AO5: King Lear

Clothing “When disguise is no longer necessary, the hero (Edgar) emerges.” Hugh Maclean
Political “The conflict between the old binding loyalty and the new boundless individualism.” Julian Markels
Tragedy Dr Samuel Johnson said Cordelia’s death was “shocking” and too much to bear, he could “not endure” to read it again.
Power/Kingship (On Lear’s downfall, him as a weak old man) “Painful and disgusting” Charles Lamb
Tragedy Play as a whole portrayed “the titanic tragedy of human life.” George Brandes
Power/Kingship “Lear, in the opening, is acting like God on the last day, exercising his judgement over the world.” Fintan O’Toole
Gender Women are presented as “the source of primal sin and lust.” Kathleen McCluskie
Gender The play is about “male anxiety”. Coppelia Kahn
Power/Kingship The play is about “power, property and inheritance.” Jonathon Dollimore.
Lear “Lear’s rage is an uncontrollable force.”
Lear “His terrible fate lies coiled and nascent in opening words.” Tony Tanner
The blinding of Gloucester Modern productions have played it so Regan is sexually aroused by Gloucester’s suffering.
Family “The play is about stripping away home and sanity.” Sam Mendes
Gender ‘Damning indictment of women in power.”
Cordelia Critics have argued that because Cordelia wants to reinstate Lear on the throne and the ‘old order’, she must die.
Gloucester’s “suicide” “The most extraordinary moment of audience disorientation in all drama.” AD Nuttal
The ending: Christian reading National Theatre production, dir Richard Eyre: Edgar arrives through white lit door, he is a black silhouette, thus depicting him as a Christ-like figure.
The ending: loyalty/positive National Theatre production, dir Richard Eyre: Proxemics – Kent and Edgar either side of Lear who is kneeling over Cordelia, he is surrounded by good as he dies.
The ending: family/loyalty/old order versus new National Theatre production, dir Richard Eyre: Lear’s body placed on a wagon with all bodies and Kent wheels it out through lit doorway, biblical connotations of heaven. However, it ends with the wagon fading into the distance thus perhaps symbolising the older order fading away.
The ending: family National Theatre production, dir Richard Eyre: Family dumped onto wagon is a distorted image of a family reunited.
The ending: Christian reading Royal Shakespeare Company, dir Trevor Nunn: Edgar enters in ‘Mad-Tom’ clothing and is in this till the end.
The ending: family Royal Shakespeare Company, dir Trevor Nunn: Gonerill and Regan are dressed in white when they have died.
The ending: nihilistic Royal Shakespeare Company, dir Trevor Nunn: Ends with Edgar looking up to Gods and then cradling his hands in his hands as if Gods are not there.
Power/Kingship “Brutal tearing off of the crown.” Jan Kott
The ending: positive AC Bradley argues that Lear dies happy because he believes he sees Cordelia breathing.
The ending: nihilistic Tragedy ends with the Cordelia saying nothing…does anyone learn anything?
Tragedy “Unremittingly bleak…Shakespeare’s bleakest…why it is so popular.” John Lennord
Tragedy “Ironical structure is just calculated to destroy faith in both poetic justice and divine justice.” William R Elton
Lear Lear is “fully responsible for this explosion of chaos.” Lynda E Boose
Lear “Suffering purified Lear and restored his tragic greatness.” Jan Kott
Lear and the storm (3.2) “A projection outward of everything he cannot tolerate within.” Janet Adelman
Lear and his madness “Madness was a useful protection.” Margot Heinemann
Cornwall “Nazi-type brute.” Margot Heinemann

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