King Lear

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Independently Published, 2018 M09 4 - 279 pages
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The story of King Lear and his three daughters existed in some form up to four centuries before Shakespeare recorded his vision. Lear was a British King who reigned before the birth of Christ, allowing Shakespeare to place his play in a Pagan setting. Predated by references in British mythology to Lyr or Ler, Geoffrey of Monmouth recorded a story of King Lear and his daughters in his Historia Regum Britanniae of 1137. Dozens of versions of the play were then written up, highlighting certain events, such as the love test, or expanding upon the story, such as creating a sequel where Cordelia committed suicide. Most of these versions had a happy ending, though untrue to the story, where peace was restored under the reign of Lear and Cordelia. Shakespeare however had no interest in writing a tragicomedy.The main version that Shakespeare had likely read and from which he had definitely borrowed was The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Three Daughters. He also borrowed from Raphael Holinshed's Chronicle of England, Scotland, and Ireland (who adopted the story from Monmouth), Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene, Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (from which Shakespeare drew his subplot), and John Higgins' A Mirror For Magistrates. He stole pieces and ideas from these versions to create the type of story he wanted to tell. For instance, The True Chronicle provides the basis of the story, though sentimentalizing it by ignoring the sequel. "Leir" is betrayed by two of his daughters but is reconciled to his youngest at the end. "Cordella" is accompanied by a Fool-type character who is loyal to her and Leir is reseated on the throne after beating Gonerill and Regan's armies. Moreover, Shakespeare left out main components of the earlier stories of Lear and created wholly new ones as well. Most considerable of the changes was the creation of a subplot and Lear's descent to madness.In Shakespeare's time, numerous events, historical considerations, relationships, and cultural trends influenced his writing of King Lear. Scholars tend to believe that the play was written after Othello and before Macbeth, thus assigning it to 1604-1605. Further proof of this comes from the apparent influence the 1603 texts, A Declaration of Egregious Popishe Impostures, by Samuel Harsnett, and John Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays, had on Shakespeare's conglomeration of the story. Critics have noted that more than one hundred words found in King Lear which Shakespeare had never before used can be found in Florio's translation. In addition, Montaigne's famous essay, "Apology for Raymond Sebonde," apparently refers to the same major themes which Shakespeare's King Lear presents. He also borrowed from a very convenient contemporary true story of a gentleman pensioner of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Brian Annesley, whose daughters tried to get him declared insane in late 1603 so that they could legally take control of his estate.The youngest daughter, named Cordell, intervened on his behalf.

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About the author (2018)

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

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