Critics King Lear

Dr Johnson (Georgian editor of Shakespeare’s plays) every scene ‘agitates our passions and interests our curiosity’. Gloucester’s blinding was an ‘act too horrid to be endured in dramatick [sic] exhibition’.(Preface to King Lear, 1765)
Theatregoers in 18th century would have preferred Nahum Tate’s 1681 adaptation of King Lear: Omitted the fool, romantic ending (Lear alive, Cordelia as Edgar’s happy bride). Shakespeare’s text was gradually restored.
Frank Kermode (King Lear, 2000) Gloucester is ‘credulous and venal’ (meaning gullible and easily corrupted)Lear is ‘can be seen as imperious and selfish’
Gillian Woods “King Lear stages a total breakdown in civilisation”
Gillian Woods on the Fool ‘His unexplained absence is apt since he exists outside the proper order of things’
Harold Bloom : Lear’s fall the descent from Monarch to ‘unaccommodated man’ conveys most potently man’s fragility, fallibility and fatality’
Schlegel on Kent ‘the closest thing to perfect goodness in one of Shakespeare’s characters’
Tolstoy Lear’s madness has no relationship to the play’s major themesJeered at the play’s unnaturalness and improbability”Shakespeare does notsatisfy the most elementary demands of artrecognised by all.”
G.K. Hunter on Trial Scene III.6 weaves ‘the obsessive themes of betrayal, demoniac possession and injustice into the most complex lyric structure in modern drama’
A.C Bradley Shakespeare has too vast a material to usewith complete dramatic effectiveness.
Stephen Booth King Lear is “preoccupied with ends”
Harold Bloom : Fatherhood Lear as a “terrible emblem of fatherhood itself”
Reading: All old men as deplorable patriarchs (Bc of similarity of sub-plot) A case of Everyman in old age
Even the start is preoccupied with endings Lear gives up his kingdom so he can ‘unburdened crawl towards death’
Christian preoccupations Last day of Judgement. Prophesied in Biblical narratives
Valentine Cunningham – Christian themes although ‘the Biblical Grand narrative of redemption is alluded to… it is not whole heartedly performed’
Valentine Cunningham – Suffering ‘A play full of horror stories, lessons in negativity’
Kent captures the apocalyptic feeling ‘Is this the promised end?’
Contemporary play on tragedy “When the bad bleed, then is the tragedy good” Vindice from Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (1607)
Reading: All old men as deplorable patriarchs (Bc of similarity of sub-plot)
George Orwell in his “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool” essay ‘morality of Shakespeare’s later tragedies is not religious in the ordinary sense, and certainly is not Christian’
Harold Bloom: characters Edgar is more important than Cordelia
Interpretations ‘King Lear subsists in change, by being patient of interpretation’ (Timeless, the way the play addresses the human condition makes it always relevant)
Christian interpretation of Cordelia’s trajectory Roy W. Battenhouse: Christian analysis of the play. Cordelia is initially selfish, but her later experiences of love inspire her to cast off her former preoccupation with the self
The play’s central concern is Lear’s selfishness Stephen Greenblatt : ‘Lear wishes to be the object…. even the sole recipient of his child’s love’
Overlap between familial and state politics: Traditional feminist analysis: emerging female power leads to a world of chaos Kathleen McLuskie ”insubordination’ by female characters results in chaos, as it threatens the balance of power within the family: women with opinions frighten men.’
Maxist reading Marxist critic Terry Eagleton sees the play as a proto-Marxist tract, making the audience dissatisfied with the way society is constructed and seeking social change
‘King Lear’ as a poem Germaine Greer calls ‘King Lear’ the ‘greatest metaphysical poem in the English language’ (the importance of the play lies in its symbolism and use of language)
Speech in Lear ‘Failure of speech is intimately linked to strong emotion’ Andrew Green
Daughters ‘King Lear is not the play of the king but of the daughters’
Maternal presence CoppĂ©lia Kahn ‘Lear’s madness is his rage at being deprived of the maternal presence’
Absence of Cordelia Cordelia is the ‘lacuna of the text’ Dympna Callaghan
Female dialogue ‘Female speech is constructed as untruth’ Dympna Callaghan
suffering ‘The principle characters are not those who act, but those who suffer’ D.J. Enright