In King Lear are 37 rhyming five-stress iambic couplets, used chiefly for the following purposes: 1 to give a certain amount of emotional pitch and intensity, as in the king of France's farewell, I, i, , Lear's reply, I, i, , and Edgar's speech, III, vi, ; 2 to give epigrammatic effect to a sententious generalization, I, iv, ; and 3 , as so frequently in Elizabethan plays, to mark an exit or round off a speech.
The Fool's Snatches. The Fool's longer snatches of rhyming 'patter' recall both in spirit and in rhythm the extraordinary verse in which John Skelton wrote his satires against Wolsey and the vices and social abuses of the time of Henry VIII. Such 'Skeltonical verse' as that of I, iv, ; I, iv, , etc.
In I, iv, , are eight lines of iambic three-stress trimeter , and the two stanzas in the speeches which follow are, like the eight lines in II, iv, , examples of the ballad stanza of four- stress tetrameter iambic alternating with three-stress 'common metre'.
The regular measure of the old ballads seems to have been originally four-stress throughout, as in the famous stanza, III, ii, The Fool's 'prophecy,' III, ii, , is in iambic four-stress octosyllabic verse with feminine endings and trochaic variations. Edgar's Snatches.
Most of Edgar's snatches are in ballad rhythm, more or less irregular and with a tendency towards doggerel, but the most characteristic bit of rhyming verse which he utters when feigning madness, III, vi, , is in the four-stress trochaic verse catalectic, so often used by Shakespeare for the speech of supernatural beings. These lines may be regarded as a spell or incantation. PROSE In the development of the English drama the use of prose as a vehicle of expression entitled to equal rights with verse was due to Lyly.
He was the first to use prose with power and distinction in original plays, and did memorable service in preparing the way for Shakespeare's achievement. Interesting attempts have been made to explain Shakespeare's distinctive use of verse and prose; and of recent years there has been much discussion of the question "whether we are justified in supposing that Shakespeare was guided by any fixed principle in his employment of verse and prose, or whether he merely employed them, as fancy suggested, for the sake of variety and relief.
In King Lear four kinds of prose may be distinguished: 1 The prose of formal documents, as in the forged letter, I, ii, ; Goneril's letter, IV, vi, ; and the Herald's proclamation, V, iii, In Shakespeare, prose is the usual medium for letters, proclamations, and other formal documents. This is a development of the humorous prose found, for example, in Greene's comedies that deal with country life.
It is an interesting fact that Shakespeare should so often make persons whose state of mind is abnormal, or seemingly so, speak in prose. There is no direct evidence to indicate when King Lear was written or first performed. It is thought to have been composed sometime between and The date originates from words in Edgar's speeches which may derive from Samuel Harsnett 's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures This play had a significant effect on Shakespeare, and his close study of it suggests that he was using a printed copy, which suggests a composition date of —6.
A line in the play that regards "These late eclipses in the sun and moon"  appears to refer to a phenomenon of two eclipses that occurred over London within a few days of each other — the lunar eclipse of 27 September and the solar eclipse of 2 October This remarkable pair of events stirred up much discussion among astrologers.
This suggests that those lines in Act I were written sometime after both the eclipses and the published comments.
The modern text of King Lear derives from three sources: two quartos, one published in Q 1 and the other in Q 2 [a] , and the version in the First Folio of F 1. The differences between these versions are significant. Q 1 contains lines not in F 1 ; F 1 contains around lines not in Q 1. Also, at least a thousand individual words are changed between the two texts, each text has different styles of punctuation, and about half the verse lines in the F 1 are either printed as prose or differently divided in the Q 1.
Early editors, beginning with Alexander Pope , conflated the two texts, creating the modern version that has been commonly used since. The conflated version originated with the assumptions that the differences in the versions do not indicate any re-writing by the author; that Shakespeare wrote only one original manuscript, which is now lost; and that the Quarto and Folio versions contain various distortions of that lost original. Other editors, such as Nuttall and Bloom, have suggested Shakespeare himself maybe have been involved in reworking passages in the play to accommodate performances and other textual requirements of the play.
As early as , Madeleine Doran suggested that the two texts had independent histories, and that these differences between them were critically interesting. This argument, however, was not widely discussed until the late s, when it was revived, principally by Michael Warren and Gary Taylor , who discuss a variety of theories including Doran's idea that the Quarto may have been printed from Shakespeare's foul papers , and that the Folio may have been printed from a promptbook prepared for a production. The New Cambridge Shakespeare has published separate editions of Q and F; the most recent Pelican Shakespeare edition contains both the Quarto and the Folio text as well as a conflated version; the New Arden edition edited by R.
Foakes offers a conflated text that indicates those passages that are found only in Q or F. Both Anthony Nuttall of Oxford University and Harold Bloom of Yale University have endorsed the view of Shakespeare having revised the tragedy at least once during his lifetime. Nuttall speculates that Edgar, like Shakespeare himself, usurps the power of manipulating the audience by deceiving poor Gloucester.
Foakes . John F. The words "nature," "natural" and "unnatural" occur over forty times in the play, reflecting a debate in Shakespeare's time about what nature really was like; this debate pervades the play and finds symbolic expression in Lear's changing attitude to Thunder.
Craig So speedily can venge! Enter Kent and a Gentleman, meeting. Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light: yet you see how this world goes. Come, come; when saw you my father last?
There are two strongly contrasting views of human nature in the play: that of the Lear party Lear, Gloucester, Albany, Kent , exemplifying the philosophy of Bacon and Hooker , and that of the Edmund party Edmund, Cornwall, Goneril, Regan , akin to the views later formulated by Hobbes. Along with the two views of Nature, Lear contains two views of Reason, brought out in Gloucester and Edmund's speeches on astrology 1. The rationality of the Edmund party is one with which a modern audience more readily identifies.
But the Edmund party carries bold rationalism to such extremes that it becomes madness: a madness-in-reason, the ironic counterpart of Lear's "reason in madness" IV. This betrayal of reason lies behind the play's later emphasis on feeling. The two Natures and the two Reasons imply two societies.
Edmund is the New Man, a member of an age of competition, suspicion, glory, in contrast with the older society which has come down from the Middle Ages, with its belief in co-operation, reasonable decency, and respect for the whole as greater than the part. King Lear is thus an allegory. The older society, that of the medieval vision, with its doting king, falls into error, and is threatened by the new Machiavellianism ; it is regenerated and saved by a vision of a new order, embodied in the king's rejected daughter. Cordelia, in the allegorical scheme, is threefold: a person; an ethical principle love ; and a community.
Nevertheless, Shakespeare's understanding of the New Man is so extensive as to amount almost to sympathy. Edmund is the last great expression in Shakespeare of that side of Renaissance individualism — the energy, the emancipation, the courage — which has made a positive contribution to the heritage of the West. But he makes an absolute claim which Shakespeare will not support. It is right for man to feel, as Edmund does, that society exists for man, not man for society.
It is not right to assert the kind of man Edmund would erect to this supremacy.
The play offers an alternative to the feudal-Machiavellian polarity, an alternative foreshadowed in France's speech I. Until the decent society is achieved, we are meant to take as role-model though qualified by Shakespearean ironies Edgar, "the machiavel of goodness",  endurance, courage and "ripeness". The play also contains references to disputes between King James I and Parliament. Just as the House of Commons had argued to James that their loyalty was to the constitution of England, not to the King personally, Kent insists his loyalty is institutional, not personal, as he is loyal to the realm of which the king is head, not to Lear himself, and he tells Lear to behave better for the good of the realm.
Furthermore, James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England upon the death of Elizabeth I in , thereby uniting all of the kingdoms of the British isles into one, and a major issue of his reign was the attempt to forge a common British identity. King Lear provides a basis for "the primary enactment of psychic breakdown in English literary history".
According to Kahn, Lear's old age forces him to regress into an infantile disposition, and he now seeks a love that is traditionally satisfied by a mothering woman, but in the absence of a real mother, his daughters become the mother figures. Lear's contest of love between Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia serves as the binding agreement; his daughters will get their inheritance provided that they care for him, especially Cordelia, on whose "kind nursery" he will greatly depend.
Cordelia's refusal to dedicate herself to him and love him as more than a father has been interpreted by some as a resistance to incest , but Kahn also inserts the image of a rejecting mother. Even when Lear and Cordelia are captured together, his madness persists as Lear envisions a nursery in prison, where Cordelia's sole existence is for him. It is only with Cordelia's death that his fantasy of a daughter-mother ultimately diminishes, as King Lear concludes with only male characters living. Sigmund Freud asserted that Cordelia symbolises Death.
Therefore, when the play begins with Lear rejecting his daughter, it can be interpreted as him rejecting death; Lear is unwilling to face the finitude of his being. The play's poignant ending scene, wherein Lear carries the body of his beloved Cordelia, was of great importance to Freud.
In this scene, Cordelia forces the realization of his finitude, or as Freud put it, she causes him to "make friends with the necessity of dying". Alternatively, an analysis based on Adlerian theory suggests that the King's contest among his daughters in Act I has more to do with his control over the unmarried Cordelia.
In his study of the character-portrayal of Edmund, Harold Bloom refers to him as "Shakespeare's most original character". Freud's vision of family romances simply does not apply to Edmund.
This revised 2nd edition of King Lear: A Verse Translation makes the language of Shakespeare's play more modern while preserving the rhythm, complexity. King Lear: A Verse Translation - Kindle edition by William Shakespeare, Kent Richmond. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or.
Iago is free to reinvent himself every minute, yet Iago has strong passions, however negative. Edmund has no passions whatsoever; he has never loved anyone, and he never will. In that respect, he is Shakespeare's most original character.