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On King Lear

On King Lear

Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    On King Lear
    Book Description:

    In their lectures on King Lear, the eight contributors to this volume fulfill Shakespeare's rigorous injunction to Speak what we feel" about the playwright's amplest tragedy. Representing distinctive but complementary points of view, they cover theatrical history, verbal style, acting and actors, the playwright in his cultural context and in the light of enduring human concerns, and the Shakespearean view of history, tragedy, and psychology.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5804-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)
    Lawrence Danson

    The eight lectures gathered here were delivered at Princeton by members of the Princeton University English Department during the academic year 1978-1979. Each of the lecturers is, among other things, a Shakespearean—someone, that is, who teaches and has published scholarly criticism on the subject. (We aggrandize ourselves by counting in our number one professor emeritus, G. E. Bentley. One lecturer, the poet Theodore Weiss, is simultaneously a member of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. This volume is dedicated to the memory of our colleague Daniel Seltzer, whose death not long after the completion of the lecture series deeply diminished...

  4. One King Lear and the Shakespearean Pageant of History
    (pp. 7-24)
    Alvm B Kernan

    During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, humanist scholars and artists throughout Europe wrote histories, painted pictures, built palaces, created epic poems, and staged lavish spectacles designed to legitimize and celebrate the power of the new princes and their dynasties. In England this relationship of the humanist artist to the absolute Tudor and Stuart monarchs can be traced from the paintings of Holbein, through such works as Hohnshed’sChroniclesandThe Faerte Queene,to the buildings of Inigo Jones, the masques of Ben Jonson, and the portraits of Van Dyck. Even though the theater for which Shakespeare wrote was a public...

  5. Two King Lear: Acting and Feelin
    (pp. 25-46)
    Michael Goldman

    I am going to talk today about what might be called the histrionic imagery ofKing Lear. What I have in mind when I use that phrase are various motifs Shakespeare has built into the leading role. These are motifs of enactment: mental, physical, and emotional movements the actor is called upon to make that are particularly related to his basic work of sustaining the part in performance. I am interested both in the typical acting problems Shakespeare sets the actor and the typical means he provides for solving them.

    Let me try to give an example of what I...

  6. Three Shakespeare, the King’s Company, and King Lear
    (pp. 47-60)
    G. E. Bentley

    The great outpouring of books and articles on Shakespeare, on his plays and poems and characters and sources and his principles and his prejudices—this plethora is astonishing to the general public and terrifying to the scholar. A few days ago I had the temerity to look over the list of books and articles on Shakespeare and his works published in the single calendar year 1977. In this list there were 2,184 items, of a variety of types, but most of them were criticism, and I suspect that the same emphasis on criticism characterizes the complete bibliographies for a good...

  7. Four As the Wind Sits: The Poetics of King Lear
    (pp. 61-90)
    Theodore Weiss

    Paradox, contradiction, extravagance, outrageous wit loom large among the ways we have of meeting life and Shakespeare at their ripest. And never is life more on the stretch than inKing Lear. Blowing from all directions at once, a storm shapes into magnificent poetry that threatens to rip free of its moorings and to blast the play and its world to pieces. I will try to show that the storm, as it blows through the play’s words, charging them with maximal power and grandeur, blows thing and thought apart and leaves those words madly flapping, tattered husks. Yet the play...

  8. Five The Image of the Family in King Lear
    (pp. 91-118)
    Thomas McFarland

    King Leardevelops its action along a pattern supplied simultaneously by poetic fantasy and by historical reality. In the main plot, the relationship between Lear and his daughters is prefigured in the record of a distressed family situation of the late Elizabethan period. Brian Annesley, who for many years had been a gentleman pensioner to Queen Elizabeth, had three daughters. As he grew old, Annesley’s mind began to give way, and two of his daughters, Christian, who was the wife of Lord Sandys of the Essex Rebellion, and Lady Grace Wildgoose, petitioned to have the old man declared insane and...

  9. Six King Lear and the Two Abysses
    (pp. 119-135)
    Lawrence Danson

    I want to talk about the exigency ofKing Lear. In this I am not alone: commentators repeatedly testify to the special arduousness of the Lear experience; no other play provokes as much preliminary flexing of whatever critical, moral, dramaturgical, or poetical muscle we bring to a play as doesKing Lear. The phenomenon is sufficiently intriguing to be worth a moment’s glance.

    There is, to look no further, the famous case of John Keats, who in a sublimity of procrastination wrote a whole sonnet “On Sitting Down to ReadKing LearOnce Again.” It is not the best of...

  10. Seven “Nothing Almost Sees Miracles”: Tragic Knowledge in King Lear
    (pp. 136-162)
    Thomas P Roche Jr

    I will begin by agreeing with Professor Danson about the perplexing ambiguities of Lear’s death vision: “Look on her. Look, her lips, / Look there, look there.” The problem is what Lear means and what Shakespeare wants us to see about Lear’s vision, and, as Professor Danson suggested, the answers are legion. But the interpretation of this line is crucial to our understanding of the play: as Lear’s last words they stand as his latest understanding of what he has experienced and by implication what his kingdom and we as audience have learned from that experience.

    Before I attend to...

  11. Eight King Lear in the Theater
    (pp. 163-185)
    Daniel Seltzer

    These lectures have been seven rough acts to follow, not only for their learning, for which I owe them much, inevitably altering my own anticipated approaches as I sat listening and admiring, but because here and there have been points of disagreement—and, perhaps, if I can state my disagreements in the right ways, I can work toward some new approaches that help illuminate other facets of Shakespeare’s talent in the theater. If I fail, I shall at least have supported the view of my old teacher, the late Alfred Harbage, who ended his British Academy lecture by observing that...

  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 186-186)