Independently Published, 2018 M09 2 - 279 pages
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.