comedy than one: all after the first may as readily serve to qualify as to reinforce generic identity.

Part 3. Actors and Players Readers are reminded that scene and line-counts derive from Weis’s parallel Q and F texts, and totals may for various reasons seem not to tally; see Part 0.2 above.

3.1 Lear Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (114), 1.4 (113), 1.5 (21), 2.4 (155), 3.2 (42), 3.4 (63), 3.6 (29), 4.6 (90), 4.7 (32), 5.2 (0), 5.3 (50) Total Q scenes : 11 Total Q lines : 709 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (121), 1.4 (110), 1.5 (20), 2.4 (159), 3.2 (42), 3.4 (66), 3.6 (12), 4.6 (96), 4.7 (33), 5.2 (0), 5.3 (53) Total F scenes: 11 Total F lines: 712 Of all Shakespeare’s titular protagonists, Lear is perhaps the hardest to act. He must, by turns and with complex overlaps, be regal and senile, vicious and pitiable, petty and grandiloquent—mixtures closer to Cleopatra than to the earlier British kings, and with a habitual, vitriolic rage that anticipates Coriolanus rather than recalling Hotspur. He must be great enough as monarch and father in acts 1–2 that his later suffering is felt as tragic—yet in those acts must also let savagely fly at Cordelia, Kent, Goneril, and Regan, and later negotiate derangement, partial recovery, recon­ciliation with Cordelia, trans­cendent philoso­phising in defeat, and literally heart-breaking bereavement. Actors have responded variously to these demands. The great David Garrick (1717–79), who first played Lear (in Tate’s version) in 1742, aged 25, and last in 1776, aged 59, seems to have regarded the role as primarily a study in guilty grief: [Garrick] was acquainted with a worthy man, who lived in

Shakespeare: King Lear   53 Leman-street, Good­man’s Fields; this friend had an only daughter, about two years old; he stood at his dining room window, fondling the child, and dangling it in his arms, when it was his misfortune to drop the infant into a flagged area, and killed it on the spot. […] He lost his senses, and from that moment never recovered his understanding. […] Garrick frequently went to see his distracted friend, who passed the remainder of his life in going to the window, and there playing in fancy with his child. After some dalliance, he dropped it, and, bursting into a flood of tears, filled the house with shrieks of grief and bitter anguish. He then sat down, in a pensive mood, his eyes fixed on one object; at times looking slowly round him, as if to implore compassion. […] There it was, said Garrick, that I learned to imitate madness; I copied nature, and to that owed my success in King Lear. This tale has been doubted but indicates Garrick’s attitude to the part, and Benjamin Wilson’s illustration of Garrick as Lear in c.1760 certainly suggests pain rather than rage. Conversely, the most influential modern perform­ance, by Paul Scofield (1922–2008), directed by Peter Brooke (b.1925) on stage in 1962 and film in 1971, is remembered for a coldly arrogant, deeply unsympathetic Lear in productions that ‘almost exonerated Goneril and Regan’. On the same lines but with a distinct twist, Kathryn Hunter (b.1958), the only woman recently to play the role in a professional production (directed by Helena Kaut-Howson in 1997), brought an intimate vicious­ness to Lear’s rage, notably by laying a paternal hand on Goneril’s stomach as ‘he’ quietly spoke the line ‘Into her womb convey sterility’ (Q1.4.264/F.248). The performance in 2007 of Ian McKellen (b.1939) for Trevor Nunn (b.1940) sought to combine Scofield’s offputting arrogance and Hunter’s cruel rage with an engaging dotard’s vulnerability, most blatantly manifest when McKellen stripped in 3.4   Arthur Murphy, The Life of David Garrick, Esq. (2 vols, London 1801), i.28–30, quoted in Ian McIntyre, Garrick (1999; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000), p. 49.   Reproduced in McIntyre, Garrick, as plate 17, and at: http://www.routledge.com/textbooks/0415227283/webcompanion/14.htm.   Peter Holland, ‘A Shifting Landscape’, p. 13, in the RSC programme for the 2007 world tour of King Lear and The Seagull, both starring Ian McKellen.

54  Shakespeare: King Lear (‘Off, off, you lendings’, Q.3.4.97/F.101) and shivered his naked way through the ‘naughty night’ of the storm. In production an actor’s age is influential. Lear is ‘Four­score and upward’ (Q4.7.59/F.6.55), an eighty-something, so senility is no surprise—which is fine until it comes to casting. Scofield’s coldness went with his 40s vigour and close-cropped grey (rather than white) beard, while McKellen’s vulner­ability during the storm was evident in the 68-year-old body exposed to the audience. Tom Wilkinson (b.1948) was, like Scofield, only in his brown-bearded 40s when he played Lear in 1993 for Max Stafford-Clarke (b.1941), and if his energy in the role made Lear’s power easy to understand, it also made his stupidities in act 1 harder to credit. At the other end of the scale Olivier was in his mid-70s when he last performed Lear in the 1983 TV production directed by Michael Elliott (1931–84): his breathing was emphysemous, his voice querulous, and his body (far more than McKellen’s) plainly that of an increasingly frail man. As with the relative youth afforded Shakespeare’s heroines in performance—a Juliet or Desdemona who looks 14, as against one plainly a decade older—Lear’s perceived age affects everything else in the play, emotionally and morally. The staging of the storm also affects performance, for while Burbage (or who­ever) would in the original production have had intermittent thunder and perhaps lightning (see Part 4.7), with the advent of sound-reproduction many directors have not only gone to town with thunder but added a constant keening of wind. In consequence, in every professional production I saw before 1999 Lear (and inter­locutors) shouted most lines in act 3, eliminating nuance and narrowing emotional range—which is why the otherwise disappointing 1999 production by Yukio Ninagawa (b.1935) starring Nigel Hawthorne was such a revelation (Part 0.1). The storm was stylised, without oversound, so Hawthorne was able to avoid bellowing, restoring to Lear’s speeches a range of feeling and revealing often striking humour. On the evening I saw the show the biggest laugh came from Lear’s reaction to his first sight of Poor Tom, ‘Didst   Olivier reportedly wanted to strip entirely in his 1983 TV production, but was not allowed to do so.

Shakespeare: King Lear   55 thou give all to thy daughters, / And art thou come to this?’ (Q3.4.42– 3/F.47–8)—a laugh made possible (given the circumstances) by Hawthorne’s exquisite comedic modulation of voice. He was a much greater comedic than tragedic actor, but his comic skill could not have borne fruit had he had to outshout a hurricane. Nor is this problem limited to act 3. Lear’s rages in acts 1 and 2 can easily lead actors (via their directors) into shouted monotony or (following Scofield’s revelation of a hatefully arrogant Lear) an overtaxed coldness that equally reduces emotional register. The styles of acting Shakespeare knew were more histrionic—gestural and declamatory—than almost anything in modern professional theatrepractice, but at the same time the acoustics of the Globe, smaller than most modern theatres, were (to judge by the London replica) very good, and eye-contact with the audience not only easier but unavoidable. Both acting and theatre-design thus probably facilitated at the Globe (and Blackfriars) a kind of performance that would now seem overblown, but for which modern actors have found no replacement. Turning the problem round, one could say Lear’s emotional lability requires enraged vituperation and great speeches to be interspersed among many kinds of dialogue—banter with his retinue and Kent/Caius, responses to the Fool’s vinegar jesting, affable moralising with Edgar/Poor Tom, and so on. Teenage Romeo or thirty-yearold Hamlet can be satisfyingly mercurial on stage but unpredictable behaviour from an aged king is more problematic, especially for productions that are strongly naturalistic in acting style and seek psychological coherence. The difficulty as a whole corresponds with the construction of Lear as a senex undergoing the mortal suffering of a tragic protagonist. Doomed Hamlet wittingly puts on ‘an antic disposition’, and can (until he kills him) play his eloquence off the pratings of old man Polonius—but doomed Lear is himself a prating senex, for ever harping on his daughters, and loses in earnest what wits he has. In consequence, however, the actor who does find in acts 1–3 a work  A ‘hall theatre’ in monastery-buildings in the City of London, acquired by James Burbage in 1597 but leased to the Children of the Chapel from 1600–08; thereafter it was used by the King’s Men jointly with the Globe.

56  Shakespeare: King Lear ing balance between Lear’s comedic bones and tragic flesh is able in Q4.6–7/F4.5–6 and 5.3 to generate extra­ordinary power and pathos in his mordant exchanges with Gloucester (comparable to Hamlet’s with the gravediggers), tender exchanges with Cordelia living, and agonised speeches over Cordelia dead. Though stripped of power and dignity, and mentally unmoored, the Lear of act 3 remains obsessed with indicting his daughters, but by 4.6/5 self-knowledge is beginning to break in—as when he responds to Gloucester’s request to kiss his hand by saying ‘wipe it first; it smells of mortality’ (Q4.6.128/F.5.128)—and once ‘the great rage […] is cured [in F ‘killed’] in him’ (Q4.7.75–6/F.6.72–3) he clearly becomes in some measure a different person. Lear Be your tears wet? Yes, faith, I pray, weep not. If you have poison for me, I will drink it. I know you do not love me, for your sisters Have, as I do remember, done me wrong. You have some cause, they do not. Cordelia No cause, no cause.   (Q4.7.68–72/F.6.65–9) But how significant a measure? Lear still recalls wrongs done him, but for the first time admits fault and offers atonement (albeit in an excessive, potentially histrionic way). The issue of what truth he has achieved is complicated by Cordelia’s loving but untrue reply, and further refracted by his extraordinary speech early in 5.3 (‘We two alone will sing like birds i’th’cage’), at once a consolation of philosophy, dismissing Cordelia’s loss of rank and liberty with his own, and a self-aggrandising fantasy of transcendent survival as delusional as his earlier madness. This problem in deciding how Lear has grown as a result of his experiences finds its terminus in the strangest crux of interpretation, the cause of Lear’s death—a moment so different in Q and F   In the parallel Q/F edition by Weis that I am using Cordelia’s reply is scanned as a continuation of Lear’s last line, a hypermetric reading I reject; hence the apparent discrepancy in the reference.

Shakespeare: King Lear   57 that the wording chosen for an edition or production has a marked effect. Tate’s version obviates the problem by having Lear survive, but Shake­spearean Lears (and their directors) have for a century had to choose between the obvious reading, that Lear dies of grief at Cordelia’s death, and an astonishingly influential account by A. C. Bradley (1851–1935) proposing that Lear dies of joy, falsely believing Cordelia still to be alive. As an anonymous wit had it: I dreamt last night that Shakespeare’s Ghost Sat for a civil-service post. The English paper for that year Had several questions on King Lear Which Shakespeare answered very badly Because he hadn’t read his Bradley. Bradley’s account depends on the last two lines Lear speaks in F— ‘Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, / Look there, look there.’ (F5.3.284–5)—neither of which appears in Q, and is therefore caught up in the arguments about F as an authorial revision. But if his interpretation makes Lear’s death closer to that of Gloucester (Q5.3.189–93/F.187–91), it also means that Lear ends as deluded about Cordelia as he began, dying not from the excoriating guilt of ultimate responsibility for his youngest daughter’s death but from an excess of hallucinated relief at avoiding that guilt—and whether that crowns, intensifies, dilutes, or negates his tragedy is a matter each reader and auditor must decide for themselves.

  Quoted in M. Taylor, Shakespeare Criticism in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: OUP, 2001), p. 40.   A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy (1904; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1966), pp. 241–2.   It is also, to my mind, perverse in ignoring other such climactic, tragedic moments of display and demand—’give order that these bodies / High on a stage be placed to the view’ (Hamlet 5.2.377–8); ‘Look on the tragic loading of this bed’ (Othello 5.2.363); ‘behold where stands / Th’usurper’s cursed head’ (Macbeth 5.9.20–1); ‘O, see, my women: The crown o’th’earth doth melt’ (Antony and Cleopatra 4.15.62–3.

58  Shakespeare: King Lear 2.2 Goneril Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (24), 1.3 (25), 1.4 (55), 2.4 (15), 3.7 (2), 4.2 (40), 5.1 (7), 5.3 (15) Total scenes : 8 Total lines : 183 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (27), 1.3 (19), 1.4 (64), 2.4 (15), 3.7 (2), 4.2 (31), 5.1 (5), 5.3 (14) Total scenes : 8 Total lines : 177 In many ways Goneril and Regan form a double act. In turn they flatter Lear in 1.1 and reject him through acts 1–2, culminating in the paired rejection of 2.4; both desire Edmund; and die together offstage in 5.3 before both bodies are brought on (like Agamemnon and Cassandra in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon). That said, the sisters are also distinct, and despite equal length Goneril is usually the more memorable. This greater prominence begins simply because as the elder Goneril hosts and quarrels with her father first—giving her an early twohander with Oswald (1.3) that leads directly into the major action of 1.4, where she speaks more than a quarter of her lines. Her return in 2.4 is really no more than a supporting role to Regan, but because her arrival precipitates the sisters’ double-act in arguing down the number of soldiers in Lear’s retinue, and so Lear’s explosive speech beginning ‘O reason not the need’, she is disproportionately prominent in the action. Her desire for Edmund is also more interesting than her sister’s widowed and rivalrous desire, for Goneril begins to desire adulterously, clashes violently with her husband Albany in 4.2, and writes Edmund a poisonously insinuating letter that Edgar reads aloud in 4.6/5 and Albany confronts her with in 5.3. It is also Goneril who turns the sisters’ rivalry murderous, poisoning Regan and stabbing herself—which gives her much the stronger lines and reported action in 5.3. First and last, therefore, Goneril is plainly the elder, more wilful and decisive of the pair, and audiences recognise it. As a character, Goneril also tends to be made more interesting and

Shakespeare: King Lear   59 sympathetic by the staging of 1.4, where the behaviour of Lear’s retinue (including the bitter jests of the Fool and tripping Oswald) can give real justification to her complaints. Her speech with the muchquoted phrase about an ‘all-licensed fool’ (Q1.4.188/ F.174), however deliberately set up, is not lacking force or reason. Her confrontation with Albany in 4.2 is also influential, and text-sensitive, for much of the exchange is in Q only, F depriving Albany of some memorable invective—‘Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile; / Filths savour but themselves.’ (Q4.2.36–7)—and Goneril of both an excellent line and some crisp martial rhetoric—‘No more, the text is foolish. […] Where’s thy drum? / France spreads his banners in our noiseless land […] Whilst thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries / ‘Alack, why does he so?’’ (Q4.2.35, 53–7). In either version much depends on how Albany is played, but unless the text is selectively chosen to boost him, or Goneril is unwontedly weak, she usually comes off a verbal victor over her worthier husband. The boy who created the role must have been a strong actor Shakespeare trusted, perhaps the one for whom the role of Lady Macbeth was crafted a year or so later. Partly because Goneril is villainous and partly because the Fool and Poor Tom do the singing there are no songs for her (an easy option for a weak boy as most had started in choir-schools), and the confrontations with Lear in 1.4 and Albany in 4.2 demand displays of strength, vocal force, and in 1.4 an authority entrance stilling a crowded stage. Elsewhere, unctuous wheedling, snarky amour propre, breathy lust, cold command, and sly asides are needed, as well as overall conscious­ness of the doubleact with Regan and its arc into dissension over Edmund. How Goneril’s patent sexuality was originally performed is one of the great imponderables, but there are (save Cleopatra, and in a quite different manner Juliet’s old nurse) few other female Shakespearean roles that so openly express lust and reflect sexual experience. Almost any of the comedic heroines might find occasion to remark what Goneril calls in F ‘the difference of man and man’ (F4.2.26), but they would not—as virgins could not—mean what Goneril is usually taken to mean, speaking after a kiss with Edmund that is now almost always played as far more than ceremonially chaste; and

60  Shakespeare: King Lear however the kiss is performed, her next line—‘To thee a woman’s services are due’—has nothing to do with the innuendos of inexperience. The sheer physicality of her letter to Edmund (intercepted and read by Edgar in 4.6/5) also points the animal way in its imagery of ‘loathed warmth’ and ‘labour’ between the sheets, and while many Shakespearean female roles do not require or reward great sexualisation, Goneril does so in spades. In that sense the finest performance I have seen was by Lia Williams (b. 1964) for Max Stafford-Clark in 1993, who wore tight breeches and managed persuasively to convey not only sensuality and a hot desirability of flesh but a woman who in important matters thought with her thighs. Edmund’s thrusting of himself upward in rank seemed to her (and her pelvis) less a political than a sexual advance, bursting seams to enable access, and the production superbly (and unusually) captured the relations between her viscerally lustful thinking and Edmund’s obsession with his father’s adultery and his own bastardy. There is, finally, an ambiguity in Goneril’s offstage suicide, for which (as for Lady Macbeth’s presumed suicide) there are competing possibilities—grief at the loss of Edmund, fear of punishment following exposure as a sororicide, and final rejection of Albany and the ‘loathed warmth’ of his bed (Q4.6.255/F.5.260). Her use of a knife might be (as in the suicides of Lucrece and Juliet) a sign of determination and womanly courage. But even returned to the stage Goneril’s corpse has no suicide-note to offer beyond her reported confession of poisoning Regan, and the manner of her ending, however morally relevant and physically represented in bloody traces, tends to be subsumed and forgotten in the final catastrophe that follows it. .

2.3 Regan Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (20), 2.1 (23), 2.2 (6), 2.4 (53), 3.7 (19), 4.5 (33), 5.1 (13), 5.3 (16) Total scenes : 8 Total lines : 183 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (14), 2.1 (23), 2.2 (5), 2.4 (59), 3.7 (19), 4.4 (33), 5.1 (12), 5.3 (18)

Shakespeare: King Lear   61 Total scenes : 8 Total lines : 183 In many ways Goneril and Regan form a double act. In turn they flatter Lear in 1.1 and reject him through acts 1–2, culminating in the paired rejection of 2.4; both desire Edmund; and die together off-stage in 5.3 before both bodies are brought on (like Agamemnon and Cassandra in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon). That said, the sisters are also distinct, and despite equal length Regan is usually the less memorable. As the younger Regan takes second place, in 1.1 and in confronting her father—but also in being centrally displaced into the subplot. From 2.1–3.7 she appears primarily in relation to Gloucester, and while the confrontation with her father in 2.4 is by some way her biggest scene she is flanked throughout by her husband and latterly by her sister. The impression of an innate, parasitic viciousness is almost inevitably created in 3.7 by her cruel taunting of Gloucester and eager participation as Cornwall’s sidekick in his blinding, and her decisive action in running a sword through the servant who resists her husband (Q3.7.77s.d./F.77s.d.) tends to become more an act of affronted arrogance—and a cowardly stab in the back—than a sign of vigour to be reckoned with. Similarly, her eye lights on Edmund only as a widow and apparently for opportunistic political rather than drivingly sexual reasons; her authority is denied by Oswald in 4.5/4, and overridden by Albany in act 5; and the diminuendo reaches its conclusion in her passive poisoning and retching exit in 5.3. It is therefore possible to be left with a strong sense of Regan, however vile, as a victim of sorts, and certainly third fiddle to the capacities of will painfully evident in her father and elder sister. Moreover, if Lear and Gloucester are both white-bearded and the obvious parallels visually enforced, it becomes possible to see Regan’s assault on Gloucester’s beard and viciousness towards the old man as a displacement of under­standable rage with an abusive father. Little can make her nicer, and nothing admirable, but especially with a Lear played for loveless anger rather than nobility she can become pitiable—though the taint of her words and actions in 3.7 is rarely forgotten or forgiven.

62  Shakespeare: King Lear To some extent, therefore, the most open question about the role in performance is how to manage the double-act with Goneril in a way that gives maximal individuality but exploits the stance they share in acts 1–2, the common love they profess in acts 3–5, and their coincident deaths in 5.3. While some physical pairing is common in casting and/or costuming, I cannot recall a production that has gone significantly beyond that in treating the sisters as a unit when on stage together. It is unlikely the original boy-actors were expected to make them an Odd Couple, after the manner of Hal and Falstaff in 1 & 2 Henry IV or Sir Toby and Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, but quick, alternating speeches at Q1.1.265/F.275 ff., Q2.4.207/ F.221 ff., Q5.1.28/F.18 ff., and Q5.3.60/F.54 ff. repeatedly invite awareness of the possibility. The issue also potently affects the ending, for while the spectacle of the sisters’ corpses is soon overwhelmed by Edmund’s dying attempt to revoke his underhand doom on Cordelia and Lear, the tableau should be, while it lasts, an appalling and commanding image. As Regan, last seen retching, has been messily poisoned and Goneril has stabbed herself in the heart, considerable contrast in physical appearance and relative dignity in death is entirely possible—and can visually cap a physical contrast initiated by casting and sustained in direction. 2.4 Cordelia Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (44), 4.4 (25), 4.7 (41), 5.2 (0), 5.3 (5) Total scenes : 5 Total lines : 115 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (45), 4.3 (24), 4.6 (33), 5.2 (0), 5.3 (5) Total scenes : 5 Total lines : 107 Surprisingly short and broken-backed, the role of Cordelia is awkward for an actor. Speaking last in the love-trial in 1.1 (in her structural identity as the youngest, ill-used, and honest sister) allows for a very powerful first impression—but that must endure for the audience throughout her long absence from the stage (1.2–4.4/3) with

Shakespeare: King Lear   63 only brief mentions of her in connection with the Fool. True, her re-appearance is promisingly potent, with striking speeches both in 4.4/3, to the Doctor, or in F a gentleman (‘Alack, ’tis he’), and in 4.7/6 to her quiescent father (‘Cure this great breach in his abused nature’, ‘No cause, no cause’)—but thereafter she has only to pass over the stage in 5.2 (unless that mute appearance is cut, as it often is), and in 5.3 speak five sententious lines before making her final appearance as a corpse in Lear’s arms. In one way it adds up to not much, but in another the very disconnect­edness of Cordelia’s reappearance proffering forgiveness in act 4, rapidly followed by defeat, imprisonment, and murder in act 5, makes it more affecting—an almost forgotten hope brightly rekindled but soon snuffed out. The actor is thus faced with a part at once emotionally critical for audiences and very limited in range. The problem may have been less for Jacobean auditors, especially those familiar with the pre-Shakespearean version(s) of the Lear story. The opening exchange between Kent and Gloucester, like the use of the map, implies that the ‘division of the kingdom’ (F ‘kingdoms’) has already been determined, and what is expected therefore is not any revelations but a public ceremony announcing it. Modern spectators tend to see (and directors to portray) a Cordelia who is virtuously rhetorically inept—but it is interestingly possible that Jacobeans heard a Cordelia who is either brattishly or morally determined to disrupt court protocol, aggressively making her ‘plainness’ a challenge and enduring tyrannous treatment before being claimed as an embodiment of truth-as-beauty by the discerning young King of France. Such a character makes Cordelia’s return with the French army in act 4 more in keeping with her behaviour in act 1. In any case, as Marshall McLuhan pointed out, Cordelia stands in sharp, feudal contrast to the modern, Machiavellian selfhoods of Goneril and Regan. They, clearly, have divorced hearts, minds, and tongues, and are able to conceal their desires and say whatever is likely to afford personal profit and gratification; Cordelia, conversely,   See M. McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), pp. 11–18; and cf. the contrasts of (i) Richard II and Bolingbroke, and (ii) Othello and Iago.

64  Shakespeare: King Lear pointedly unifies all three, apparently believing she has no choice but honesty at whatever cost and conceiving of herself not as a freewilled agent but a patient embodiment of established custom: Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I Return those duties back as are right fit; Obey you, love you, and most honour you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say They love you all? Happily, when I shall wed That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty. Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all.     (Q1.1.85–94/F.94–102) Proclaiming herself a traditionally good girl to her marrow, Cordelia’s attitude and those of her sisters form in 1.1 a blazing contrast, and the theme of villainous modernity outwitting feudal innocence runs potently through the play, as implicit in Edmund’s betrayal of his brother and father as in Goneril, Regan, and their respective husbands. But while the theme is strong, that cannot greatly help the actor who is off-stage for most of four acts. Awareness of this difficulty may underlie the peculiar Q4.3, where a nameless gent. speaks at length of Cordelia in fanciful terms. He seems conjured for the nonce (see Part 3.14), and the scene has several oddities (including singular mentions of the French King’s abrupt departure to face problems at home, and his deputy La Far) that suggest it as an attempt at telling Cordelia that was replaced by showing her in 4.4/3 (almost always good dramatic logic). The scene is often cut in contemporary productions, as in F, but there is a case that the extra­vagant praise of Cordelia is needed after her long absence by way of a reminder. It is also critically notorious, having been the centrepiece of a peculiar, allegorical, and religiose interpretation of King Lear by John Dover Wilson (1881–1969), in which the gent’s statement about ‘The holy water from [Cordelia’s] heavenly eyes’   “To love my father all” appears only in Q.

Shakespeare: King Lear   65 (Q4.3.30) is taken as literal truth. The slightness of the speaking part heightens Cordelia’s visual importance in 1.1, 4.7/6, and 5.3, spotlighting questions of age and sexuality. Productions often cast older brunette Gonerils and Regans and younger blonde Cordelias (as in the McKellen show)—but younger typically means twenty-something, not the early teens Shake­ speare probably envisaged (cf. Juliet, Ophelia, Desdemona, Cress­ ida), and the effects of visually enforcing childish­ness are dramatic. Such youth heightens contrast with her (supposedly) geriatric father, important in 4.7/6 and 5.3, and does much psychologically to explain a misguided stand on principle in 1.1. Conversely, perceived immaturity makes more problematic for modern audiences any attempt to present her as sexually desirable, motivating France’s pity with lust and boosting an ugly-sisters contrast with Goneril and Regan. And if beauty assists Cordelia in arousing pity throughout, sexuality (so deeply patterned in Goneril) does nothing for her in acts 4–5, where the stakes become increasingly metaphysical. She does, however, have a critical line, ‘No cause, no cause’ (Q4.7.72/ F.6.69)—at once a literal untruth (she does have cause, as Lear crucially says) and a bona fide declaration of forgiveness that asks moral questions of everyone else. Such moments of astonishing generosity, often by women, occur elsewhere in Shake­speare, but in performance may become extremely tense will-she-won’t-she silences (as when Isabella kneels with Mariana in act 5 of Measure to plead for the life of a man she believes responsible for her brother’s execution and knows to be a rapist by intent)—yet I have never heard a Cordelia delay this line. Clear-voiced and ringingly declarative or broken-voiced and tearfully complaisant, it seems accepted that she is at once wholly forgiving—a trope that may derive from Dover Wilson’s sentimental religiosity and certainly squanders a dramatic opportunity. There is also, underlyingly, a serious political problem created by Shakespeare’s compression of the story as a whole and omission of France after 1.1, that resonates with the proto-national aware  Goneril was played by Frances Barber (b. 1947), Regan by Monica Dolan, and Cordelia by Romola Garai (b. 1982)

66  Shakespeare: King Lear ness he addressed throughout the 1590s in the history plays. Bluntly, Cordelia’s attempt to rescue her father at the head of an invading foreign army is politically dim, being more-or-less guaranteed to unite her divided sisters’ forces against a common foe, and must have been something of a gamble for Shakespeare as far as an English audience of the 1600s were concerned. Dr Johnson may have been right that he ‘suffered the virtue of Cordelia to perish in a just cause, contrary to the natural ideas of justice, to the hope of the reader, and, what is yet more strange, to the faith of chronicles’, but there are also military ideas of justice, and readers (or spectators) who in this matter have other emotions than hope. Perceived age is again sharply relevant—a teen commanding an invasion?—but evident youth and incapacity only underlines a fundamental quality of the role, that first and last Cordelia is simply out of her depth. For all her waspish asides she seems not to have prepared for the rhetorical demands placed on her in 1.1, and is hopelessly outmanoeuvred—a condition that doesn’t much change even when she has an army at her back. That innocent defenceless­ness—the literal meaning of ‘silly’ in ‘silly sheep’—explains why Cordelia’s greatest moment comes in her offering of forgiveness, but also clarifies her emotional role as the lamb that accompanies Lear’s clown to the slaughter. 2.5 Albany Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (0), 1.4 (8), 4.2 (41), 5.1 (14), 5.3 (85) Total scenes : 5 Total lines : 148 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (1), 1.4 (11), 4.2 (14), 5.1 (10), 5.3 (81) Total scenes : 5 Total lines : 117 Although required to be masterful in acts 4–5, the role of Albany is in most ways surprisingly slight—especially in F, where he lacks much of the incensed rhetoric he aims at Goneril in Q4.2. Though on stage from Q1.1.32s.d.–255s.d/F.32s.d.–265s.d. he is uninvolved in the

Shakespeare: King Lear   67 action, mute in Q, and in F speaking only a half-line in chorus with Cornwall (.160). To make an impression therefore requires imposing physical presence (or friendly direction), but he then has only a few, hapless lines in 1.4 before disappearing until act 4. Moreover, even if he seems as horrified by his wife’s treatment of her father as by his king’s treatment of his wife, it is only when Goneril fastens sexually on Edmund, threatening cuckoldry, that Albany asserts any authority—though, to be fair, he is then effective in opposing the sisters and Edmund, and securing the defeat of the invading army. In 5.3, by far his longest and most active scene, Albany’s vigorous intervention to arrest Edmund and Goneril, and oversight of the duel between Edmund and Edgar (Q5.3.80–224/F.75–207), are more ambi­valent than they may seem. Goneril (whose nominal arrest does not prevent her exit, murder of Regan, and suicide) in F declares the duel ‘An interlude’ (F5.3.82), referring (as René Weis notes) to ‘light and often humorous mimic representations, commonly introduced between the acts of Mystery and Morality plays’. And for all its heraldry and execution of justice the duel is just that, for it fills time while Lear and Cordelia could be saved but aren’t, and only when Kent comes enquiring does Albany declare ‘Great thing of us forgot’ (Q.230/F.211)—a line that cruelly sums up Albany himself. In the harshest view the final catastrophe could have been averted had Albany only minded what he was about, and the idea of a tragedy consummated not by inexorable fate but only human absent-mindedness is a major contribution to the play’s bleakness. Interesting speculation is possible about Albany’s marriage, especially given the apparent contrast between Goneril’s independence and Regan’s subordination to Cornwall—but Shakespeare didn’t provide much evidence to work with and downgrading of the role in F suggests Albany may never have been a satisfactory creation. The cuts in F4.2 makes him even more of an outline and with F’s transfer­ ence of his and the play’s last speech to Edgar leave him as very much an also-ran. If F is followed little can make much difference— but assuming Cornwall’s lands to be in the west, and the ‘more opulent’ (Q1.1.77/F.85) third intended for Cordelia to include London, it is logical for Albany to be a northern lord, like the rebellious Percies

68  Shakespeare: King Lear in the Henry IV plays. For Jacobean audiences this would add an ironic note to Albany’s loyalty—his name includes alba, ‘white’— and in modern productions a northern accent can enhance his impact, especially if his juicier descriptions of Goneril in 4.2 are retained (see also Part 3.10). 2.6 Cornwall Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (0), 2.1 (14), 2.2 (31), 2.4 (11), 3.5 (10), 3.7 (39) Total scenes : 6 Total lines : 105 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (1), 2.1 (14), 2.2 (33), 2.4 (11), 3.5 (10), 3.7 (37) Total scenes : 6 Total lines : 106 Despite sharing with Albany, his structural counterpart, a long, mute presence in 1.1, Cornwall’s role thereafter is quite different— crammed into acts 2–3, linked primar­ily with the Gloucester subplot, and cut short by a morally offended servant in 3.7. Shakespeare was given to act-3 deaths—Mercutio, Polonius, Banquo (and see Part 3.13)—but of them all Cornwall is the least missed by audiences, for his treatment of Gloucester, culminating in the blinding in 3.7, earns him their hatred as well as the rebellious protest by his servants that kills him. Before that, however, Cornwall is competent and can seem halfway reasonable, though the Machiavellian taint of the sisters is always likely to cling to him. His apparent support of Gloucester in 2.1 and lengthy, relatively restrained dealing with the disturbance caused by Kent/Caius in 2.2 can put him in a surprisingly strong position in 2.4 when Lear starts cursing Regan to her face—and however strongly one may suspect complicity with his wife’s darker designs, he has not at this point been seen to do or heard to say anything genuinely malicious. Only in 3.5 when he speaks of ‘revenge’ and declares of the letter Edmund sneaks to him that ‘True or false, it hath made thee

Shakespeare: King Lear   69 Earl of Gloucester’ (Q3.5.1, 14–15/F.1, 15–16) does the beast within begin to show, and by then only the apotheosis of 3.7 is left. For an actor the blinding scene is an opportunity of sorts, and the most striking stagings I have seen are those that take literally Cornwall’s statement ‘Upon those eyes of thine I’ll set my foot’ (Q3.7.65/F.65) by having him use the rowel of his spur to gouge out one or both of Gloucester’s eyes. ‘Out, vile jelly!’ (Q.80/F.80) is an invitation for some special effects (see Part 4.7), and the whole episode from ‘Bind fast his corky arms’ (Q.27/F.27) to culminating fight and wounded exit can build on Cornwall’s competent authority in earlier scenes and become a moment of memorable grand guignol, especially if he and Regan are sexually excited by the mutilation. The amount of stage-time devoted to the fight with his First Servant may depend on whether Q’s terminal exchange between Second and Third Servants is being played, but even with only a brief clash of swords before Regan’s intervention the moment is sharply dramatic and morally engaging—a resistance to disgusting cruelty deal­ing swift justice at the cost of the resister’s life. But in context the action is emblematic in all the wrong ways, an honest man doing too little too late at too great a cost, and the summary justice done Corn­wall can neither save Gloucester’s eyes nor redeem anything else. It tends to follow that the more competent Cornwall is made before 3.5, the bitterer his descent into stomach-turning cruelty and (come act 5) revelation of how profoundly his hollow death adumbrated what was to come. Where Albany grows (however dully) into larger, quasi-regal responsibilities, Cornwall shrinks morally as he grasps at greater power. His motives (like Lear’s in 1.1) seem as petty and self-indulgent as his actions are appalling, and his death, as false a consolation as Lear’s ‘gilded cage’ speech in 5.3, seems ultimately as bereft of moral import as his life. 2.7 Burgundy and France Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (42) (B12, F30) Total scenes : 1 Total lines : 42 (B12, F30)

70  Shakespeare: King Lear F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (42) (B12, F30) Total scenes : 1 Total lines : 42 (B12, F30) Though France is the more important, he and Burgundy form another double act, suitors illustrating distinct attitudes to a proposed bride. Shake­speare used such contrasts often, notably with Portia’s pick-abox routine in The Merchant of Venice, and opposition of an older, parentally-favoured man to a beloved young swain is a basic element of commedia dell’arte. But the contrast of France and Burgundy is addition­ally charged, for Burgundy exemplifies tenets of arranged marriage, refusing Cordelia without a dowry and father’s blessing, while France breaks convention to marry by choice—and as Lawrence Stone’s fascinating account of The Family, Sex & Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1979) makes clear, Shakespeare wrote amid a gathering shift from predomin­antly arranged to normally elective marriage. This raises interesting questions about how France’s attitude in love may be acted, which turn in part on the casting and desirability of Cordelia—is he eager to handle her? or chastely motivated by pity, trying to restore dignity of which Lear has angrily deprived her? If Cordelia’s motives in defying her father and disrupting court protocol (see Part 3.4) have been strongly determined in production, that will also play (perhaps ironically) into France’s reasons for similarly defying tradition by taking her up without dowry or parental blessing. France’s longer role is linguistically much richer than Burgundy’s, with spirited exchanges about Cordelia’s fault and heroic couplets in his last speech (Q1.1.243–50/F.253–60). Outside the comedies, where they may be a general feature, such couplets are the highest mode of Shakespearean speech, call­ing for grand oratory, but here draw an equally rhymed response from Lear (Q.251–4/F.261–4), slapping France down and boding ill. Thereafter he is an onlooker for Cordelia’s barbed exchange with her sisters before disappear­ing for good—an absence with complica­tions for Cordelia and the whole play (see Parts 2.1, 3.4). Though only a cameo, Burgundy’s 12 lines of foot-shuffling refusal

Shakespeare: King Lear   71 can be made quite funny, especially if contrast with France in casting, dress, and court manners is played up. Burgundy is of course being set-up by Lear, who proffers him disowned Cordelia before telling France ‘I would not from your love make such a stray / To match you where I hate’ (Q.197–8/F.207–8), and he later suffers France’s multiply punning insult about ‘wat’rish Burgundy’ (Q.247/F.257)—but on that account his exit at Lear’s side, abruptly restored to royal favour by France’s unexpected, slap-in-the-face decision, offers an interesting and very exploitable moment. Given their solitary appearances in 1.1 the actors playing France and Burgundy usually take on further roles, and nothing prevents thematic doubling (which expects the audience to connect roles played by the same actor)—but while I have often seen ‘France’ and ‘Burgundy’ among the bit parts in later acts, I have never seen thematic doubling. The most interesting possibility, if Burgundy has been portrayed as a disappointed lecher, is doubling him and Oswald to point the sexual theme in relation to rank—but even done well it would be a minor element in the audience’s experience, just as, at base, both Burgundy and France are necessary creations for the occasion in 1.1, and thereafter needless. 2.8 Kent/Caius Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (41), 1.4 (33), 1.5 (2), 2.2 (97), 2.4 (24), 3.1 (33), 3.2 (17), 3.4 (19), 3.6 (13), 4.3 (29), 4.7 (15), 5.3 (22) Total scenes : 12 Total lines : 345 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (41), 1.4 (33), 1.5 (2), 2.2 (97), 2.4 (30), 3.1 (21), 3.2 (15), 3.4 (19), 3.6 (6), 4.6 (9), 5.3 (23) Total scenes : 11 Total lines : 296 The cuts in F comprise (i) a sentimental speech in Q3.6 (‘Oppressed nature sleeps’), (ii) dialogue with a gentleman ending Q4.7, and (iii) lines about the French in Q3.1 (‘From France there comes a power’) with the whole of Q4.3. The effect is stream­­lining that removes high-

72  Shakespeare: King Lear flown language and marginal detail, leav­ing intact the core of the part— 1.1 and the Caius scenes—and the brief, emotive presence in 5.3. In both texts Kent has the first and penultimate speeches of the play, and his experience comprehends Lear’s fall. At first the role seems stock, opening-scene functional, feeding Gloucester straight lines in the exposition of Lear’s plan and Edmund’s bastardy—but Kent’s bluff ignorance and straight-arrow attitude are swiftly made heroic by bold defence of Cordelia and grossly unjust banish­ment, and become something much greater with his reappearance in dis/ guise as the commoner Caius seeking a place in Lear’s retinue. Or, at least, ought to become something greater, in carrying a disguised identity and unflinching loyalty into the storm at the heart of the tragedy; but there are problems, in reading and on stage. Given Kent’s remark about having ‘razed [his] likeness’ (Q1.4.4/ F.4) dis/guise as Caius often involves losing a beard, but what else changes is troublingly moot. It is unlikely Jacobean audiences thought any less of him for tripping Oswald in 1.4, but for modern ones the rough humour may be less attractive—and for all audiences Kent’s compromise of his disguise by extending his quarrel with Oswald lands him in trouble. 2.2 is by a long way ‘Caius’s’ largest scene, and ending it (not unreason­ably) in the stocks is a bad sign. Explaining his predicament to Lear in 2.4 he admits he had ‘more man than wit about [him]’ (Q2.4.34/F.36)—but if unthinking direct­ness might have done for Kent in 1.1, honestly opposing tyranny, it does not speak well of his capacities in disguise. And the Fool has the last word: ‘Where learnt you this, fool? / Not i’th’stocks, fool’ (Q.65–6/F.76– 7). Bluntly, following Lear loyally in disguise is one thing, but doing so incompetently another. Dramatically the point is made or marred in 2.3, Edgar’s soliloquy of trans­form­ation into Poor Tom. 2.2 ends with Kent asleep in the stocks, 2.4 begins with Lear finding him there—so Kent is commonly onstage in 2.3, and if shadowed into invisibility while Edgar is spotlighted, shouldn’t be. Edgar’s far more elemental trans­formation into Poor Tom, narrated (and often enacted) in front of a Kent stocked because he could not sustain a self-preserving disguise, becomes   The Fool’s terminal ‘fool’ is only in F.

Shakespeare: King Lear   73 question and comment; and, from the Fool’s caustic rebukes in 2.4 through the madness of the storm, Kent is verbally and performatively eclipsed by the Fool and Poor Tom, reduced to little more than hand-wringing as events unfold. If Q4.3 is played he gains stage-time, but if the scene boosts Cordelia (see Part 3.4) it does little for Kent. He potently regains function only in 5.3—as he began, an innocent asking a good question, calling Albany and Edgar back to duty from the indulgent duel with Edmund. And again his bluffness achieves nothing, coming too late to save Cordelia from her hangman or Lear from grief. It is often thought Kent’s last lines announce imminent death from sorrowful exhaustion, which can by then seem plausible; yet he is aged only 48 (Q1.4.35–6/F.37), and if his heart is so worn as to stop, like octogenarian Lear’s and tortured Gloucester’s, the heaviest wear was cumulative failure to make honesty worthwhile. Lear’s distracted failure to recognise ‘Caius’ or offer thanks may be heart-breaking, but Kent’s attempts to elicit benediction from Lear (who holds Cordelia’s body) may seem scrabblingly selfish. In either case, the forlorn figure regains some dignity speaking Lear’s epitaph: Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass. He hates him That would upon the rack of this tough world Stretch him out longer.  (Q5.3.305–07/F.289–91) but if he marvellously achieves pathos, he ignores the rack on which Lear stretched the world and confesses with Lear’s exhaustion that his own efforts were unavailing. The role is thus another that crumbles as it proceeds—but therein lies its power. The rule of King Lear is that everyone and everything fails, dramatic force being largely drawn from successive, plunging arcs of personal and greater disaster. In context Kent’s failure—despite loyalty, forbearance, perseverance, and nobility—is among the most devastating, more so in that he attempted disguise and entered the green world, which ought by all Shakespearean lights to count for something; but this time doesn’t. Of the men left standing as 5.3 ends Kent is probably eldest, and should after all he has seen be wisest, but for everything save speaking his own epitaph he is quite out of the running.

74  Shakespeare: King Lear 2.9 Gloucester Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (24), 1.2 (47), 2.1 (30), 2.2 (16), 2.4 (10), 3.3 (17), 3.4 (23), 3.6 (16), 3.7 (31), 4.1 (44), 4.6 (63), 5.2 (2) Total scenes : 12 Total lines : 323 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (24), 1.2 (50), 2.1 (31), 2.2 (11), 2.4 (12), 3.3 (17), 3.4 (23), 3.6 (14), 3.7 (33), 4.1 (44), 4.5 (63), 5.2 (3) Total scenes : 12 Total lines : 315 Gloucester is, like Lear and for the same reason, a difficult role— tragedic flesh on comedic bones. Jocose about adultery, acquiescent in Lear’s rage, prolix on astro­logy, incapable of piercing Edmund’s deception, and quick to folly, Gloucester is in acts 1–2 a recognisable senex, the aged father officiously in the wrong, and as such a butt for the audience as much as for Edmund. Comparison with Polonius is telling, for Gloucester shares his age, position as royal adviser, prating, misprision of children, supposed shrewdness trans­parent to others, and act-3 disaster. But Polonius dies of his folly while Glou­ cester’s blinding in 3.7, a theatrical extreme hard to perform, is a gateway to his astonishing journey in act 4, accompanied by Edgar as Poor Tom (and later as a peasant). The difficulty is not only the complex emotional register Gloucester must find as a blinded penitent but the (frankly bizarre) sequence in 4.6/5 involving the imaginary cliff, Lear, and Oswald (see Part 4.2). One axis actor and director need to consider is physical appearance in relation to movement. As a loquacious white-bearded elder in acts 1–2 Gloucester presents no problem, and, if the evil of Edmund’s fratricidal plan adds a frisson, the routines needed in 1.2 (‘Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?’) and 2.1 are familiar territory. The storm scenes depend on staging (see Parts 3.1 and 4.7), but in themselves contain no problems for Gloucester—a bustle of helpful resistance to the treatment of Lear that has a necessary place and never challenges the dominance of Lear, the Fool, and Poor Tom. But Edgar’s disguised presence and asides begin to focus an audience’s

Shakespeare: King Lear   75 gaze on Gloucester, asking what others see when they look at him, and that feeds back into the metaphors of sight and vision, culminating in 3.7. However the blinding is achieved Gloucester is usually required to make a noise that rasps ears and throat, and I have heard more than one Gloucester pay a vocal price in act 4 for their effort. The actor must then endure some kind of dressing—the ‘flax and whites of egg’ mentioned at Q3.7.103, or a bandage—that probably does ‘blind’ him, a medical mask requiring him to be led and depriving him of the ability to see an audience’s reactions, while effecting a visual transformation that (if make-up knows its job) draws fascinated and ashamed audience attention. How then should Gloucester look and walk in 4.1, 4.6/5, and 5.2? Those scenes comprise more than one-third of the role, and centrally feature the would-be suicidal leap down a cliff that isn’t there. Is realism wanted, to match the bloody eye-sockets beneath their wraps? Or something stylised, acknowledg­ing metatheatre and psychology? And how should Gloucester go on, after picking himself up, when Edgar produces his tale of the monster with ‘a thousand noses’ (Q4.6.70/ F.5.70)? or in the moving exchange with Lear? In these moments the play achieves in intense form Shake­speare’s distinctive combination of tragedy and comedy, appalled heartbreak insist­ing always on what should, and elsewhere would, be cues for laughter. Like the royal dotard, displaced Fool, and pretend Bedlamite arrayed in justice in Q3.6, the dialogue of noble blindman and royal madman lacerates emotion and produc­tions stand or fall by what they manage in that scene. Gloucester’s largely mute appearance in 5.2 is visually important, and his last lines surpris­ingly strong (see Part 4.8), but act 4 is the role’s great opportunity and challenge. There is of course a major classical model for greater acuity and philosoph­ical journey in blindness, now critically cited less than one might expect—Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus, a sequel to Oedipus the King in which the self-blinded widower comes to terms with his sighted actions and their continuing consequences. Detailed comparison is rewarding, but the tenor of Gloucester’s dialogue with Lear in   See Adrian Poole, Tragedy: Shakespeare and the Greek Example (London: Blackwell, 1987), ch. 7.

76  Shakespeare: King Lear 4.6/5 is at once wholly Shakespearean and (especially in approaching a kind of comedy routine) an extraordinary anticipation of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Endgame with old men reduced to a common status as stage-clowns sparring in disaster. Gloucester’s is the easier part of the exchange with fewer and shorter lines (if good ones), but he and Edgar are anchors of the whole scene, Lear a temporary interloper, and for the actor the part has by then in any case become as visual as it is audible, and painfully dependent on a director’s and designer’s decisions. 2.10 Edmund Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (3), 1.2 (97), 2.1 (63), 2.2 (1), 3.3 (6), 3.5 (12), 3.7 (0), 4.2 (1), 5.1 (32), 5.3 (81) Total scenes : 10 Total lines : 296 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.1 (3), 1.2 (104), 2.1 (58), 2.2 (1), 3.3 (6), 3.5 (13), 3.7 (0), 4.2 (1), 5.1 (27), 5.3 (67) Total scenes : 10 Total lines : 280 Edmund is in most respects an evil and familiar joy to behold and be held by. His disrespectful treatment by his father, studied politeness to Kent, and mute—but not therefore inactive—presence through­out the critical business of 1.1 sets him up nicely, and the soliloquy opening 1.2, with easy manipulation of others in the rest of the scene, plainly establishes his identity as Vice, held unswervingly until 5.3. Playing the role for Max Stafford-Clark in 1993, Adrian Dunbar (b. 1958) used his native Ulster accent to excellent effect, politic­ally embodying marginalised vigour and pouring scorn on all less perceptive and ruthless than he. The more cutting he was the more the audience liked it and anticipated his fall, for, in the way of Shake­ spearean Vices from Richard III, Edmund is ‘the villain we love to hate’, clever, articulating opinion while outraging truth, and by far the play’s best machiavel. Along the way are excellent opportunities for a performer, gulling a

Shakespeare: King Lear   77 ‘credulous father, and a brother noble’ (Q1.2.158/F.159), taking swift advantage of opportunity in act 3, and meeting Goneril’s lusts with his own. Gloucester’s fate in 3.7 makes Edmund more detestable, but youth, strength, decisiveness, and—despite every­thing—lack of pretence usually see him through to 5.3, where he can be justly slain by the brother he wronged to the satisfaction of all, including the actor. But then comes the rub, for to the very end of Edmund’s orthodox role as Vice Shakespeare added a heterodox repentance—‘Some good I mean to do, / Despite of my own nature’ (Q5.3.236–7/F.217– 18)—that proves as useless as all else well-intentioned. In production a dying Edmund is usually tidied offstage before Lear enters at Albany’s behest (Q.249/F.230), to set up the entrance of the captain/ messenger who announces his death (Q.286sd/F.268sd). But his exit can be forestalled by Lear’s entrance (and death announced stagerear), leaving him to witness the failure of his intent to ‘do good’. On a crowded and tormented stage assistance from the director is needed for a visible Edmund to matter, but if he does the last opportunity of the role is by far the most complex and morally anguished. Whatever Edmund sees, his doubled thwarting in good as in ill adds bleak irony to encompassing catastrophe, proving repentance as useless as virtue and under­scoring the fatal time-wasting of the duel. What should have been a moral death, earned and executed by proper authority, becomes ‘a trifle here’ (Q.287/F.269)—but like Kent’s failure, Edmund’s fruitless repentance hammers a mighty nail into any prospect of salvaging anything from the wreck of Lear’s family and kingdom. Psychologically, as an emotionally lacerated bastard, Edmund may be the most understandable and forgivable of the play’s villains; theatrically, he is certainly the most articulate and competent; but morally he represents in the end only a terrible, egotistic nihilism that once released progressively destroys all it touches, leaving only a dreadful parallel with Lear, just as self-indulgently unrestrained by duty or tradition. 2.11 Edgar/Poor Tom Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.2 (9), 2.1 (1), 2.3 (21), 3.4 (63), 3.6 (45),

78  Shakespeare: King Lear 4.1 (29), 4.6 (116), 5.1 (12), 5.2 (10), 5.3 (76) Total scenes : 10 Total lines : 382 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.2 (9), 2.1 (1), 2.3 (21), 3.4 (64), 3.6 (17), 4.1 (28), 4.5 (99), 5.1 (12), 5.2 (10), 5.3 (66) Total scenes : 10 Total lines : 327 Theatrically speaking, Edgar is the surprise of the play. If Armin created the Fool (as is probable) he had excellent opportunity to study who­ever created Edgar, and later wrote a Bedlamite role for himself in The Two Maids of More-clacke (1608)—so he was impressed, with good reason. Edgar’s brief appearances in 1.2 and 2.1 are stock cameos of the honest gull, but from 2.3 on the role is exception­ ally demanding of vocal and physical skill, switching on the heath between mad caperings and piercing asides, and developing in acts 4–5 into the astonishing performance with his blinded father (where Edgar must make the fictional cliff real, observe even when himself mute, and slay Oswald), then the grand and foolish ceremonies of a revenger’s duel in act 5 and a final catastrophe that may (not) give him the lame last words. One measure of Shakespeare’s originality is that Edgar’s identity from 2.3 as a revenger—a role that conventionally allows disguise and extreme emotion—is before act 5 overwhelmed by his status as a chance witness of Lear’s madness and ironised care of his mutilated father. Another is to consider how Shakespeare supports the role in acts 3–4, granting Edgar (unlike Kent) consummate control of his disguise and (unlike anyone else) a virtuous meta­theatrical ability enabling both creation of a false but therapeutic cliff and trans­portation across England by falling over it. In one sense the storm-torn heath is no place for any man, and all who find themselves there are displaced and outcast, but it is the Fool whom the storm blows away, and of the survivors only Edgar emerges not only intact but enhanced. As much as Lear, stripped to the elements, Poor Tom is at the heart of the play, naked in his suffering but able to ride and control theatricality; in a long view, if Edgar’s theatrical ancestors include stock gulls and revengers (and, off-stage, a wronged son in Sidney’s Arcadia), Poor

Shakespeare: King Lear   79 Tom’s descendants include Ariel, Caliban, and Prospero. For the actor who can do it the role is thus in many ways a blast until the very end, but the last swing of Shakespeare’s axe, cutting down Cordelia and Lear to make all suffering barren, abruptly reframes whatever has been achieved as ultimately valueless. Tate knew well enough that if the rules were to be followed a triumphantly restored Edgar should wed Cordelia with Lear’s fond benediction; and as Shakespeare painfully follows no rules but his own every element he does not deliver counts double—none more so than the swiftly proven hollowness of Edgar’s in-all-ways-but-the-onethat-matters proper victory over the amoral evil of his half-brother. Confession of his metatheatrical and medical triumph in salving his father’s mind earns him only bereavement as Gloucester’s ‘flawed heart […] Burst smilingly’ (Q5.3.190–3/F.188–91), and the lonely agony he faces standing father- and brother­less amid ruin more than explains the lameness of his last speech, whether in Q (‘O, he is gone indeed’) or more critically in F (‘The weight of this sad time we must obey’)—but cannot dramatically compensate for it. It does, however, also represent a kind of wisdom, for it was Edgar, guised as Poor Tom but speaking aside, who observed on the heath that ‘The worst is not / As long as we can say ‘This is the worst’’ (Q4.1.25–6/F.27–8), and while he might mean only ‘while we can speak, we aren’t dead yet’, ‘say’ can bear a stronger sense: the end is worse, and Edgar is still alive, physically capable of speech, but unable to say anything that can matter. When Horatio says of Hamlet (and Hamlet) that ‘The rest is silence’ the silence he means still has a positive value and divine mystery echoing the ghost’s compelled reticence about Purgatory; and when Isabella stands mute on stage for the last 80-odd lines of Measure, for Measure, refusing to answer the Duke’s ham-fisted proposals of marriage, uncertainty is (or should be) a living thing; but Edgar’s and everyone else’s incapacity of adequate speech ending King Lear testifies only to their individual and collective failures in the face of entirely human folly and malice amid natural conditions. Just like Kent’s, Edgar’s ineffectuality is a primary cause of the play’s intensity of bleakness, and his far superior control of dis/guise and metatheatre make it a still more telling disappointment—hence,

80  Shakespeare: King Lear perhaps, F’s transfer of the bland final couplets from the late blooming Albany to the survivor who has lost most, and knows it. 2.12 Oswald Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.3 (3), 1.4 (7), 2.2 (24), 3.7 (6), 4.2 (10), 4.5 (12), 4.6 (17) Total scenes : 7 Total lines : 79 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.3 (3), 1.4 (5), 2.2 (13), 3.7 (6), 4.2 (10), 4.4 (12), 4.5 (17) Total scenes : 7 Total lines : 66 Belaboured by Kent, a messenger for Goneril, and slain (potentially quite comically) by Edgar in ignoble disguise, Oswald neverthe­less has qualities of which an actor can take advantage. If often played as prig or peacock to help audiences sympathise in 1.4 with Lear’s rowdy retinue, he need not be: his slights to Lear are planned, and he manipulates targets with skill to serve his mistress. Kent/Caius gives him a setback in 2.2, and cowardice here is echoed in his last encounter with Edgar-the-peasant in 4.6/5, where postur­­ing assumption of superiority in arms and swift demise by cudgel-whack make him a kind of braggart-soldier, riding for a fall. Goneril’s letter to Edmund thus goes importantly astray, a mishap typical of commedia dell’ arte—and Oswald’s come-uppance usually gets cheerful audience approval. There are, however, his two-handers with Goneril and Regan (1.3, 4.5/4), which if short on lines give stage-time to build something more than function or laughs. Goneril’s potent sexuality (see Part 3.2) is in any case one of her weapons, and while one may strongly doubt she would ever favour a servant she can certainly use perceived infatuation to secure loyalty, as Oswald can desire her, however hope  Created in Plautine comedy, the miles gloriosus became in commedia dell’arte ‘Il Capitano’ and elsewhere a stock role, a blowhard who trades on supposed valour but runs away when challenged. Shakespeare’s greatest version of the role is Falstaff, but it appears often in his work.

Shakespeare: King Lear   81 lessly. Comparison with Malvolio in Twelfth Night is interesting, and his mix of austere put-down and hot ambition can work well for Oswald—who always speaks verse. Depending on how the relationship with Goneril is played, 4.5/4, in which Oswald loyally resists Regan’s authority, can be enriched in several ways (most obviously, his agreeing for his own reasons that Regan should get Edmund). Oswald’s last appearance is the convenient disposal of a stock role with delusions of grandeur, but, well-played, those delusions can be surprisingly affecting. 2.13 The Fool Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.4 (97), 1.5 (25), 2.4 (30), 3.2 (22), 3.4 (9), 3.6 (9) Total scenes : 6 Total lines : 192 F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.4 (82), 1.5 (23), 2.4 (38), 3.2 (40), 3.4 (9), 3.6 (6) Total scenes : 6 Total lines : 198 Cut by Tate, and unacted in Britain from 1681 to the 1820s, the Fool has become in modern performance the most notorious non-titular role in Shakespeare, and if his words are now familiar his theatrical capacities of action and song remain uncertain. Few roles are so variously interpreted, in modes ranging from bitterly morose and profess­ ion­ally antic to wilfully coarse finger­pokes and pelvic thrusts; costume has included Elizabeth­an motley, baggy circus-clown shifts, Edwardian tweeds, and Beckettian seedy suit with tatty bowler hat. The intense variety is partly attributable to the many stars who undertake the role, including since 1976, in Britain alone, David Suchet (b. 1946), Anthony Sher (b. 1949), John Hurt (b. 1940), Emma Thompson (b. 1959), Andy Serkis (b. 1964), and Marcello Magni (b. 1960), each a great actor but of such different qualities and stagepresence that to see them listed as players of a single role is as distracting as informative.

82  Shakespeare: King Lear Casting women is not unusual—in 1985 Hilary Townley played the role for Deborah Warner (b. 1959), in 1990 Linda Kerr Scott (b. 1948) for Nicholas Hytner (b. 1956) and Emma Thompson for Kenneth Branagh (b. 1960), and in 1994 Mona Hammond for Yvonne Brewster (b. 1938)—but may indicate doubling with Cordelia. This question­able notion is informed by Lear’s plaintive remark, Cordelia in his arms, that ‘my poor fool is hanged’ (Q5.3.297/F.279), and may seem theatric­ally tempting as the Fool’s appearances are wholly within Cordelia’s long absence from stage. It also makes a kind of thematic sense, as the Fool repeatedly alludes to Cordelia during that absence, forcing on Lear conscious­ness of his folly. But for the King’s Men the doubling would have required either that the Fool be played by a boy, hard to imagine despite the songs, or that an adult capable of the Fool—presumably Armin—played Cordelia, which is absurd. That only one of more than 50 UK professional productions since 1970 has actually tried it suggests how awkward it proves in practice. Lear’s line can also be literally interpreted, as Stafford-Clark showed by having the Fool’s corpse dangle in silhouette behind Lear in 5.3. In the Q/F revision, despite his lost lines in 1.4 (‘The sweet and bitter fool’) and 3.6 (the mock-trial), the Fool is the only role to gain substantial new material, in 2.4 (‘Winter’s not gone yet’) and 3.2 (‘I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go’). The quality and unpredictability of that material supports F as authorial revision, but the matter remains in dispute. Granting it, development of the Fool in F implies Shakespeare’s concerns in revising turned on jesting and meta­ theatre—lines cut with the mock-trial include the famous debunking of Lear’s deluded theatrical pretence (‘Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool’), and those added in 3.2 are a scene-ending, soliloquised prophecy at once funny, baffling, and aimed with intent at the audience. The prophecy (F3.2.81–94), drawing on a passage then attributed to Chaucer, is baffling because it seems to specify as identical a time that is ubiquitous (‘When priests are more in word than matter, / When brewers mar their malt with water’) and one that is impossi  See John Kerrigan, ‘’Revision, Adaptation, and the Fool in King Lear’, in Warren & Taylor, eds, The Division of the Kingdoms., pp.195–245.

Shakespeare: King Lear   83 ble (‘When slanders do not live in tongues, / Nor cut­purses come not to throngs’)—that is, that ‘ever = never = now’. But the confusion is intentional, and the Fool ends with a perfect time-paradox—‘This prophecy Merlin shall make, for I live before his time’. In Galfridian history he is right: Geoffrey dates Lear to the eighth century bce and Arthur to the sixth century ce, so the Fool predates Merlin by 1400 years. But the whole twisting paradox is a reminder of grave serious­ ness, for Shakespeare used prophecies of civil war to superb effect in 1 Henry VI and Richard II, and the context is again the ‘realm of Albion / Come to great confusion’. As else­where, the Fool supplies what is in effect a running choric commentary on a world gone to the dogs, already lost in consequence of a king’s folly but not yet seen by others to be so. Besides reminding us of history-play elements in King Lear the prophecy is a good example of the technique that has made the Fool famous—bitter truths half-cloaked in riddles, jesting catechisms, and songs. The historical models Shakespeare knew, including Henry VIII’s court-fool Will Somers (d. 1560), James VI’s George Buchanan (1506–82), and Armin’s master Tarlton, have been discussed by Welsford and others, but whatever they supplied the role must have developed in collabor­ation with its creator, probably Armin. The songs indulged his voice and import much (pseudo-)traditional material, wise saws and bawdy that serve as cutting comment and vulgar lament, while the role is in many ways a reflection of Lear—the Fool who speaks truth to power complementing the power whose truth is folly. The reflection also holds true in generic structure, for if Lear has tragic flesh on comedic bones, the Fool has comedic flesh (jests and stage-business) on what turn out to be tragic bones—his protests about Cordelia and moral warnings all come too late, and he is swept with Lear to the stormy heath, never to be seen again (unless, as for Stafford Clark, as a corpse in 5.3). Shakespeare was given both to third-act deaths (Bassianus, Mercutio & Tybalt, Caesar, Polonius, Banquo) and disappearances (Launce, Benvolio)—and where deaths are probably a matter of dramatic rhythm, disappear­ances have a practical explanation. At the Theatre, before 1599, and perhaps at the Globe, performances con-

84  Shakespeare: King Lear cluded with a short comic skit, the jig, by the principal clown—who therefore needed any other role he was playing to make a final exit well before the main play ended. But the practice is more associated with Kemp than Armin (see Part 2.1), and whether King Lear was ever followed by a jig is unclear. What can be said is that whether Shakespeare had to lose the Fool in acts 4–5 or chose to do so, his disappearance resonates with Lear’s accumu­lating losses and the play’s movement towards collect­ive failure. The anonymous gentleman’s evocation of a Fool ‘who labours to outjest / [Lear’s] heartstruck injuries’ (Q3.1.16–17/F.8–9) is a justly famous testimony to a most loyal heart, but also another confession of effortful failure, and thereafter Poor Tom must go where the Fool cannot tread. The Fool’s modern popularity combines fascination by the idea of a licensed jester with appreciation of this one’s bitterness, sidewaysleaping mind, and descent into pathos and mystery. What Jacobeans made of him in (Armin’s) performance is unknown, but theatre-goers who saw Shakespearean premieres seriatim would have been more conscious of continuity with Feste, Touchstone, and perhaps Ther­ sites, if perhaps slower to understand the philosophical weight that attends disappearance on the heath. For modern audiences, however, it is that metaphysical aura combined with defiance, song, and bawdy that speaks most loudly—a combination offering the prime instance of the fused comedy and tragedy at the heart of King Lear. 3.14 Gentlemen, servants, &c.. Q Scenes (no. of lines): 1.4 (12), 1.5 (1), 2.1 (9), 2.4 (4), 3.1 (17), 3.7 (19), 4.1 (12), 4.2 (17), 4.3 (33), 4.4 (7), 4.6 (16), 4.7 (22), 5.3 (19) Total scenes : 13 Total lines : 181 Maximum number of individuals: 17 (knight, Curan, 4 servants, 6 gentlemen, old man, doctor, messenger, captain, herald) F Scenes (no. of lines): 1.4 (14), 1.5 (1), 2.1 (9), 2.4 (4), 3.1 (9), 3.7 (9), 4.1 (12), 4.2 (17), 4.3 (7), 4.5 (15), 4.6 (12), 5.3 (13) Total scenes : 10 Total lines : 122

Shakespeare: King Lear   85 Maximum number of individuals: 15 (knight, Curan, servant, 6 gentlemen, old man, 3 messengers, captain, herald) All Shakespeare’s plays have anonymous, functional bit-parts, but their number and casual confusion in King Lear are a striking feature of both texts, though F trims a little (losing the second and third of Cornwall’s servants and the prolix gent. in 4.3). None causes a problem, all relay helpful information or perform necessary jobs, and one or two stand out in their 15 seconds of fame—the servant who fights Cornwall, or Edmund’s captain who at Q5.3.37–8 ‘cannot draw a cart, / Nor eat dried oats’ but welcomes ‘man’s work’. Yet in F that captain is reduced to a single ‘I’ll do’t, my Lord’, though Shakespeare had before (in Richard III) and would again (in Macbeth) make of brief direction to murderers a memorable cameo. Equally curious is F’s renaming in 4.4/3 and 4.6/7 of Q’s ‘Doctor’ who attends Lear as another ‘gentleman’, which goes against the clear function of the role. Such mild untidiness in bit-parts should not be refined on—nothing in either text causes theatrical confusion, however readers wonder if this and that ‘gentleman’ are the same. It does, however, indicate the play’s need for the machinery of bit-parts, a sign of Lear’s rush to disaster, and suggests that Shakespeare was squarely fixed on the main events and larger roles, not on tidying the periphery. By way of comparison the relatively static Measure, for Measure and Macbeth have far fewer bit-parts, while the sprawling Antony and Cleopatra is sharply attentive to the rhythm of messengers coming and going.

Part 4. Acts and Devices 4.1 Acts Act-division became a feature of performance only when theatre moved indoors and lamp-wicks needed regular trimming, but in composition and reading a sense of act-structure came with classical drama. One hypothesis about the Q/F revision, fitting its probable date of 1608–09 when the King’s Men acquired use of the Blackfriars, is that Shakespeare reworked several plays for indoor performance; and the act-divisions introduced in F are clear. The interval that is for most theatres now necess­ary moves about, but interrupted perform­ ance does not question construction in five acts, the first longer and last shorter—a common pattern reflecting necessary set-up and compacted conclusion. There is no equivalent of Hamlet’s soliloquies (one per act) or the choric prologues of Henry V, but division of action is plain. After the ‘love-trial’ with Cordelia’s banishment and the introduction of the Gloucester subplot, act 1 deals with Lear vs Goneril, act 2 with Lear vs Regan, culminating in the sisters’ joint rejection of their father. Act 3 is temporally concentrated, occupying one night on the stormy heath with Edmund’s machinations in counterpoint; act 4, with very uncertain time, moves everyone into final positions, including the returned Cordelia; and the compact act 5 stages the battle, duel resolving the subplot, and final catastrophe to end with arrayed corpses. This creates the familiar first world/green world structure of the comedies: the first world is de facto tripled in Lear’s court and Goneril’s and Gloucester’s house­holds, but all are places of supposed civili  See T. W. Baldwin, Shakspere’s five-act structure: Shakspere’s early plays on the background of renaissance theories of five-act structure from 1470 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1947).   In Weis’s Longman edition the Q/F acts have 857/850, 592/609, 549/495, 668/565, and 393/371 lines respectively. See Part 2.3.

Shakespeare: King Lear   87 sation where hypocrisy is normative, even necessary, and the green world of the heath, though dark, stormy, and bleak, is also a place of exposed meta/theatrical possibility where disguises are adopted and truths found. Such worlds are places of retreat and (usually) renewal that can only be temporary—the lovers in Midsummer Night’s Dream must leave the wood, and the feast ending As You Like It is the exiles’ farewell to Arden—but in King Lear the battlefield of 5.3 sees so many deaths that it is unclear what ‘first world’ remains for the survivors to return to. There is also what looks like a carefully considered pattern of trials—Lear’s ‘love-trial’ of his daughters in 1.1 (‘Which of you shall we say doth love us most’, Q1.1.44/F.50); his corresponding ‘mocktrial’ of Goneril and Regan in Q3.6 (‘I will arraign them straight’, .16) with Cornwall’s kangaroo-court sentencing of Gloucester in the next scene (‘Though [well: F] we may not pass upon his life / Without the form of justice’, Q3.7.23–4/F.6.23–4); and the trial-by-combat between Edgar and Edmund in the last gasp of things (‘Come hither, herald, let the trumpet sound’, Q5.3.104/F.100). Beginning, middle, and end (acts 1, 3, 5) thus ask a string of increasingly hard questions about the uses and abuses of the powers to judge and to enforce judgements as Lear’s position evolves, from something unhappily reminiscent of Richard II in his regal caprices to a far more heartrending plea by the now-abused abuser, and his terrible last experience of rescuing Cordelia too late while others misguidedly pursue an old feudal form of supposedly divinely-warded justice. Additionally, act 2 sees Lear’s own arraignment by Regan and Goneril (‘O, sir, you are old’, Q2.4.116/F.135), and act 4 peasant-Edgar’s trial-by-combat with Oswald (‘Keep out, che vor’ ye, or I’ll try whether your costard or my bat [ballow: F] be the harder’, Q4.6.229–30/F.5.234–5). The even, structured disposition of these trials in the course of the play also suggests the extent to which (however rarely visible in intervalinterrupted performance) King Lear has a strong dramatic rhythm that contains its increasingly severe and nihilistic destruction.

88  Shakespeare: King Lear 4.2 Scenes Two styles of scene-division were current in Shakespeare’s time: the ‘French’, used by Jonson, in which any major entrance/exit or event marks a new scene, and the ‘English’, used by Shakespeare, in which only a clear stage marks a new scene. The absence of some necessary exits in early texts makes for mild ambiguity, and long battle sequences get messy (as in acts 3–4 of Troilus and Antony), but most scene-breaks in Shakespeare are clear and the resulting structures shapely, each new unit of dramatic action locking coherently into place and observing the ‘law of re-entry’. In both texts the sequence shows a steady mix of longer (1.1, 1.4, 2.4, 4.6/5, 5.3), middling (1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.2 3.4, Q3.6, 3.7, 4.2, 4.7/6), and shorter (1.3, 1.5, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 4.1, Q4.3, 4.4/3) scenes, with only one clear anomaly: 5.2 at 11 lines. Such brevity is often functional, preserving the law of re-entry and providing a sense of elapsed time between the announcement or implication of events and their realisation. Here 5.2 also contains the limited stage-directions for the battle between French and united British forces, that directors (sensibly) tend to keep minimal but nevertheless offer a dramatic opportunity, especially if sound can be swirled around the lone, mute figure onstage—blinded Gloucester, who can anxiously cock and swivel his head trying to follow the fight by ear. A similar fluency shows in Shakespeare’s placement of Edgar’s transformation into Poor Tom in 2.3 between scenes ending and beginning with Kent/Caius in the stocks (see Part 3.8), and in Oswald’s balanced two-handers with Goneril (1.3) and Regan (4.5/4) (see Part 3.12). There is also the testimony of Q4.3, neither a distraction when played nor missed when omitted. Broadly speaking this reflects the practice of ‘continuous staging’, where as A and B exit to end one scene, C and D enter from the other side to begin the next.   See Emrys Jones, Scenic Form in Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).   No-one who exits at the end of a scene will re-enter to begin the next.   The number of lines per scene is, in Q 294, 163, 26, 325, 49 / 129, 164, 21, 278 / 47, 78, 23, 167, 22, 108, 104 / 77, 95, 55, 29, 41, 275, 96 / 69, 11, 318; and in F, 304, 164, 20, 317, 45 / 129, 161, 21, 298 / 34, 96, 23, 171, 23, 53, 195 / 74, 64, 29, 41, 279, 78 / 58, 11, 302. See Part 2.3

Shakespeare: King Lear   89 For Shakespeare’s company, working on an open stage without scenery, such flow was natural; only use of scenery and withdrawal of acting wholly behind a proscenium arch created the style of theatre with overt scene-breaks. Modern performance includes both styles, but Shake­spearean performance has recently tended toward more (if not entirely) continuous performance, rediscovering fluency in the plays—with good reason. In King Lear specifically, a sense of headlong speed, events careering out of control, should probably seem intense and enveloping, but slower modern performances with scenebreaks, extensive stage-business, and a lengthy interval rarely generate or sustain the kind of white-knuckle-ride that can terrify in continuous staging. Critics have variously worked out time-schemes for the action, but exactitude is impossible and what seems clearest is Shakespeare’s compaction of source-plots. The scene-sequences of acts 1–2, started by Lear’s plunge into the vicious absurdity of the love-trial and Edmund’s selfish soliloquy in 1.2, drive hard to reach the impasse of 2.4, sending Lear out into storm and heath; at the same time the Goneril–Regan pattern creates a sense of parallel events as much as successive action. Acts 3–4 adopt more-or-less alternating scenes to counterpoint Lear and Gloucester, while after some brisk necessities in 5.1–2, 5.3 brings all together for the kill but drags teasingly with the duel before letting the axe drop. As with the careful structuring of acts against plot, scenes are also carefully shaped, and in 1.1 at least there is what looks very like quasi-geometrical arrangement. The scene comprises a brief, private prose intro between Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund, its huge public centrepiece in verse, and a brief, private prose outro between the royal sisters (see also Part 4.4)—a tripartite structure within which the quarter-points are precisely placed. As Charles Moseley puts it (using a different set of line-counts, and referring to Q as ‘1608’ and F as ‘1623’), in terms of the side- and central panels of a triptych: Each of the two side-panels has almost the same number of words. There are in the 1608 text 239 lines of verse, 249 in 1623. The mid-point of the verse-panel falls, therefore, in both cases at that terrible exchange between Lear and Kent,

90  Shakespeare: King Lear beginning, significantly, ‘Out of my Sight! / See better Lear’, in which Kent is banished. The first quarter-point of the scene, around 93 of 1608 and 95 of 1623 falls at the point of first crisis: when Cordelia challenges Lear, and is rejected by him, with the word truth insistently attached to her both by Cordelia herself and by the furious Lear: ‘thy truth then be thy dower’. In both texts it is in the speech where Cordelia makes her protest, ‘Good my lord, you have begot me, bred me, loved me’. The third quarter-point, around line 211 of 1608 and 219 of 1623, falls where France, a wise king, recognises Cordelia’s honesty, truth and worth, and takes her as his wife; and the point falls just as Cordelia begins her dignified appeal to Lear for her reputation: ‘I yet beseech your Majesty / For that I want that glib and oily art’. I have no idea how this was perceived: all I can say is that it does not look coincidental that the crises of the scene—rejection of Truth/Cordelia, banishment of Good Counsel/Kent, acceptance of Cordelia—fall at these symmetrical points. Numerological analysis is now little in vogue, and modernity often has problems contemplating the careful, balanced arrangements postmediaeval art often displays—but the evidence here does suggest Shakespeare’s consciousness of such organisation, in both composition and revision; and if it is present in one scene, it should be at least considered as a possibility in all, especially when long, crowded, or both. 4.3 Soliloquy and Colloquy In strict definition, a lone speaker on stage, King Lear has six or seven soliloquies—Edmund’s statements of evil purpose in 1.2 and ending 3.3, Kent’s state­ment of his disguised identity beginning 1.4, Edgar’s solo scene to the same end (2.3) and moralising opening of 4.1, and in F the Fool’s prophecy ending 3.2 (see Part 3.13). All save   C. W. R. D. Moseley, ‘”Give me the map there”: What happens in King Lear, act 1, scene 1?’ (unpublished lecture, 2005; delivery-script in the author’s possession).

Shakespeare: King Lear   91 the prophecy and Edgar’s moralising are primarily functional in conveying necessary information and given the nature of the information have to be soliloquies; and all save Edmund’s and Edgar’s first are notably brief—which is to say that the play notably lacks significant soliloquies after 2.3. The effects are telling. Lacking Hamlet’s ruminating self-debate, stage Lears may to a surprising degree also lack complex interiority. Particularly in acts 1–3 so much of what Lear utters is driven by petulant rage that one-dimensionality can accrue—especially if the actor goes in for monotonous shouting. Kent, in a different way, also fails to develop much interiority, and by comparison with Edmund and Edgar may be felt badly to miss a longer, less functional soliloquy. The play is thus dominated by colloquy in registers ranging from the stiff couplet-exchanges of Lear and France in 1.1 to the colloquial prose of Lear and his Fool—and it follows, despite Lear’s self-isolation through rage, that King Lear is (save in Edmund and Edgar) surprisingly unconcerned with intimacies of the private mind. The dominance of colloquy points to crowdedness. A number of Shakespeare’s plays close in time to King Lear, including Hamlet and Measure, for Measure, are largely rolling two-handers, in which one-on-one conversations are strung together and both soliloquies and crowded scenes stand out sharply. In King Lear, however, while twohanders form much of the action, many develop into more populated exchanges, and other scenes are crowded throughout, giving an overall impression of social as much as individual humanity. Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus (Shakespeare’s most crowded play) develop this trend, and King Lear stands structurally as well as chronologically between those tragedies and earlier ones (like Hamlet and Othello) that are centrally concerned with individuals’ private minds.

  Some of Lear’s speeches are sometimes referred to as soliloquies, and it is true he tends to talk over rather than to interlocutors—but ‘O reason not the need’ in 2.4 is part of an argument, and ‘We two alone will sing like birds i’th’cage’ in 5.3 spoken to Cordelia. There is half-a-case for the rants opening 3.2 (‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! […] Rumble thy bellyful!’), as while the Fool is on stage and trying to interject the deranged king is addressing the elements—but it remains more a case of Lear shouting to himself than a functioning soliloquy.

92  Shakespeare: King Lear 4.4 Verse, Prose, and Song Shakespeare mixed verse and prose in all plays except Richard II, wholly in verse as part of the design of its tetralogy, but broadly observed conventional associations of aristocratic verse and peasant prose—if only to allow their creative reversal, as with Caliban (in The Tempest) and Hamlet (where prose attends his ‘antic disposition’). King Lear is an odd mix, using prose more extensively than tends to be remembered. At beginning and end the pattern is clear. 1.1 begins in prose for the set-up between Kent and Gloucester, switches to verse for the entirety of its main business, and reverts to prose for the final, barbed exchange between Cordelia and her sisters—so prose marks private conversation and verse public court business. 1.2, conversely, begins and ends with Edmund’s private verse-soliloquies, extending the implications of pentameter, while family colloquies in between are wholly in prose, maintaining its informality. At the other end of the play verse becomes increasingly dominant: in act 4 only scenes 3 and 6/5 deploy prose, and in act 5 only the herald’s proclamation (Q5.3.107–11/F.102–6) interrupts continuous verse—the general effect being consistent with the increasing momentousness of public events. In the middle, however, is a deal of chopping and changing, producing what is for Shakespeare a surprisingly rough texture. To a considerable extent this is a consequence of three individuals—the Fool, who speaks prose laced with songs that may be declaimed or (as they probably were by Armin) properly sung; Edgar as Poor Tom, who uses a similar mix with fewer songs; and Oswald, who always speaks verse, in keeping with his hauteur. But the Fool usually drags Lear into prose, royal verse only re-erupting when he becomes enraged, and Edgar’s transition back to his own identity from that of Poor Tom, via the unnamed role he adopts with his blinded father, is partly charted in switches between (disguised) prose and (noble) verse. Local need, not an established schema, is the   A group of four plays; applied to 1, 2, 3 Henry VI + Richard III (first/minor tetralogy), and Richard II + 1, 2 Henry IV + Henry V (second/major tetralogy). In the major tetralogy Richard II is tragedic, 1 and 2 Henry IV mix prose and verse fairly evenly, and Henry V, dominated by prose is comedic.

Shakespeare: King Lear   93 primary factor—religiose praise of Cordelia in Q4.3 demands verse, as does Edgar’s metatheatrical incantation of the imaginary cliff in 4.6/5—and the volume of prose in 1.2–3.7 should help the play to achieve greater rapidity in performance Speaking Shakespeare is an art that can only be learned through practice, but those interested will find it rewarding to try speaking the Folio text and observing its punctuation. Modernising editors chop up Shakespearean verse and prose as if they were written in modern sentences, which they weren’t, and aren’t; for actors and auditors alike the Folio’s punctuation (which however odd to modern eyes usually indicates the proper Ciceronian periods) is a primary resource for making sense in delivery (as all Shakespeare’s dramatic texts were consciously written to do). 4.5 Metatheatre Metatheatre is often treated as an intellectual fancy that can (even should) safely be left for scholars to worry themselves with. But its most basic condition in Shake­speare was simply daylight falling on actors and audience alike and, however abstract an idea, sensibly inhered in the fabric of the theatre and every moment of performance. In Hamlet it is the keystone of the play’s arch, connecting what the Prince obsessively remarks (‘how should I act?’) with what he does and doesn’t do (‘how am I in [pretend-]fact acting?’), and though less pervasive in King Lear is still central. Neither text has a play-within-a-play as such, but in Q3.6 the mock-trial comes close as Lear casts the Fool, Poor Tom, and Caius as judges and a stool as Goneril and Regan. For disguised Edgar and Kent identity is effectively tripled, but while such complex compounding can be sustained in comedy (as by Rosalind in As You Like It) here, amid the storm, it is too much for everyone. Lear’s deranged   The dominant form of prose from classical antiquity to the later seventeenth century. Modern ‘sentences’ and constituent ‘clauses’ are defined in terms of a grammatical minimum—i.e. to be a sentence they must have at least one noun, verb, and if necessary object; periods, however, were defined in terms of a rhetorical maximum, constituent ‘members’ constituting a body representing one ‘complete thought’. In F colons usually indicate members of a period.

94  Shakespeare: King Lear scenario generates from his forced cast evasions and song and only his denuncia­tions of his daughters carry real cogency—which may be why the episode is cut in F. But if metatheatre is thereby dialled back a little, it remains strong with the presence of disguised Tom and Caius, and with the Fool. No metatheatricality carries any specific ‘message’—it is a constant potential of performance that in Jacobethan production was always close to the surface—but one could argue that if Hamlet shows metatheatricality being successfully harnessed, to expose Claudius and analyse Hamlet’s dilemma, King Lear shows both its uses and limitations. The uses are implicit in the successful role-playing of Goneril, Regan, Edmund, and Edgar as Poor Tom—dissemblers, for good or ill, who understand the need (as Eliot had it) to ‘prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’, and imply a world where things are other than they seem. The limitations, also for good as for ill, are evident in the ultimate failures of Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, whose lies catch up with them, but also in the failures of Kent, Edgar, and the Fool to save anything from the wreckage of king and kingdom. A different aspect of metatheatre is suggested by the imaginary cliff and associated action in 4.6/5, which may reflect an emblem Shakespeare probably knew. Emblems were images (in print usually woodcuts) with an associated proverbial or moralising text; Shakespeare quoted multiple heraldic emblems in Pericles (2.2.14– 44); and in Thomas Combe’s Theatre of Fine Devices (1593, translating Guillaume de la Perrière, Theatre des Bons Engins, 1536) one image shows Fortune leading a blind man towards a sea-cliff, below which is a boat, while choughs circle in the air. The similarity with the relevant portion of 4.6/5 is striking, and it seems likely the original staging of Edgar’s wildly metatheatrical discourse with his blind father would have evoked (for those with knowledge to see) not simply ‘fortune leading the blind’ but the particular imagination   T. S. Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, l. 27, in Complete Poems and Plays (London: Faber & Faber, 1969), p. 14.   Combe may have been a Stratford man—there was a substantial Combe family there—and there are other suggestive coincidences involved, but the matter cannot be proven.

Shakespeare: King Lear   95 of it pictured in Combe—at the least inviting new consciousness of staging, and perhaps establishing a metaphysical awareness linked to other emblems invoked elsewhere. Cordelia denying Lear in 1.1 is a possibility, as are the figures of the Fool and Poor Tom. The relations of metatheatricality with comic aspects of the tragedy are also notable, running strongly in the bitter jests and telling remarks of the Fool and Poor Tom, but also evident in Edmund’s profoundly self-aware ironies. In one sense this answers the critical objection to metatheatre in tragedy (see Part 2.1), in that its presence is associated with role-playing and represents awareness of conscious duplicity rather than the general awareness of theatre-as-theatre that is supposed to lessen a necessary terror and pity. In another sense, however, some of the most tragic moments occur not where the metatheatre is absent but where it fuses with action, speech, and auditing—as in Lear’s deluded comforting of Cordelia in captivity, and above all Edgar’s vocal but not necessarily visual maintenance of Poor Tom when accompanying his blinded father, with his creation of the vainly therapeutic cliff. That bizarre episode, at once absurd, appalling, and deeply moving, is also utterly theatrical, as much an inset-performance as the mock-trial, and (whatever its status emblematically) shows clearly that metatheatre can heighten tragedy as surely as deepen comedy. 4.6 Doubling In the acting sense the only significant question of doubling is Cordelia/the Fool, and if airily favoured by some critics (especially in the mid-twentieth century) there are powerful arguments against, so the experiment is rarely undertaken (see Part 3.13). The only recent example of which I am aware is in Deborah Warner’s 1985 production for Kick Theatre, when Michael Coveney observed ‘the resolute Cordelia of Hilary Townley whose doubling as the Fool is a ploy to rediscover her father in a play where disguise and transformation lead to expanding awareness all round’, and Rosemary Say that ‘Robert   See Guy Butler, ‘Shakespeare’s Cliff at Dover and an Emblem Illustration’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly 47 (1984): 226–31.

96  Shakespeare: King Lear Demeger in a tour-de-force performance shows Lear as painfully unaware of the danger around him as he pushes his crippled Fool around the stage on a small trolley (a gesture of mutual dependence carried further by Hilary Townley’s bleak doubling of the role with that of Cordelia)’. The production also doubled Burgundy/Edgar, Cornwall/ Gent., and France/Oswald, so minimising cast (and cost) was probably a factor, and Warner did not repeat the experiment when she next directed King Lear, for the National Theatre in 1990. As always in Shakespeare bit-parts can be and are variously doubled. Assuming France or Burgundy to double Oswald Q requires (in addition to twelve principals) at least six actors to cover minor roles, while F can be done with six, but if all the mute attendants mentioned in stage-directions are included may require ten. In the general sense of mirroring or shadowing, doubling was Shakespeare’s engine of composition, as evident in King Lear as any of his plays. Lear & Glou­cester echo one another throughout as mistaken patriarchs responsible for wrongful persecution of an innocent child, and gulls of corrupt children, while their families offer pointed contrasts within and between sets of siblings—Cordelia & Edgar as victims, Edgar & Edmund as il/legitimate sons; Goneril & Edmund as villains, Goneril & Regan as eldest and middle daughters; and so on. Kent & Edgar are also thrown into comparison as wrongly punished disguisers, and Edgar & Lear as naked madmen in the storm. The patterns of pairing, though less structurally obvious, extend into acts 3–4 the parallel scenes of acts 1–2 that both set up main and subplot and see Lear stumble from confrontation with one daughter to confrontation with another. The general density of such patterns helps to explain the acute sense of loneliness that attends Albany, Kent, and Edgar as isolated survivors. 4.7 Special Effects Unless the battle in 5.2 is made a visual spectacle King Lear requires only two special effects, one minor and optional, one necessarily central.   Michael Coveney, Financial Times, 21 Nov. 1985; Rosemary Say, Sunday Telegraph, 24 Nov. 1985; both quoted in O’Connor & Goodland, Directory of Shakespeare in Performance, pp. 565–6.

Shakespeare: King Lear   97 The minor one is Gloucester’s blinding, where all can be mimed, but a visibly detached eyeball—in Cornwall’s hand, or stuck to the spur of his boot—produces a ghoulish groan from audiences. Jacobethans liked their stage-gore, and there were various ways of presenting severed body-parts, so it seems likely that an animal eye or artificial prop was used; for modern audiences anything visually explicit may be a step too far, and blood on Cornwall’s hands and Gloucester’s face more than enough to have to see. The major one is, of course, how a production deals with F’s sequence of stage-directions beginning at 2.4.272sd (‘Storm and tempest’) and extended at 3.1osd, 3.2osd, 3.4.59sd, and 3.4.150sd (‘Storm still’). Jacobethan theatres had machinery to generate thunder and lightning—thunder was simulated by rolling a cannon-ball down a wooden trough, lightning by cut-out zig-zags that were briefly visible or flashing light through a shaped mask—and modern directors (perhaps under pressure to use technical resources) tend to supply both as well as recorded wind-howl, often seriously impeding delivery (see Part 3.1); but what was done originally is less certain than many assume. The fact of the storm is implicit in much dialogue, but the stage-directions are only in F, and had Shakespeare wished to specify thunder and lightning he could have done so, as he did in 1 and 2 Henry VI, Macbeth, and The Tempest. But in all these instances thunder accompanies and signals a supernatural presence, and probably served to conceal the noise of machinery used to stage an apparition by raising a figure through the stage-trap. While it remains probable that thunder and/or lightning were used in King Lear, absence of the supernatural suggests they may not have been; and if they were, the effects would certainly have been far sparer than is now usual. 4.8 Exits Actors relish strong exits as much as authority entrances, and   See Lily B. Campbell, Scenes and Machines on the English Stage during the Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923).   See Alan C. Dessen & Leslie Thomson, A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580–1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), s.v. lightning, thunder, and thunder and lightning.

98  Shakespeare: King Lear Shakespeare habitually provided good exit lines. Kent, for example, gets a tellingly ambiguous couplet on his banishment in 1.1 (‘Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu; / He’ll shape his old course in a country new’, Q1.1.174–5/F.184–5), superficially meaning he will maintain his values in exile abroad, but really saying he will maintain them in the changed Britain Lear’s folly creates; and Oswald gets a histrionic dying declamation in keeping with his self-importance (‘O untimely / Death! Death—’, Q4.6.239–40/F.5.244–5). The Fool, conversely, though gaining in F the prophecy ending 3.4, fades midscene, his last line being in Q ‘Cry you mercy, I took you for a jointstool’ (3.6.48) and in F the more valedictory ‘And I’ll go to bed at noon’ (.40)—a slipping-away that has done much to invest him with a degree of mystery. Cornwall and Regan, interestingly, both die off-stage after similarly weak final lines—‘Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm.’ (Q3.7.95/F.95), ‘This sick­ness grows upon me.’ (Q5.3.102/ F.98)—as does Cordelia, whose last, puzzled enquiry ‘Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?’ (Q5.3.7/F.7) is in keeping with her general bafflement by events (see Part 3.4). So too, in most stagings, does Edmund, whose last speech is a needless explanation of his intent to make Cordelia’s death appear a suicide (Q5.3.245–8/ F.226–9). Gloucester, however, who also dies off-stage, is given in Q a far more striking final utterance—‘No farther, sir; a man may rot even here.’ (Q5.2.8)—that in F is sacrificed to a perhaps banal agreement with Edgar’s ‘Ripeness is all’, ‘And that’s true too’ (F5.2.11). A similar oddity attends Goneril’s final exit after Edmund’s fall: in both texts her last line is defiant and striking, but while in Q it has a mysterious quality (‘Ask me not what I know’, Q5.3.154), F transfers that line to Edmund, and marks Goneril’s exit slightly earlier, follow  In F the line reads “My sickness …”.   Perhaps banal—but cf. Alvin Kernan, ‘The Sight of the Spider: Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies’, p. 424, in J. Leeds Barroll, Alexander Leggatt, Richard Hosley, & Alvin Kernan, The Revels History of Drama in English, vol. III, 1576–1613 (London: Methuen, 1975), pp. 404–33: “The central experience of Lear, the plot which is its soul, can only be understood, if at all, as a series of ever-coiling paradoxes: freedom which is fate, wisdom which is folly, sanity which is madness, helplessness which is power, loss that is gain, justice that is injustice. Reverse these paradoxes, ‘And that’s true too’ (IV.ii.11).” I owe this point to John Gilroy.

Shakespeare: King Lear   99 ing ‘Who can arraign me for’t?’ (F5.3.151). Finally there is Lear’s last utterance, in Q the bathetic-suicidal ‘Break, heart, I prithee break’ (Q5.3.303), but in F (which gives that line to Kent) the notorious ‘Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, / Look there, look there.’ (F5.3.284–5), informing Bradley’s conviction that he dies of mistaken joy (see Part 3.1). A third possibility, used in some productions, is to accept F’s reassignment of ‘Break, heart …’ but omit its addition to the previous speech and retain Q’s ‘Pray you, undo / This button. Thank you, sir. O, O, O, O!’ (Q.300­–01)—a choice that gives the actor considerable freedom and may produce an anguished howl rather than anything verbal. The most striking thing overall is Shakespeare’s failure to provide for anyone anything resembling the potent farewell speeches he had given to Juliet, Brutus, and Othello, and would write for Macbeth, Coriolanus, Anthony, and Cleopatra. It is the final measure of the extent to which King Lear does not come to a noble or satisfactory conclusion, let alone a redemptive righting of wrongs, but fizzles into terminal bleakness amid a welter of blood, broken hearts, and despairing isolation for its grief-stricken survivors.

  In Q, the line reads “Who shall arraign …”.

Part 5. Comedic Agony and King Lear A decade before Shakespeare began writing for the stage Sidney mockingly observed of his contemporaries ‘howe all their Playes bee neither right Tragedies, nor right Comedies, mingling Kinges and Clownes, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the Clowne by head and shoulders to play a part in maiesticall matters, with neither decencie not discretion : so as neither the admira­tion and Commiser­ation, nor the right sportfulnesse is by their mongrell Tragi­ comedie obtained’. The neoclassical sentiment is familiar but memorable in the vigour of Sidney’s imagery, and one might think King Lear designed to twit him about it, for if ever a play ‘thrust in the Clowne by head and shoulders to play a part in maiesticall matters’ King Lear is it. But if the play’s generic indecorum is undeniable, the effects in performance are far more complex than Sidney allowed. Similar complaints about tragicomedy were voiced at least until the eighteenth century, when Voltaire famously denounced Shakespeare as a drunken savage for mingling the sublime and the ridiculous, but were driven by misapprehensions of both genre and theatre. Contrary to neoclassical theory, genres cannot be mutually exclusive categories (like a set of pigeonholes), for as musicals, film, and TV make glaringly obvious many works draw on multiple genres simultaneously. Rather, generic labels are critical shorthand for sets of audience expectations that can overlap, either complementing or clashing with one another, and the question is not whether they should be allowed to do so but how well a given combination is managed. In theatre, moreover, genres are created in performance as much as on the page: not only because a new production may adopt a distinct style and interpretation, but because our expectations begin long before we reach a theatre space, and are as much to do with architecture and location as   Sir Phillip Sidney, The Defence of Poesie (London: Thomas Creede for William Ponsonby, 1595; Menston: Scolar Press, 1968), sigs. I1r–v.

Shakespeare: King Lear   101 playwright’s name and play’s title. For Aeschylus and Aristophanes in classical Athens tragedy and comedy were sharply separated, each with its own annual sacred festival, symbols, costumes, styles, size of chorus, authors, and actors, no more to be confused than January and June. For Racine and Molière in seventeenth-century Paris theatre was a seasonal secular entertainment but remained genre-specific, comedy and tragedy each having its own dedicated venue and remaining as distinct as rival sports-teams. But in Shakespeare’s theatre tragedies, comedies, histories, and unquant­ifi­able mixtures of all three were performed by the same company on the same stage on successive days, and while distinctions could be enforced (as by draping the theatre in black for tragedies) there was strong pressure driving all public genres together. The private masques and amateur shows that Shakespeare used as inset-performances were distinct, as to some degree was the terminal jig, almost always performed by the principal clown, but in a real sense no play of Shakespeare’s is purely comic or tragic, and his histories intrinsically combine the genres. Nor are they simply tragicomedies, a variously theorised term that offers no precision. Shakespeare did respect the gross traditional structural demands of both comedy and tragedy—there are no staged deaths in any comedy, no eponymous survivals in any tragedy save those of Troilus and Cressida, and a veritable surfeit of endings in marriage and in death. But no comedy is wholly free of darkness nor any tragedy secure from laughter, and some of each kind stray far towards the other. Such generic tension may be obvious—Isabella’s suffering in Measure or Hamlet’s exchanges with the gravediggers— yet deeply challenging. How, for example, should one analyse what   One’s expectations of King Lear are not the same if attending (i) a performance at an all-girls school, (ii) a performance by a comedy troupe, and (iii) a major national theatre.   There are reported deaths prior to the action, typically to orphan protagonists, and two off-stage deaths—those of the King of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, which aborts the comic action, and of Ragozine in Measure, for Measure, who is mentioned only once, as a corpse, and appears (if at all) only as a prop head.   Their survival is the principal reason that the play’s status as a tragedy is so often questioned, but Shakespeare’s other x and y titles (Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra)—and consistently phrasal comedic titles—strongly posit tragedy as the governing genre.

102  Shakespeare: King Lear happens in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe—a tragedy of a double love-suicide much like Romeo and Juliet, and a wildly inappropriate choice for a weddingshow but on this occasion rendered achingly funny by grossly incompetent performance? And how in King Lear should one approach the geriatric king nakedly capering towards death through the green world of the heath, or the professional Fool and pretend Bedlamite who accompany him? I have sought throughout this Insight to advance possible answers, but how those may be developed depends on one’s understanding of generic indecorum. Given the real difficulties posed by King Lear’s hybridity for readers, performers, and audiences alike, Tate’s cancellation of the tragic deaths and omission of the Fool make more sense than at first seems possible—but abandons what is most challeng­ ing and typically Shakespearean. So too does Dryden’s brisk rewrite of Troilus and Cressida, killing off the lovers to tidy heterogeneity into proper tragedy, for Shakespeare plainly took great professional delight in mingling comedy and tragedy, and over the 20 or so years of his writing career worked systematically to explore how such fusions can be achieved and managed. In his earliest histories, 2 and 3 Henry VI, his technique simply combines tragic and comic scenes within one play, but in Richard III a different technique reaches astonishing fruition—not scene-by-scene alternation of genres, a mixture, but their fusion within a single character, given all the worst actions and best lines. A cynical, deeply ironic, and murderously self-serving hunchback, ‘toad’ or ‘savage boar’ to almost all who must deal with him, Richard careers through his tale shedding his family’s blood and dispensing savage laughter, generating audience love for his villainy and wit as much as satisfaction at his death. For many playwrights such an achievement would have been a lifetime money-spinner, and Shakespeare certainly banked the lesson, to be drawn on for Iago, as for Edmund—but he also produced, just before or after Richard, the equally riveting but crueller and far more troubling figure of Aaron in Titus Andronicus. That play, probably Shakespeare’s first formal tragedy, is now regarded as problematical for the (supposed) racism of Aaron’s dark skin, but was posing

Shakespeare: King Lear   103 theatrical problems long before political correctness came along, in its graphic extremity of violence and persistent juxtapositions of violence with dark humour. And at the far end of Shakespeare’s career, in Cymbeline, such juxtapositions are still found, as when Imogen wonderfully wakes from her own mock-death only to find beside her a headless corpse dressed in her husband’s clothes, promptly initiating another, overlapping mock-death—the terminal scenario of Romeo and Juliet but this time based on a mistake and leading ultimately to deliverance and quasi-comedic ending. Contemporary students of literature have a tremendous advantage in the intelligence of much recent Shakespearean film. Richard Loncraine’s gripping 1995 Richard III, with Ian McKellen as Richard smirking directly to camera and summoning it to follow him when he wills, is not simply more modern than Olivier’s 1955 film, but far more attentive to Shakespeare’s manipulative combinations of genre, blending thriller, musical comedy, war film, and period-piece into a light-footed but not light-hearted whole. Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999) similarly illuminates the problems any director (and cast) of Titus Andronicus must tackle, and its success turns on willingness to confront the clashes of genre and register that fill the play, and utilise the resources of film to match Shakespeare’s complexities. When Titus’s severed hand and the heads of his wrongly executed sons are delivered back to him they arrive in a small van, to be unveiled by costumed messengers with chirpy showman-presentation over a megaphone and lively music, a style derived as much from the melodramatic theatricality of horror-movies as anything else, while in the same scene the trembling, handless Lavinia, seemingly unable in her mutilated condition to help Titus carry his grisly presents, is encouraged to hold his severed hand in her tongueless mouth—just as Shakespeare has Titus instruct her to do. Audiences of the film almost always react with repeatedly shocked laughter, a sound betraying involuntary reaction to the horrid humour—and a testimony to Taymor’s success in modernising and amplifying what is not merely a generic mix but a compound of tragedy and comedy unlike both, as salt is neither sodium nor chlorine. The central, counter-intuitive fact that makes the compound work

104  Shakespeare: King Lear is also more easily discernible on film, especially where a play is repeatedly adapted. One clear example is the confrontation between drunken Sir Toby, sniping Feste, and outraged Malvolio in Twelfth Night 2.3, a comic and ominous scene that is surprisingly hard to stage well. Given that Twelfth Night is a troublingly bleak revenge comedy, one would think that to make it funnier, bleakness must be reduced, and to make it bleaker, funniness reduced—but as the films directed by John Sichel & John Dexter (1969), Kenneth Branagh (1988), and Trevor Nunn (1996) powerfully demonstrate, the two go hand-in-hand, so the bleaker it is, the funnier it is, and the funnier, the bleaker, a driving spiral of feedback that enables Shakespeare to generate extremely potent conflicting emotions from fairly slight and conventional material. And how­ever strange this seems the lesson applies to the tragedies—as witness Othello, where Iago’s hatefulness in performance is measured by his bitter humour, Hamlet, where the Prince’s jokes outline his self-flagellating desperation, and King Lear, where the pain of all that happens is magnified at every juncture by consciousness of its absurdity, conveyed through jests and song, bawdy and role-play. This technique is an opposite of ‘comic relief’, for the presence of comedic roles and behaviours, and delivery of comic lines, heightens contrasting despair. You gotta laugh—because the alternative is a crying that will have no end and do no good, and laughter, however grim, offers a more defiant ride to oblivion. Shake­speare’s characteristic achievement was to twist into these truths a feedback loop whereby they mutually amplify, and if King Lear is his ‘greatest tragedy’ it is so because in it the feedback spiral of laughter and despair is tautest and most potent. Part of his brilliance lies in the cropping and compression of a borrowed plot, exchanging grave reason for terrible whim and enforcing mortal causalities, and part in the reverberant echoings of main and grafted sub-plot, but what makes the unfolding action so painful is tugging knowledge of Lear’s idiot dotage, his senex role writ plain in 1.1, and recognition (however subliminal) of the fairy-tale qualities attending three royal daughters, and of the comedic promise of the heath as a green world. Brutus, Macbeth, even Antony and Coriolanus not only deserve but in the course of

Shakespeare: King Lear   105 their plays clearly earn what they get, but Lear, before his first appearance as a gracious king and father, has simply stepped into free fall, and all is gathering disaster, hustling innocent and guilty alike to terrible, meaningless ends. Sensitised by Ibsen, Strindberg, and a long theatrical career, George Bernard Shaw made the same observation late in life, in a letter to a biographer. ‘[In King Lear] we find the alternation of tragic and funny dropped for an actual interweaving of the two; so that we have the tragic and the comic simultaneously, each heightening the other with a poignancy otherwise unattain­able.’ His insight is developed in Albert Bermel’s instructive study Comic Agony: Mixed Impressions in the Modern Theatre (1993), which specifically distinguished ‘comic agony’, where such poignant mutual heightening occurs, from ‘tragicomedy’ that merely alternates modes, achieving no fusion. Bermel’s book is a major advance, and chapters ending each part offer a valuable taxonomy—‘Comedy in Hiding’, ‘Pain in Hiding’, and ‘The Farcical Overlay’—but as its subtitle avers it concerns modern playwrights, from Ibsen to Caryl Churchill, and though Shakespeare is mentioned as a precursor of these comic agonists his practice is never explored. Much of what Bermel says is nevertheless strongly applicable to Shakespeare, but there is an additional distinction that steps beyond (or behind) comic agony, where ‘the tragic and the funny’ interweave and fuse, to comedic agony, where the structures of comedy as a genre celebrating survival and procreation are harnessed to deathly, childless ends. That Shakespeare persistently sought this deeper fusion of comedic agony is clear, but his ability to achieve it, and the depth of the fusion achieved, develop from play to play. In Titus Andronicus, for instance, it is strongest in the final feast, where in what should structurally be, and purports to be, inclusive comedic reconciliation Tamora is served the pie made of her sons’ flesh and blood—but for all the grand guignol shock of cannibalism ‘poignancy’ is not easily achieved. In Hamlet, however, when laughable senex Polonius, hope  Quoted in Archibald Henderson, George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1956), p. 471.   Alfred Bermel, Comic Agony: Mixed Impressions in the Modern Theatre (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993), p. v.

106  Shakespeare: King Lear lessly adrift in a tragedy he never understands, thinks he will cleverly use the old clowns’ trick of hiding behind the curtains and is summarily murdered for his pains, something deeper flickers in Hamlet’s agonised dismissal of him as a ‘wretched, rash, intruding fool’, and later informs Horatio’s telling account of ‘purposes mistook / Fall’n on th’inventors’ heads’ (see Part 2.2). And in King Lear, where underlying comedic identity is extended to the parents and children of both main and subplots, a first world/green world structure fully deployed, and the central action filled with disguised journeys and increasingly dense metatheatre—all the rich legacy of the comedies Shakespeare was no longer writing—comedic agony is pervasively sustained to the point of unbearability, where Nahum Tate and Dr Johnson broke, and then beyond it, where modernity has again learned to dwell.

Part 6. Critics’ Corner A complete bibliography even of recent criticism would fill scores of pages and tally a shocking waste of trees, so this section lists (with annotations) only the most widely available/used individual editions, books, and films, with a selection of the very best general criticism and web-sites. Fuller discussion is available in Arden 3, and in many of the other editions and guides cited. 6.1 Bibliography Editions of King Lear Arden 1: ed. W. J. Craig, 1901.  Long out of print but findable used; an eclectic text and a interesting period introduction. Arden 2: ed. Kenneth Muir, 1951, rev. 1972.  Out of print but available used; an eclectic text, and useful, heavy annotation, but skimpy (like all Arden 2s) on stage-history and performance. Arden 3: ed. R. A. Foakes, 1997.  A disappointing ed. in a good series. Useful introduction and solid annotation, but an eclectic text spattered with superscript Qs and Fs to indicate unique passages and editorial choices—an awkward and distracting system. Longman Annotated Texts: ed. René Weis, 1993.  A parallel text of Q and F with good annotation. The introduction is largely textual and without illustration, but the parallel texts make this the easiest textually complete edition to use. New Cambridge Shakespeare: ed. Jay L. Halio, 1992, 1994.  Separate editions of F (1992) and Q1 (1994). The main series text is F, with an excellent, well illustrated introduction and good notes; the Q text is complementary, with a textual introduction and textual notes only.

108  Shakespeare: King Lear Oxford (World’s Classics): ed. Stanley Wells, 2001.  A fully but sometimes oddly annotated ed. of Q1, with a fair but under-illustrated introduction. Penguin: ed. G. K. Hunter, 1972, 2005.  An eclectic text. The 2005 reissue has an intro­duction by Kiernan Ryan with Hunter’s commentary, but like all Penguin Shakespeares is insufficiently glossed and annotated for university use. Plays in Performance: ed. J. S. Bratton, 1987.  An eclectic text with a fascinating line-by-line historical theatrical commentary. Shakespearean Originals: ed. Graham Holderness, 1995.  A minimally modernised ed. of Q1, with a patchy introduction and no annotation. The Complete King Lear: ed. Michael Warren (Berkeley, Los Angeles, & London: University of California Press, 1989)  An enormous box set containing unbound photo-facsimiles of Q1, Q2, and F1, and a bound parallel-text photo-facsimile of Q1 and F1; the bound volume was also issued separately. A short introduction and no notes—but the parallel facsimile is the premier resource for serious textual work on the play. Books and Essays about King Lear Berger, Jr., Harry, ‘King Lear: the Lear Family Romance’ & ‘Text against Performance: The Gloucester Family Romance’, in Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicites in Shakespeare (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).  Often exasperating but stimulating essays by an idiosyncratic critic. Danby, John F. Shakespeare’s Doctrine of Nature: A Study of King Lear. (London: Faber & Faber, 1961). Out of print, but an indispensable study of Lear in its cultural context, relating Edmund to the tradition of the Machiavel, and to the ‘new man’ of the Renaissance. Danby reads the play as dramatizing a clash between irreconcilable visions of what is ‘natural’ to human nature. Foakes, R. A., Hamlet versus Lear (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). An intriguing argument about the ways in

Shakespeare: King Lear   109 which King Lear has supplanted Hamlet as Shakespeare’s ‘greatest tragedy’. Honigmann, E. A. J., ‘Lear’s Mind’, in Shakespeare: Seven Tragedies: The Dramatist’s Manipulation of Response (London: Macmillan, 1976).  A contentious essay on Lear’s interiority and psychology. Kozintsev, Grigori, King Lear: The Space of Tragedy: the Diary of a Film Director (1973; trans. Mary Mackintosh, London: Heinemann, 1977). An interesting account of filming the play in 1969–70. McLuskie, Kathleen, ‘The patriarchal bard: feminist criticism and Shakespeare: King Lear and Measure for Measure’, in Jonathan Dollimore & Alan Sinfield, eds, Political Shakespeare (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1985).  A combative essay in a massively influential collection. Rosenberg, Marvin, The Masks of King Lear (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972).  A scene-by-scene account of performance over the centuries. Rothwell, Kenneth S., ‘In Search of Nothing: Mapping King Lear’ in Lynda E. Boose & Richard Burt, eds, Shakespeare the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video (London & New York: Routledge, 1997).  A short but useful article considering a range of stage and film versions. Sher, Antony, ‘The Fool in King Lear’, in Russell Jackson & Robert Smallwood, eds, Players of Shakespeare 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).  Introspective, illustrated essay by a great, nervy actor who played the Fool in 1972 & 1982–3. Taylor, Gary, & Warren, Michael, eds, The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of King Lear (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).  The collection, arising from a 1980 conference, that began the great textual debate. Some articles are hard reading, but the whole is of compelling importance.

110  Shakespeare: King Lear General Criticism Barton, Anne (as Anne Righter), Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967). Still the outstanding book on Shakespeare’s mediaeval inheritance and the evolution of the Vice. Bate, Jonathan, Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993). Fundamentally right, always interesting, and important in proving Shakespeare’s knowledge of Ovid in the originals, but sometimes pushing its arguments too far. Dessen, Alan C., Recovering Shakespeare’s Theatrical Vocabulary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). A superb, very instructive exercise in placing Shakespeare firmly back in a working theatrical context. Nuttall, A. D., Shakespeare the Thinker (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007).  A fascinating investigation of process in Shakespeare, sharply alert to classical and philosophical issues. Orgel, Stephen, Impersonations: The performance of gender in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).  The most substantive recent rethink of boys-playing-women and other distinctive features of Jacobethan practice, showing but not consumed by contemporary gay politics. Rothwell, Kenneth S., A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Thorough and fascinating, with a very useful appendix listing almost all Shakespearean films. Wiles, David, Shakespeare’s Clown: Actor and Text in the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). Extremely interesting argument, controversial to some and taken up in a number of more recent works; the best account yet of Kemp’s departure in 1599, and good on all comedic roles.

Shakespeare: King Lear   111 6.2 Major films of King Lear All are called King Lear and are available on DVD through normal commercial channels unless otherwise specified. The first name given is that of the director ; the bracketed name is of the actor playing Lear. Kozintsev, Grigori, 1970 (Joeri Jarvet). Less distinguished than the same director’s Hamlet but consistently intelligent in almost every cinematic way. In Sovscope, an ultra-wide Soviet format used to excellent advantage, with one half of the screen crowded and the other frighteningly empty; rarely stocked, but available on all-region DVD on-line from e-shops or the Russian Cinema Council. Brook, Peter, 1970 (Paul Scofield). A film of the 1962 RSC production that all but redeemed Goneril and Regan by making Lear coldly arrogant and unpleasant; hugely influential but not always very engaging for younger watchers. Miller, Jonathan, 1982 (Michael Hordern). The BBC Shakespeare version. Hordern’s delivery is beautiful, and Anton Lesser an interesting Edgar, but like many of these BBC films the production shows its limited budget and has dated badly. Elliott, Michael, 1983 (Laurence Olivier). A remarkable, underrated TV production, featuring Olivier’s last major performance, breathless and visibly aged, as well as striking performances by Leo McKern (Gloucester) and John Hurt (the Fool). Ran—Kurosawa, Akira, 1985 (Tatsuya Nakadai). Long, slow adaptation to a mediaeval Japanese setting, filled with abrupt violence and interminable footage of horses’ hooves. Memorable, but less successful than the same director’s Macbeth (Throne of Blood). Eyre, Richard, 1998 (Ian Holm). A compelling film sticking closely to the theatre production on which it was based, filled with claustrophobia and emotional as much as literal violence. A Thousand Acres—Moorhouse, Jocelyn, 1997 (Jason Robards). A film of Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer-winning novel featuring a patriar-

112  Shakespeare: King Lear chal and abusive Iowa farmer with three daughters. Robards is striking, as are Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer in the Goneriland Regan-roles. A powerful adaptation, but as deeply concerned with incestuous rape as with Shakespeare’s play. My Kingdom—Boyd, Don, 2002 (Richard Harris). A highly cinematic modern take, probably influenced by A Thousand Acres, with Lear as an ageing Liverpool gangster with three rivalrous sons. Always interesting, and when Harris is on screen riveting, but the attempts to include the Fool in modern suburbia do not work well. Nunn, Trevor, 2009 (Ian McKellen).  A video of the 2007 theatrical production. McKellen is strong but his interaction with Sylvester McCoy as the Fool never really takes off. 6.3 Web-sites http://fly.hiwaay.net/~paul/shakspere/evidence1.html  A site giving documentary evidence of Shakespeare’s life and dealings. http://dewey.library.upenn.edu/sceti/furness/   The Furness Collection at the Library of the University of Pennsylvania includes digitised facsimiles of Q2 and F1 as well as Pope’s edition and Tate’s adaptation. There is also a good tutorial programme on textual and bibliographical issues—an excellent resource. http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/Lear/lear_home.htm A scholarly site offering a text marked for Q/F variation and amalgamating scholarly and theatrical notes. http://www.penguinclassics.co.uk/nf/shared/WebDisplay/0,,82521_ 1_10,00.html  A Penguin-sponsor­ed ‘Teachers’ Guide’ by James R. Cope, as fascinating for what it deems educationally appropriate as it is useful. Includes an extensive bibliography. http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/   ‘Mr William Shakespeare and the Internet’—a very well-organised and helpful gateway site aiming to index all high quality internet Shakespeare resources.



Humanities Insights These are some of the Insights available at: http://www.humanities-ebooks.co.uk/ General Titles An Inroduction to Feminist Theory An Introduction to Critical Theory An Introduction to Rhetorical Terms

Genre FictionSightlines Octavia E Butler: Xenogenesis / Lilith’s Brood Reginal Hill: On Beulah’s Height Ian McDonald: Chaga / Evolution’s Store Walter Mosley: Devil in a Blue Dress Tamora Pierce: The Immortals

History Insights Oliver Cromwell The British Empire: Pomp, Power and Postcolonialism The Holocaust: Events, Motives, Legacy Lenin’s Revolution Methodism and Society The Risorgimento

Literature Insights Austen: Emma Conrad: The Secret Agent Eliot, T S: ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ and The Waste Land English Renaissance Drama: Theatre and Theatres in Shakespeare’s Time Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury Gaskell, Mary Barton Hardy: Tess of the Durbervilles Ibsen: The Doll’s House Hopkins: Selected Poems Hughes: New Selected Poems Lawrence: Selected Short Stories Lawrence: Sons and Lovers Lawrence: Women in Love Paul Scott: The Raj Quartet Shakespeare: Hamlet

Shakespeare: Henry IV Shakespeare: Richard II Shakespeare: Richard III Shakespeare: The Tempest Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida Shelley: Frankenstein Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads Fields of Agony: English Poetry and the First World War

Philosophy Insights American Pragmatism Barthes Thinking Ethically about Business Contemporary Epistemology Critical Thinking Ethics Existentialism Formal Logic Metaethics Contemporary Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Sport Plato Wittgenstein Žižek

Some Titles in Preparation Aesthetics Heidegger Islamic Philosophy Lacan Marxism Philosophy of History Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Mind Plato’s Republic Renaissance Philosophy Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism Austen: Pride and Prejudice Blake: Songs of Innocence & Experience Chatwin: In Patagonia Eliot, George: Silas Marner Eliot: Four Quartets Fielding: Tom Jones Heaney: Selected Poems Lawrence: Selected Poems Lawrence: The Rainbow Shakespeare: Macbeth Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet