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King Lear (Folger Shakespeare Library) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This marvelous new installation to the revamped "Pelican Shakespeare" series contains both the original 1608 version as big Will wrote it and the 1623 scaled-down and reworked version with which we are all familiar. If that wasn't enough, this edition also sports a scholarly introduction and notes on the texts. All that for less than the price of lunch at McDonald's makes this a remarkable bargain for all academic and public libraries. Don't play the fool; buy this.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare, performed in 1605-06 and published in a quarto edition in 1608. One of Shakespeare's finest tragedies, the work displays a pessimism and nihilism that make it a 20th-century favorite. The aging King Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, allotting each a portion in proportion to the eloquence of her declaration of love. The hypocritical Goneril and Regan make grand pronouncements and are rewarded; Cordelia, the youngest daughter, who truly loves Lear, refuses to make an insincere speech to prove her love and is disinherited. The two older sisters mock Lear and renege on their promise to support him. Cast out, the king slips into madness and wanders about accompanied by his faithful Fool. He is aided by the Earl of Kent, who, though banished from the kingdom for having supported Cordelia, has remained in Britain disguised as a peasant. Kent brings Lear to Cordelia, who cares for him and helps him regain his reason. The Earl of Gloucester likewise spurns his honest son, Edgar, and believes his conniving illegitimate son, Edmund. Edmund allies himself with Regan and Goneril to defend Britain against the French army mobilized by Cordelia. He turns his father over to Cornwall--who gouges out Gloucester's eyes--then imprisons Cordelia and Lear, but he is defeated in battle by Edgar. Jealous of Edmund's romantic attentions to Regan, Goneril poisons her and commits suicide. Cordelia is hanged. Lear, broken, dies with her body in his arms. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074348276X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743482769
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Mark on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Love Thy.Enemy VINE VOICE on October 1, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Andy Morgan on July 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
King Lear was written at Shakespeare's most prolific period, a time in which he rapidly composed Hamlest, Othello, and Macbeth. I believe, without a moments hesitation, that King Lear is his greatest work, and probably the greatest play ever written. The plot moves quickly with excitement and action. The central themes of the play (among which are abandonment, unconditional love, and self-realization) are some of the most serious and important aspects of human nature. The play brings up many important quiestions: Why should we forgive others? Can we ever trust someone? All of these areanswered in this play. I recently saw a professional production of the play, and found myself quickly moving from emotions of fear, to laughing, to wrath, and at the climactic end of the play, breaking down into tears, having been drained by the plays rapid motion and tension. This play will live with me forever.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on May 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Nothing will come of nothing" the fatal line Lear utters to Cordelia sums up the entire play. The wizened king believes he is urging Cordelia not to refrain from expressing her love for him when in fact he is unwittingly prompting her to use the same insincere flattery as her sisters. When Cordelia refuses to acquiesce to Lear's wishes, he banishes her from the kingdom and divides it among her nefarious sisters Goneril and Reagan. In doing this Lear accepts their empty flattery instead of Cordelia's austere profession of paternal love. Goneril and Reagan quickly betray Lear and then turn against each other. Thus Lear's preference for empty flattery (nothing) destroys his authority and embroils his kingdom in civil strife (generates nothing).
This theme runs like a thread through other parts of the play. Gloucester's blindness toward the nature of his sons results in his literal blindness later in the play. Metaphorical blindness generates physical blindness (nothing comes of nothing). Similarly, after Edgar is banished he avoids further harm by shedding his identity and disguising himself as a vagrant. In the new order of things eliminating one's status results in no harm (another version of nothing coming from nothing).
The motif of nothing coming from nothing has psychological and political ramifications for the play. From a psychological point of view Lear fails to realize that the type of adulating love he wants from Cordelia no longer exists because Cordelia is no longer a child. Her refusal to flatter Lear is, in a sense, an act of adolescent rebellion. Lear's failure to recognize the fact that Cordelia still loves him but not with the totality of a child proves to be his undoing.
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