King Lear by William ShakespeareKing Lear by William Shakespeare

King Lear

byWilliam Shakespeare

Mass Market Paperback | June 1, 1998

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The Signet Classics edition of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.

Full of cruelty and betrayal, King Lear is the timeless and timely story of a kingdom held in the thrall of an aging ruler’s descent into madness. Desperate for praise, he banishes those who would guide him with honesty and surrounds himself with sycophants—an action which leads to his ultimately tragic downfall...

This revised Signet Classics edition includes unique features such as:

• An overview of Shakespeare's life, world, and theater
• A special introduction to the play by the editor, Russell Fraser
• Selections from Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, and The True Chronicle History of King Lear, the sources from which Shakespeare derived King Lear
• Dramatic criticism from Samuel Johnson, A. C. Bradley, John Russell Brown, and others
• A comprehensive stage and screen history of notable actors, directors, and productions
• Text, notes, and commentaries printed in the clearest, most readable text
• And more...
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have be...
Title:King LearFormat:Mass Market PaperbackPublished:June 1, 1998Publisher:Penguin Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451526937

ISBN - 13:9780451526939

Appropriate for ages: 18 - 18


Rated 5 out of 5 by from King Lear King Lear is about unconditional love and how family politics are a distraction from family itself.
Date published: 2017-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Play I read this for senior English and it was alright. It isn't my favourite Shakespeare play.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular One of my all time favourite Shakespeare works. Up there with Merchant of Venice and Hamlet.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent One of my all time favourite Shakespeare works. Up there with Merchant of Venice and Hamlet.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great One of my all time favourite Shakespeare works. Up there with Merchant of Venice and Hamlet.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from After 400 years, it still stands up A really interesting and engaging story, with values and lessons that we can still relate to today
Date published: 2017-08-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Bad I studied this work for a literature class and had to act it out along with analyzing this piece. I had an incredible teacher, which explained many of the literary techniques the author uses. Yes this can be boring for many people, but it is certainly interesting for those who do appreciate this genre.
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cool What a portrayal of madness
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Different every time Every time I read this play I see something else in the story. I have read it from a purely tragic point of view - not difficult. I have also read it looking for word play between the sisters. The rhetoric or persuasive language used by Goneril and Regan in King Lear demonstrates Jacques Derrida’s meaning of “trace” in his essay “Différance.” Goneril and Regan both profess to love their father above all others but Lear’s understanding of their protestations is delayed. It is not until much later in the play that Lear understands that despite their spoken devotion to him, they actually love themselves the best and they love him not at all. It is the delay of recognition that Derrida refers to when he speaks of the trace or the différance.Cordelia on the other hand, does love her father but does not lie like her sisters. Cordelia points out the duality of her sisters’ words but Lear is too vain and blind to see another possible meaning behind Goneril’s and Regan’s words and delays his own understanding until it is too late.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not my favourite... Out of all the Shakespeare plays I've ever read, I think this was the most disappointing one. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible but a lot of his other works are more dramatic and enjoyable. If you are a fan of Shakespeare though, you should give this a go. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing read. Taught me many things as well. Before I picked up this book I assumed that the abstract vocabulary would hinder my interest and assuming this book would be my least favourable inclination.. However, the content is very understandable and it is hands down my favourite play. There are many quotes that I remember and I have also learned a lot from King Lear. The epicentre of this book is that family love is all you got, and people can also be pretty deceptive - even if they are family.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good I had to read this for school and enjoyed it. Not my favourite Shakespeare play though
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Love the Play, Hate the edition. I works for some people and it does not work for others.
Date published: 2016-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but not memorable Of all of the Shakespeare plays that I've read, I have a the hardest time remembering the plot of this one in particular. I remember enjoying it and that it felt like it was a great piece of literature, but I don't remember any of the characters outside of the title.
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's Shakespeare. Enough Said. I find that Shakespeare can be extremely hard to understand. So, it is refreshing to read one of his plays in which you're not constantly referring back to Sparksnotes. I liked this play and found it semi-easy to understand. The play was good, but it wasn't somethig that I'd go out of my way to read. The characters were fresh and distinct. Lear's character is superficial at times, but completely appropriate to the story.
Date published: 2009-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great King Lear by William Shakespeare is an excellent play that is just like an Indian drama, with lies, deceit, betrayal, illegitimate sons and cruel intentions. Every Shakespeare fan must read this tragedy! King Lear decides to step down from his throne and divide his kingdom among his three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. Each daughter would receive her share of the land depending on her speech of how much she loves her father. Cordelia’s speech is honest, but King Lear does not like what he hears and disowns her. Her share of the kingdom is then divided between Goneril and Regan. Soon after abdicating the throne, Lear discovers the true feelings of Goneril and Regan.
Date published: 2008-10-26

Read from the Book

Chapter OneAct 1 Scene 1 running scene 1Enter Kent, Gloucester and EdmundKENT I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.GLOUCESTER It did always seem so to us: but now in the division of the kingdom it appears not which of the dukes he values most, for qualities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety.KENT Is not this your son, my lord?GLOUCESTER His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to't.KENT I cannot conceive you.GLOUCESTER Sir, this young fellow's mother could; whereupon she grew round-wombed and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?KENT I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.GLOUCESTER But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account, though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent for: yet was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making and the whoreson must be acknowledged.- Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?EDMUND No, my lord.GLOUCESTER My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.EDMUND My services to your lordship.KENT I must love you, and sue to know you better.EDMUND Sir, I shall study deserving.GLOUCESTER He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.Sennet. Enter [one bearing a coronet, then] King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia and AttendantsLEAR Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.GLOUCESTER I shall, my lord. ExitLEAR Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.Give me the map there. Kent or an Attendant gives Lear a mapKnow that we have dividedIn three our kingdom, and 'tis our fast intentTo shake all cares and business from our age,Conferring them on younger strengths while weUnburdened crawl toward death. Our son ofCornwall,And you our no less loving son of Albany,We have this hour a constant will to publishOur daughters' several dowers, that future strifeMay be prevented now. The princes, France andBurgundy,Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,Long in our court have made their amorous sojournAnd here are to be answered. Tell me, mydaughters -Since now we will divest us both of rule,Interest of territory, cares of state -Which of you shall we say doth love us most,That we our largest bounty may extendWhere nature doth with merit challenge? Goneril,Our eldest born, speak first.GONERIL Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter,Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty,Beyond what can be valued rich or rare,No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour:As much as child e'er loved or father found:A love that makes breath poor and speech unable:Beyond all manner of so much I love you.CORDELIA What shall Cordelia speak? Love and be silent. AsideLEAR Of all these bounds, even from this line to this, Points With shadowy forests and with champaigns riched, to the mapWith plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,We make thee lady. To thine and Albany's issuesBe this perpetual.- What says our second daughter?Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?REGAN I am made of that self-mettle as my sister,And prize me at her worth. In my true heart,I find she names my very deed of love:Only she comes too short, that I professMyself an enemy to all other joysWhich the most precious square of sense professes,And find I am alone felicitateIn your dear highness' love.CORDELIA Then poor Cordelia: AsideAnd yet not so, since I am sure my love'sMore ponderous than my tongue.LEAR To thee and thine hereditary everRemain this ample third of our fair kingdom,No less in space, validity and pleasureThan that conferred on Goneril.- Now, our joy, To CordeliaAlthough our last and least, to whose young loveThe vines of France and milk of BurgundyStrive to be interessed, what can you say to drawA third more opulent than your sisters'? Speak.CORDELIA Nothing, my lord.LEAR Nothing?CORDELIA Nothing.LEAR Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.CORDELIA Unhappy that I am, I cannot heaveMy heart into my mouth: I love your majestyAccording to my bond, no more nor less.LEAR How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,Lest you may mar your fortunes.CORDELIA 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 sayThey love you all? Happily when I shall wed,That lord whose hand must take my plight shallcarryHalf my love with him, half my care and duty:Sure I shall never marry like my sisters.LEAR But goes thy heart with this?CORDELIA Ay, my good lord.LEAR So young and so untender?CORDELIA So young, my lord, and true.LEAR Let it be so: thy truth then be thy dower,For by the sacred radiance of the sun,The mysteries of Hecate and the night,By all the operation of the orbsFrom whom we do exist and cease to be,Here I disclaim all my paternal care,Propinquity and property of blood,And as a stranger to my heart and meHold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,Or he that makes his generation messesTo gorge his appetite, shall to my bosomBe as well neighboured, pitied and relievedAs thou my sometime daughter.KENT Good my liege-LEAR Peace, Kent:Come not between the dragon and his wrath.I loved her most, and thought to set my restOn her kind nursery.- Hence, and avoid my sight!- ToSo be my grave my peace, as here I give CordeliaHer father's heart from her. Call France. Who stirs?Call Burgundy.- Cornwall and Albany,[Exit Attendant]With my two daughters' dowers digest the third.Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.I do invest you jointly with my power,Pre-eminence, and all the large effectsThat troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly course,With reservation of an hundred knightsBy you to be sustained, shall our abodeMake with you by due turn: only we shall retainThe name and all th'addition to a king: the sway,Revenue, execution of the rest,Belovèd sons, be yours, which to confirm,This coronet part between you. Gives them coronet to break in halfKENT Royal Lear,Whom I have ever honoured as my king,Loved as my father, as my master followed,As my great patron thought on in my prayers-LEAR The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.KENT Let it fall rather, though the fork invadeThe region of my heart: be Kent unmannerlyWhen Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speakWhen power to flattery bows? To plainness honour'sboundWhen majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,And in thy best consideration checkThis hideous rashness. Answer my life myjudgement:Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,Nor are those empty-hearted whose low soundsReverb no hollowness.LEAR Kent, on thy life, no more.KENT My life I never held but as pawnTo wage against thine enemies, ne'er fear to lose it,Thy safety being motive.LEAR Out of my sight!KENT See better, Lear, and let me still remainThe true blank of thine eye.LEAR Now, by Apollo-KENT Now, by Apollo, king,Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.LEAR O, vassal! Miscreant! Puts his hand on his sword or attacks KentALBANY and CORDELIA Dear sir, forbear.KENT Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestowUpon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,Or whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,I'll tell thee thou dost evil.LEAR Hear me, recreant, on thine allegiance hear me!That thou hast sought to make us break our vows,Which we durst never yet, and with strained prideTo come betwixt our sentences and our power,Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,Our potency made good, take thy reward:Five days we do allot thee for provisionTo shield thee from disasters of the world,And on the sixth to turn thy hated backUpon our kingdom: if on the next day followingThy banished trunk be found in our dominions,The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,This shall not be revoked.KENT Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear,Freedom lives hence and banishment is here.-The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid, To CordeliaThat justly think'st, and hast most rightly said.-And your large speeches may your deeds approve, To GonerilThat good effects may spring from words of love. and ReganThus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu.He'll shape his old course in a country new. ExitFlourish. Enter Gloucester with France and Burgundy, AttendantsCORDELIA Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.LEAR My lord of Burgundy,We first address toward you, who with this kingHath rivalled for our daughter: what in the leastWill you require in present dower with her,Or cease your quest of love?BURGUNDY Most royal majesty,I crave no more than hath your highness offered,Nor will you tender less.LEAR Right noble Burgundy,When she was dear to us, we did hold her so,But now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands:If aught within that little seeming substance,Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced,And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,She's there, and she is yours.BURGUNDY I know no answer.LEAR Will you, with those infirmities she owes,Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,Dowered with our curse and strangered with ouroath,Take her or leave her?BURGUNDY Pardon me, royal sir:Election makes not up in such conditions.LEAR Then leave her, sir, for by the power that made me,I tell you all her wealth.- For you, great king, To FranceI would not from your love make such a strayTo match you where I hate, therefore beseech youT'avert your liking a more worthier wayThan on a wretch whom nature is ashamedAlmost t'acknowledge hers.FRANCE This is most strange,That she whom even but now was your object,The argument of your praise, balm of your age,The best, the dearest, should in this trice of timeCommit a thing so monstrous to dismantleSo many folds of favour. Sure her offenceMust be of such unnatural degreeThat monsters it, or your fore-vouched affectionFall into taint, which to believe of herMust be a faith that reason without miracleShould never plant in me.CORDELIA I yet beseech your majesty -If for I want that glib and oily artTo speak and purpose not, since what I will intendI'll do't before I speak - that you make knownIt is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,No unchaste action or dishonoured stepThat hath deprived me of your grace and favour,But even for want of that for which I am richer:A still-soliciting eye and such a tongueThat I am glad I have not, though not to have itHath lost me in your liking.LEAR Better thou hadstNot been born than not t'have pleased me better.FRANCE Is it but this? A tardiness in nature,Which often leaves the history unspokeThat it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,What say you to the lady? Love's not loveWhen it is mingled with regards that standsAloof from th'entire point. Will you have her?She is herself a dowry.BURGUNDY Royal king, To LearGive but that portion which yourself proposed,And here I take Cordelia by the hand,Duchess of Burgundy.LEAR Nothing: I have sworn: I am firm.BURGUNDY I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father To CordeliaThat you must lose a husband.CORDELIA Peace be with Burgundy.Since that respect and fortunes are his love,I shall not be his wife.FRANCE Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor,Most choice forsaken, and most loved despised,Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:Be it lawful, I take up what's cast away. Takes her handGods, gods! 'Tis strange that from their cold'st neglectMy love should kindle to inflamed respect.-Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,Is queen of us, of ours and our fair France:Not all the dukes of wat'rish BurgundyCan buy this unprized precious maid of me.-Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.Thou losest here, a better where to find.LEAR Thou hast her, France: let her be thine, for weHave no such daughter, nor shall ever seeThat face of hers again. Therefore be goneWithout our grace, our love, our benison.Come, noble Burgundy.Flourish. Exeunt. [France and the sisters remain]FRANCE Bid farewell to your sisters.CORDELIA The jewels of our father, with washèd eyesCordelia leaves you. I know you what you are,And like a sister am most loath to callYour faults as they are named. Love well our father:To your professèd bosoms I commit him,But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,I would prefer him to a better place.So farewell to you both.REGAN Prescribe not us our duty.GONERIL Let your studyBe to content your lord who hath received youAt fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,And well are worth the want that you have wanted.CORDELIA Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:Who covers faults, at last with shame derides.Well may you prosper.FRANCE Come, my fair Cordelia. Exit France and CordeliaGONERIL Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.REGAN That's most certain, and with you: next month with us.GONERIL You see how full of changes his age is: the observation we have made of it hath not been little. He always loved our sister most, and with what poor judgement he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.REGAN 'Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.GONERIL The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash. Then must we look from his age to receive not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.REGAN Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent's banishment.GONERIL There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you let us sit together: if our father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.REGAN We shall further think of it.GONERIL We must do something, and i'th'heat. ExeuntAct 1 Scene 2 running scene 2Enter Bastard [Edmund] With a letter

Table of Contents

King Lear - William Shakespeare - Edited by Russell Fraser Samuel Johnson: From ?Preface to Shakespeare? and ?King Lear?
A. C. Bradley: From Shakespearean Tragedy
Harley Granville-Barker: From Prefaces to Shakespeare
Maynard Mack: From ?King Lear? in Our Time
Linda Bamber: The Woman Reader in ?King Lear?
Sylvan Barnet: ?King Lear? on the Stage and Screen

John Russell Brown: Staging Violence in ?King Lear?

From Our Editors

Brutal, moving, terrifying and beautiful, King Lear is considered by some critics to be the greatest play ever written in the English language. An aging ruler plans to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, but instead banishes the youngest - honest Cordelia - because she will not flatter him, and learns only too late that he has put his trust in false friends. This edition of the play brings together a wealth of critical material and top-notch annotation, and is ideal for both students and scholars.