This edition of King Lear, edited by Stephen Orgel, was redesigned in an easy-to-read format that preserves the favorite features of the original. It includes essays on the theatrical world of Shakespeare and texts of Shakespeare, an introduction to the play itself, and a note on the texts used for this edition of it.
This is part of Hewitt’s Lightning Literature & Composition curriculum (See Related Items below). From our Guide by Elizabeth Kamath:
Like Hamlet, King Lear is based on a legend rather than on history. . . . Chances are that Shakespeare, along with most people of his time, accepted it as history; but for our purposes it doesn?t matter. Shakespeare felt as free to play with history as with legend for dramatic and poetic purposes.
King Lear is set earlier than any other play in this course: 800 B.C. The type of highly structured system indicated by such personages as the Earl of Kent or the Earl of Gloucester didn?t exist in 800 B.C. in Britain. Shakespeare changed some people and events in the original story and added others. He wanted to tell a story in a way that would be clear to his audience, so he introduced some more modern elements.
This is a distant, pre-Christian Britain, and the mood of much of the play is correspondingly mystical and brutal. Although it is not as eerie a play as Macbeth, betrayal, madness, and death are all strong themes; and nature is at its most forbidding. Like Macbeth, it is also a deeply emotional play; and since its central concern is family, people often find it the most moving of all the plays.