on November 9, 2006
I bought this edition as a teaching supplement, not realizing that it is the folio version of the play. The words "quarto" and "folio" refer to the size of the pages in the two editions. Many secondary schools and universities use the quarto edition and a lot is left out of the folio--this version cuts out three hundred lines and adds one hundred new ones. The effect is that it alters the way the characters are shown. If you are reading the play with a class and they have a quarto version, while you are using your trusty teacher's Cambridge, chances are there will be a lot of blank expressions and confusion on their faces. The lines they see will not jibe with yours. The extra articles and class activities are great though--just make sure that if you use the Cambridge, you have your students buy only folio editions.
I have reviewed several current editions of King Lear and other Shakespearean plays, and was somewhat disappointed in the Folger edition of King Richard III. Nevertheless, the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of King Lear appears to be both accessible and scholarly, with solid reasoning behind its balance of the First Quarto with the First Folio versions of this intense and telling tragedy which we do well to revisit now.
My first love will always be Prof. Tucker Brook's redaction in the The Tragedy Of King Lear (The Yale Shakespeare) which against the academic preferences of the time chose the First Quarto over the First Folio. The reasons given by the Late Prof. are compelling, and brought about a generation of conflated editions which combined the two versions. The Quarto came first in publication, of course, and is longer; the Folio is later and does not contain several lines present in the Quarto (I believe about three hundred) yet introduces several (perhaps one hundred) of its own.
And so we have a generation of productions which sought to combine the two. For instance we have an early recording of Paul Scofield as the King using a conflated edition and a later recording from his eighties in which only the Folio is used: King Lear (Naxos AudioBooks), following as it states the The Tragedy of King Lear (The New Cambridge Shakespeare), a strictly First Folio presentation. The greatest available recording is of course the Branagh - Gielgud production King Lear (BBC Radio Presents) which must be purchased and repeatedly heard, as it is real. Be certain to get the accompanying brochure.
Be that as it may, with this brief description of the history of this tortured text, let me state this present edition from Folger presents solid reasons for its always arbitrary choices. While stating their preference for the First Folio edition, they actually publish here a conflated version, with variant readings in a variety of brackets and poiinted parentheses, with explanations. They have produced therefore something here of great value, yet at a small price and therefore accessible to any classroom, production company or reader.
As usual the Folger diverges from the usual Critical Edition format of a third of a page of text, a strip of variorum and a third of a page of notes to the text above. Folger correctly fids more readable a diptych approach. In opening the book to the play, the reader discovers on the right hand page the text and on the left hand page notes. Further specific notes are discovered in the back.
In short (if it is not too late to write that) this book may approach any other critical edition, and passes many (let us not mention the unfortunate Joe Pearce's attempt). It presents a thorough examination of Shakespeare's life and theatre, suggestions on reading "his" language, and on reading Lear, this great tragedy for our times. A critical essay by Susan Snyder is included in the back, as well as suggestions for further readings. I find this edition in brief very useful for any new scholar of Lear, and I only wish I could now afford the new King Lear: New Critical Essays (Shakespeare Criticism), or even Critical Essays on Shakespeare's King Lear (Critical Essays on British Literature), and the rest.
on October 18, 2003
The rating of four stars is for the edition (R.A. Foakes's); the play is one of the greatest tragedies ever written, and of course deserves at least five stars.
It is not easy to find a a truly satisfactory edition of this play. An advantage of R.A. Foakes's is that he offers us a "conflated" text, i.e. one that aims to reconstruct something like what Shakespeare originally wrote by taking elements from the best two early printings rather than giving us those separately or by settling for the one rather than the other. I don't think, though, that Foakes's reconstruction is nearly as convincing as that of earlier editors who presented conflated texts. I am often unhappy about his glosses, too, and about his rather "trendy" introduction. Even so, the introduction and the notes do give us most of what we need, so long as we approach this material with independence of mind.
The PLAY is the thing, and whichever text we read it in (even, for example, in a text based just on that in the Folio), it is a great and moving work. Lear is an ageing king (about 80+), whose life has been sheltered and pampered. Although this equips him badly for "real" life, he is not intrinsically the evil tyrant that much current criticism tends to suggest - even his authoritarianism seems a matter of habit rather than anything else. At the beginning of the play he foolishly decides that he will give each of his three daughters a part of his kingdom. His intention had been to give the youngest daughter, Cordelia, with whom he planned to spend his "retirement", the biggest portion. However, rather than simply proceeding with his plan, he asks his daughters to declare the degree of their love for him, and this is where tangible trouble starts.
Goneril and Regan, both flatterers who seek their own interest at all times, butter him up, but Cordelia, who is honest, offends Lear's ego by refusing to follow her sisters' phoney example. He then offers the two eldest daughters 50% each, and disinherits Cordelia. Soon Goneril and Regan, contrary to what had been arranged, refuse to give him hospitality, and plan his death. Cordelia, though badly treated by him, tries to rescue her father, and the two are reconciled in a most moving scene, but she is killed and carried onto the stage in an immensely painful way by Lear, whose sanity had been temporarily destroyed by his daughters' and his own behaviour but who paradoxically gains new insight into life as a result of everything he experiences during the course of his suffering.
His story is paralleled by that of the Earl of Gloucester, who similarly wrongly prefers a bad child to one who is good, yet is treated well by the good child, Edgar, who like Cordelia shows that love consists of forgiveness and generosity rather than anything else. Just as Lear learned wisdom through madness, Gloucester acquires it after he has been blinded by some of the most evil people in the play.
It is in many ways a "bleak" play, not giving us any reason to hope that there is a God who looks after us in this life or one hereafter, and showing plenty of evil in humankind - amongst both women and men - but which also leaves no doubt as to what it means to be good, and provides consolation by showing us how good, and love, can endure even in the face of great provocation and suffering. - Joost Daalder
on September 8, 2006
Although this edition is not quite as exhaustive as the Arden Shakespeare paperbacks, it does have good commentary and even includes a fair bit of criticism. It's not expensive and the print is clear and readable, not small or cramped like some Shakespeare editions. The comments, which largely explain difficult words in the text, are printed on the same page as the text, which is helpful. I use a copy of this for studying Shakespeare - at such a good prize, you don't feel bad for scribbling notes in the margins.
on January 26, 2016
I'm not here to talk about the content of the book itself, but more about how this edition is extremely helpful in understanding the Shakespearean language. It's an average sized study book, unlike most of the ones that my fellow students bought which was a smaller version of this book and in all honesty, looked annoying to hold. Came in great condition and got me through my English course.
on April 22, 2016
King Lear, a well known Shakespearean tragedy is equally humorous and depressing. I highly recommend it for the comedy and the tragic storyline that is quite entertaining. We begin with a separate story of Gloucester, the father poking fun at his bastard son, Edgar while his legitimate son, Edmund, is spared. This causes Edgar to finally crack and become a wacko homeless man in the woods and leads to conflict later in the plot. Then we have the main plot involving Lear himself. He is about to pass away soon as his old age approaches and needs to decide on who he shall leave his kingdom to of his three daughters and two of their husbands. So he goes to his only children, Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia, knowing they are well aware of his undecided affairs and asks them to profess their love. Regan and Goneril do but Cordelia refuses to play such a silly game, which gets her banished from the kingdom and owning any of the estate. One of her suitors also decides he will not marry her now that she has no part of the kingdom. But her second suitor, France, a french guy, admires her for her actions and they leave the Kingdom to marry. Meanwhile, Regan and Goneril, Lear’s unfaithful daughters plot against him, trying to figure out how they can take everything hs has. The king learns of this and they throw him out where he also becomes a homeless wacko and actually meets up with Edgar who has disguised himself. Also, his loyal Fool who has ironically enough been the voice of reason throughout the play goes with Lear to give him comfort and advice. Later several deaths occur like in any good tragedy but you’ll have to read the play to discover who and how. i’ll warm you, it can be gruesome!
I thought the play portrayed a sometimes raunchy sense of humor that no first time reader expects from Shakespeare but is prevalent is almost all his works. On the very first page there is a scandalous joke when Gloucester makes fun of Edgar and says “Do you smell a fault?” In modern times we might say “do you smell a dirty whore’s vagina in the air?” As if he could smell it on Edgar as a result of his unplanned birth from the woman. He is literally calling his mother a slut and an illegitimate love child right in front of him. It's jokes like these that had me gripping my sides throughout. But you may want to be familiar with Shakespearean language if you don’t want these to go right over your head. If you enjoyed Othello then you would enjoy this book equally. The plot itself is interesting and does not lul too much anywhere. In the second half the violence really picks up fast. There is something about other people's misery that humans dig into in almost a sinister way. I know I did in this play. After all, it is a tragedy.
I resent Shakespheare less now that I can read him in modern language. I wish I had known about parallel texts in college; I would have made a better grade and wouldn't have to struggle with the footnotes trying to understand the Elizabethan language, which always gives me a headache. Even the productions of the plays get on my nerves; a lot of mouths with British accents going a mile a minute about I don't know what. Shakespheare is very talky. I simply walked out on one of Kenneth Branaugh's films of Shakespheare.
But desiring to become more cultured, I have always wanted to "conquer" Shakespheare, not so much because I liked him but because he was important. This version of King Lear is quite understandable in the modern language and I even read the original text to become more familiar with the older language. After a couple reads I had the plot and characters down and the book is helpful with its suggestions of where the characters are going, or what they're holding, or how they are saying a certain thing, or what letter they are refering to, which isn't listed in the original and causes you to miss the meaning.
As for the play itself, King Lear is a vain old man who falls for the flattery of two of his daughters Regan and Goneril, who prove false and he scorns and disinherits the third daughter, Cordelia, who will not flatter him, but only says that taking care of him and honoring him is merely her duty. Appearances are not what they seem; who acts noble is often scorned for being honest and truthful and those who are ignoble may act noble at times but ultimately are not. Even the king is not noble in his wanting to be flattered while his fool says many wise things about the king being a fool.
All of nature is in discord as King Lear descends from his vaunted heights to become a homeless man thrown out into a terrible storm by his false daughters, Regan and Goneril, who unnaturally betray their progenitor and benefactor once he has given away his inheritance. The play gives insight into how children may act when it comes time to receive their inheritance. And in the case of Generil, there is some gender bending, in which she seems to be more strong and aggressive than her husband, Albany, who sees her husband as a prig and a wimp. Or you could say that this is just traditional female conniving in case of Regan and Goneril.
There is a subplot that has similar themes regarding which child is true or false to their father. The Earl of Gloucester has two sons one the "bastard" Edmund who tries to usurp the inheritance of the legitimate son Edgar. Edmund acts as if Edgar is going to betray Gloucester and tells his father so, but actually Edmund is the one who will betray them both and will attempt to marry either Regan or Goneril who are already married to secure his pre-eminence of position. As usual in Shakespheare, the "bastard" is evil and ignoble whose pretense of nobility is a sham. Edgar goes in disguise as a lowly beggar who ultimately proves that he is noble even though he is not well-dressed.
Another character, the earl of Kent, also goes in disguise as a lowly servant and proves true to King Lear, even though Lear banished him for siding with the noble daughter Cordelia.
Oswald is an unfaithful servant to the king and makes an allegance with the false daughters to better his position.
Shakespheare moralistically explores noble virtues and he seems old-fashioned since our modern plays are much more morally ambivalent-- because we're immoral modern degenerates, I guess.
on July 29, 2015
This is a mostly engaging and interesting book. The middle is fuzzy and too complicated. On the whole, high quality of writing and humor, with some (spoilers) tragic (and hilariously drawn-out) deaths. Act 4 is lackluster and oh-so-convoluted. Act 3 never ends. Four stars out of five.
on November 8, 2012
This is a perfectly competent edition of King Lear. It's one of Shakespeare's best plays and I highly recommend it in any edition. The quality as a Kindle book is also good. I've downloaded some free Shakespeare plays where the text is just a mess and this is definitely not the case here. Everything is neat and clean. That said, it's also a very minimal version of the text in that it contains...just the text. If you're looking for notes, you won't find any, though that's to be expected in this price range. The disappointing thing here is that it doesn't have any line numbers, meaning that anyone hoping to use this in an academic setting will have some difficulty. My plan if I end up writing a paper on it will be to just search the lines I want to use online to get the line numbers there, but it seems like something that should have been included. Otherwise, this is a great affordable version of the text. I mainly got it because I am currently studying in a foreign country and very suddenly needed Lear for a class. I already owned a copy at home, so I wanted to find as cheap an edition as possible, and this worked out fine.
on December 24, 2004
Before this year, I hated shakespeare. However, this play is willing to give the nonbelievers a run for their money.
The play begins with the old King Lear dividing up his kingdom between his three daughters. However, angered by the daughter that truly loves him, he expels her and gives all the land to the other two sisters.
The play is driven by these two sisters actions to slowly erode Lear of all his power. Shakespeare does a great job of developing Lear who initially appears to be a self centered snot and eventually becomes a character that all can sympathize with. He like many of the characters in this play, are given depe emotions and all appear realistic.
A secondary plot acts as a foil to the main action as the character of Gloucester is led to believe that one of his sons is secretly acting to betray him. This back story complements the main story nicely and is told well.
Combined, the two plots make a remarkable story. While it is often hard to follow if you aren't used to the older English, it is still worth a read. I'd recommend it to anyone alongside Macbeth.