King Lear by Shakespeare

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

King Lear wound up being the only Shakespeare work I got to in January. It is an incredible work, albeit occasionally hard to follow for me. I remember in high school I had these great versions of Shakespeare that had modern text on the left and the original text on the right. The version I have on my Kindle doesn't even have footnotes so there are a few things that didn't make sense. However, even with certain passages opaque to me, the brilliance is tangible.

King Lear begins with an old king deciding to bequeath his kingdom to his three daughters. The first two essentially suck up to him, telling him about all his admirable qualities, but his youngest, Cordelia, states that she cannot express her love for him. Lear, falsely swayed by his other daughters' flattery, banishes Cordelia, who fortunately manages to catch the King of France as her husband, and gives his kingdom to his other two daughters and their husbands. These daughters then abandon their father, while also getting involved with Edmund, an illegitimate son of the Duke of Gloucester, who has his own underhanded plan of overthrowing the heir and taking over the land for himself. Because it is Shakespeare, there is disguise, putting out of eyes, real madness, false madness, and poisoning followed by suicide. I kept forgetting that it was a tragedy and had the sense that it would all come right in the end... until it didn't. However, it was beautifully written. The thing I love most about Shakespeare these days are his keen observations of human nature -- the way he truly nailed the way we as a species behave on the head. I wonder what it must have been like to live with a person like that.

This review is not really a review at this point but a series of musings on King Lear. But there you have it. One of the more lengthy, complicated Shakespearean plays I've read, but definitely a worthwhile investment of time and mental energy.

4 stars

Warnings: Puns that are beyond my understanding, violence

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