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The purpose of this edition of KING LEAR-as it was of the corresponding editions of JULIUS CÆSAR and THE MERCHANT OF VENICE—is to make young people fully acquainted with the meaning and with the language of Shakespeare. Every peculiarity in his Vocabulary and in his Grammar has been noted and explained; and his language has been compared with the language of writers before, and of writers after him. The analysis of character and motivation it has been thought better to leave to the Teacher.

J. M. D. M.

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HE play of KING LEAR was written by Shakespearebetween the end of the year 1605 and Christmas 1606. It was first acted, before James the First, on the 26th of December 1606, at Whitehall. It was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 26th of November 1607; and it was so popular that it ran through three editions in one year. It belongs to the group of plays known as Shakespeare's Later Tragedy. This group lies between the years 1604 and 1608. Othello was written in 1604; Lear in 1605-6; Macbeth in 1606; Antony and Cleopatra in 1607; Coriolanus in 1608; and Timon of Athens in 1607-8. Hamlet had appeared in 1602. Shakespeare was forty-one years of age when he wrote Lear.

2. The story of King Lear and His Three Daughters is one of the oldest stories in literature, and is found in many countries. But it probably came into England from a Welsh source. It is told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Britŏnum (2d book, 11-15 cap.); by Layamon in his Brut (i. 123-158); by Holinshed in his Chronicle (i. 19, 20); by Higgins in The Mirror for Magistrates; by Spenser in his Faerie Queene (ii. 10); by Warner in his Albion's England (iii. 15); and by a ballad-writer, whose poem* appears in Percy's Reliques. But it is to Holinshed that Shakespeare is indebted. Holinshed begins his story


'Leir, the son of Bladud, was admitted Ruler ouer the Britaynes, in the yeere of the world 3105, at what time Joas raigned yet in Juda.

'This Leir was a prince of righte noble demeanor, gouerning his land and subjects in great wealth.+

* This poem is printed in Chambers's English Readers, vol. iv.

In the primary sense weal. Cf. the prayer for the Queen in Common Prayer Book: Grant her in health and wealth long to live.'



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'Hee made the towne of Caerleir, nowe called Leicester, which standeth upon ye Riuer of Sore.

'When this Leir was come to great yeeres, and beganne to waxe vnweldy through age, he thought to vnderstand the affections of his daughters towards him, and preferre hir whome hee best loued to the succession ouer the kingdome: Therefore he first asked Gonorilla the eldest.' And so on.

The short version of the story given by Spenser was written sixteen years before Shakespeare's play. The poetical merit of Spenser's story is not very high; and the following verse is a fair specimen :

The wretched man gan then avise too late,
That love is not where most it is profest;
Too truly tried in his extremest state!
At last, resolv'd likewise to prove the rest,
He to Cordelia himself addrest,

Who with entire affection him received,
As for her sire and king her* seemëd best;
And after all an army strong she leav'd†

To war on those which him had of his realm bereav'd.

The ballad, which is probably of later date than the play of Shakespeare, contains some very pathetic verses; and the ending is noble and simple:

But when he heard Cordelia's death,

Who died indeed for love

Of her dear father, in whose case
She did this battle move;
He swooning fell upon her breast,
From whence he never parted,
But on her bosom left his life

That was so truly-hearted.

Shakespeare also appears to have taken some hints-as he was ready to take hints and suggestions from every quarter—from an

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older play, first acted in 1593, called The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella. (The form Cordelia, Shakespeare took from Spenser.) It may be added that, in the reign of Charles II., when taste and literature were at their lowest ebb, this play of Shakespeare was 'adapted to the stage' by two of the worst poets that England ever produced-Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady-whose metrical version of the Psalms was in use for nearly two centuries. With the story of King Lear, Shakespeare has interwoven the tale of another father and an unfilial son-the Duke of Gloucester and Edmund-which he found in the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney (published in 1590). It is there called 'The pitifull state, and storie of the Paphlagonian vnkinde King, and his kind sonne, first related by the son, then by the blind father.' The introduction of this additional story into the, more simple narrative of King Lear, has served two good purposes: (a) the misery of Gloucester serves as a measure of the vaster and deeper affliction of the king; and (b) it has enabled Shakespeare to find motives -to manage the motivation of the play—more easily. Thus, the assistance given by Gloucester to the old king supplies the Duke of Cornwall with a motive for punishing him, and for promoting his son Edmund. Both stories are, of course, the mere canvas upon which Shakespeare painted his picture. In modern times, the play of the Spanish Gypsy, by George Eliot, has the same subject.

3. This play is perhaps the greatest piece of work that Shakspeare ever did. Professor Dowden, one of the ablest Shakespearian critics we have, says: 'King Lear is the greatest single achievement in poetry of the Teutonic or Northern genius.' This play is the one in which passions assume the largest proportions, act upon the widest theatre, and attain their absolute extremes.' Lear is a character compounded of boundless selfwill and unlimited passion. He cannot bear the smallest opposition; and he does not understand the true nature and character of self-sacrificing love. He has to go through every kind of suffering-both moral and physical; and his sufferings are

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