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King Lear (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series) [Paperback]

By William Shakespeare (Author) & R. A. Foakes (Editor)
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Item description for King Lear (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series) by William Shakespeare & R. A. Foakes...

In the first part of Foakes's introduction, the editor examines "King Lear" as it is read in the mind versus how it is performed on the stage, analyzing historical productions and certain elements of the play that shine in performance but not in text, and vice versa. This section also explores how and why the play has invited so many interpretations, in reading and performance, since its inception. The next part of the introduction considers trends in the criticism and staging of the play, such as the recent shift of favor from redemptive to bleak readings. Foakes then addresses the dating of the play, the differences among the Quarto and Folio texts, and whether these changes are mere discrepancies or intentional revisions. Finally, the editor discusses the casting of the play and explains notable usages in his edition. There are two appendices that follow the play: the first examines two textual problems that are particularly difficult to interpret, and the second explains differences in lineation between the Quarto and Folio editions, which resulted from confusion whether certain lines were in prose or verse. This edition also includes lists of illustrations, abbreviations, and references, as well as a general editors' preface and an index.
The Arden Shakespeare has developed a reputation as the pre-eminent critical edition of Shakespeare for its exceptional scholarship, reflected in the thoroughness of each volume. An introduction comprehensively contextualizes the play, chronicling the history and culture that surrounded and influenced Shakespeare at the time of its writing and performance, and closely surveying critical approaches to the work. Detailed appendices address problems like dating and casting, and analyze the differing Quarto and Folio sources. A full commentary by one or more of the play's foremost contemporary scholars illuminates the text, glossing unfamiliar terms and drawing from an abundance of research and expertise to explain allusions and significant background information. Highly informative and accessible, Arden offers the fullest experience of Shakespeare available to a reader.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   455
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 9, 1997
Publisher   Arden
ISBN  1903436591  
ISBN13  9781903436592  

Availability  0 units.

More About William Shakespeare & R. A. Foakes

William Shakespeare William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon." His extant works include some collaboration, consisting of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

William Shakespeare lived in Stratford-Upon-The Avon. William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616.

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1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > English > British Literature
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Reviews - What do customers think about King Lear (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series)?

A Worthy Conflated Edition of "Lear"  Jul 22, 2008
It is a truism of any review of any edition of Shakespeare to proclaim that what follows is not a review of Shakespeare's writing but of the edition that presents that writing; yet I will rather spend the first few paragraphs discussing the general perspectives of my experience with the play, very shortly, I warrant you, and after that proceed to the review itself that which I hope is what will be of use to those buyers who know the worth of "Lear" and are hoping to find a worthy edition. This is, after all, the main reason you read these user-submitted reviews: to know whether to buy the Penguin, the Folger, the Oxford or the Arden. Yet, the truth be told, I have found out that no matter how great an edition you will find, with Shakespeare one edition is rarely enough. If there were another edition I would recommend, that would be the New Cambridge edition.

"King Lear" remains, on a personal level, the most disturbing play I know, even surpassing "Othello" and the cruel machinations of Iago, because in "Lear" there is no single character as decisively in charge of what is happening as Iago is in his play (to the extent that we are able to call "Othello" his play); this world has been emptied out of itself, and whilst I refuse to see this as a nihilistic play (godless, perhaps, yet not nihilistic) perhaps the cruellest idea is that there is not an evil mind scheming in the background that makes Lear fall, but rather his own fallacious disbelief concerning the nefariousness not only around the world but also on a domestic level. Of course we have Edmund scheming in the subplot that is interwoven with the main story-arch later, but if we only read "Lear" as Lear's Fall - yet Shakespeare is too celerious a thinker to be thus constrained - then it is painfully obvious that Lear is not subject to anything else than his own miscalculation. In fact, Lear is much like what Timon is in Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens", as he too expected to find goodness in others because of his goodness unto those others. Ironically Shakespeare has Cordelia offering the only blissful act of goodness, and she is of course the antithetical agent when compared to her sisters: whereas Lear expects goodness from those who "love" him, he receives only coldness, and whereas he offers coldness to Cordelia (whose reply is, no matter how I spin it and no matter her honest heart, very egrecious concerning the formal pattern at play in the scene) it is Cordelia who, as her sisters, offers back to him the exact opposite, yet naturally her role is reversed in relation to those of her sisters'.

But that is that about the impressions the play continues to evoke, amongst other things, in this particular reader. Let us now move to the question that bothers people who browse through these reviews in the first place. Is this a good edition of "King Lear"? I can offer the most frivolous stock-phrase there is when I answer that "yes and no". I would say that this third edition of Arden Shakespeare's "King Lear", edited by R. A. Foakes, is a good and useful conflated version. The introduction, although it is almost Bloomian in its pomp at times, is otherwise very helpful especially in the textual issues I am implying to all along. For those who are not aware, there are basically two versions of "Lear", that of the 1608 Quarto and that of the 1623 Folio. The Folio text was for a long time the only available version until the Quarto was rediscovered. The problem is not only that it would be shorter similarly as the bad quarto of "Hamlet" from 1603 is an abridged version in comparison to the 1605 Quarto or the 1623 Folio text, the problem is that there are passages that are exclusive to either version. This is why some editions, most notably the Norton Shakespeare, edited by Stephen Greenblatt et al., goes further by providing not only the 1608 and 1623 texts but a conflated version, as well. Or rather, most editions give either Q or F.

But even if you are looking for a version of "Lear" that would give both versions I would not dismiss this as an outright impossibility even if Foakes offers a conflated edition. This is because I find his editorial methods quite useful, as the edition was first published in 1997, quite in the middle of the heated debate whether to give a separate form to the two versions. In fact, Arden did just that with their third edition "Hamlet" almost ten years later when Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds.) prepared the standard Arden edition based on the 1605 Quarto (Q2) and then published a separate volume that included the 1603 Q1 and 1623 Folio texts. The Arden 2nd series editor Harold Jenkins, on the other hand, offered us a conflated text in 1982. I know I would have bought two editions had they done the same thing with "Lear": a conflated text like this and another volume with both Q and F separately, but I can understand that many people could care less and, especially if they are new to Shakespeare, could not even comprehend why they would be offered three texts of the same play instead of just one.

What makes Foakes' editorial methods as useful as I proclaim them to be is that even though he conflates, he points it out very clearly in the text. In fact, I would buy this edition for that characteristic alone, as Foakes gives in the text information whether the passages are common in both versions or "Q only" or "F only". He does this by offering, in superscript, either the letter "Q" or the letter "F" that encircle the words that are exclusive only to either edition. This is actually very useful, but in no way am I arguing that this could somehow replace individual editions, as there will be editorial choices made especially when we start assigning lines to characters that are in conflict in the two source editions.

This brings us to the present question of annotations. I am partial to the whole idea of very extensive annotation, because on one hand I like to read a play with minimal guidance because naturally stopping to read the bottom of the page breaks the rhythm you get yourself into. But on the other it is exactly the scholarly annotations that Arden gives that I look forward to when I have specific questions in mind whilst reading the play. There are four basic principles a good edition, to my mind, should generally follow: understanding the way productions were performed on the Elizabethan stage has become an essential requirement of any edition; difficult obsolete words should be glossed; nuances/puns exposed; textual variants discussed. What I gather from Foakes' annotation is that he fulfills the first and fourth categories very well. There are many instances where he discusses the ways certain scenes have been played and how the text provided can affect those changes, as well as many editorial practices that do not follow either Q nor F (neither have a scene-break after 2.2 where Edgar enters, yet most modern editions do, and Foakes treats it both as a continuous scene and an individual one by placing the so-called "2.3" scene-numbers in square-brackets from null upward, while prevailing the 2.2 scene numbering).

Foakes glosses well, but whilst his glosses offer insight to the play's thematic language (clothing, sight) and also refer nicely from one point in the play to another, he does not trace these themes as well as I would have liked. This is the only serious drawback that bothers, yet an indepedently attentive reader is worth more than a hundred glosses. By this I do not mean that he glosses far less than what to expect from a scholarly edition such as the Arden; this is nowhere comparable to the work Foakes did, for example, with the New Cambridge Edition of "A Midsummer Night's Dream ", whose strength is in the minimalism of the glosses and the unobtrusiveness; Ardens we buy for the abundance. The glosses here rarely inhabit less than half the page. And Foakes gives as an appendix discussion about the Q/F differences in 3.1 and 5.3, and he also discusses the ending in his Introduction. Thus you do get textual criticism that should be sufficiently useful for many.

The great general editorial principle of the third series in the Arden catalogue is that no longer are the Act divisions so prominent as in the second editions; throughout the third series we have a continuous text with act and scene changes marked in square brackets. And we do get full names in the headings for who is speaking instead of the abbreviations of the second editions.

In short, what is my advice? My advice is not to be content with only a single edition, and consider the Ardens not so expensive that this would be an impossibility; that is, if you do not want the hardback, which you can occasionally get at a reasonable price in the Marketplace. But if you need one edition, and do not shriek at the thought of a conflated edition, this is a very nice edition to have. Yet if you are a student who has to have an edition yet are not into Shakespeare that much, perhaps then the New Cambridge edition is sufficent. Pragmatically at least it is more convenient in the classroom where you perhaps have to browse the play and search for that certain passage. It annotates less, which is both its strength and weakness against an edition like Arden's. If you know that you will not need all the footnotes, then you will not need the Arden. The Folger is an obvious edition for students and for the most part its glosses are simply not enough. Arden is an edition that is studious. If you consider, as I do, both Shakespeare and finding that great Shakespearean edition a life-long quest, and are interested, as I am, in the textual problems in Shakespeare, then this edition is a worthy purchase.
Lauding Lear  Mar 11, 2008
Perhaps one of the best of Shakespeare's plays, King Lear is worth a good read. I was introduced to the ARDEN series by a class that required us all to be on the same page as it were, so I was at first weary to use them. Like all editions put out (Penguin, Folger, Barnes and Noble, Arden, etc) They all have valuable notes and references, introductions and essays on various subjects on the content, form and history of the play you are about to read. So half this book is taken up by the introdcution and history. Every Arden starts with the same couple of chapters on Shakpespeare. The editor, R.A. Foakes has a very in depth and interseting introduction to the text of LEAR which is worth a read, but of course, in my opinion, after you have read the play and tried to understand it for yourself.

I personally prefer the way the Folger series of shakespeare is set up with text on one page and the notes for it are directly opposite the page you are reading, making note referencing while you read easy. Arden tends to give you notes on variations between the quarto and folio which is good, but when I'm reading a play I could care less about textual variations or how editors have fussed with changing one word to make sense of a thought. However interesting it sometimes is, I don't like looking down to read a note on a passage and its all about the textual variation, but will not explain the thought further.

Final thought: Great Resource for reading LEAR, not the best for READING LEAR, especially for the first time.
Solid edition  Feb 11, 2008
This is a conflated edition of King Lear, with Foakes combining the two original sources. When the chips are down -- that is, when one cannot have both versions -- he tends to opt for the later (Folio) one. This is especially so in the last scene where this choice produces a somewhat less bleak ending.

On each page of the play's text about half the space is taken up with notes. These can, by and large, be ignored if you want to enjoy the play, but can be highly useful if something puzzles you. They cover a variety of matters, such as the meaning of now obscure word, interpretation when it is not clear what word is actually meant, choices where the two originals have difference words, often explaining the choice, possible stage direction or ways of staging the play and so on. They are usually well done, though possibly excessive.

A long essay introducing the play explains the editor's approach, comments on some critical issues, and comments on various stagings of the play. These are informative and often stimulating, with Foakes not being stridently attached to any one interpretation. There is available elsewhere an incredibly large amount of comment on all aspects of King Lear and how to interpret it, most of which Foakes wisely ignores. The play is the thing, and one of the advantages of reading it (as opposed to atending a production) is that one can contemplate the different interpretations and emphases that are possible. To a large extent Foakes sets this up, and then lets the reader proceed, rather than forcing a particular version, as happens (often very badly when directors want to demonstrate their originality) inevitably with a staged -- or filmed or audio -- production.
My humble King lear review - with a great deal of influence from Cavell.  Dec 21, 2005
The Arden edition of King Lear (I believe this one is in its third printing) is a combination of both the Quarto and the Folio editions of the play. Of course, when you end up with a conflated edition (one that is made up of both) you are left at the mercy of the editor but, for my money, R.A. Foakes does an excellent job of integrating the manuscripts and often points out in the notes which and why certain choices were made.

Other people have summarized the plot of King Lear here at this so I won't engage in that sort of review. I will concentrate instead on the particular edition and why I think it's among the best and then I will point out some things to look for in the play, things that I believe deserve close attention, things that will add to your enjoyment of the play.

First of all the Arden edition - the book is basically divided into two major parts: the essays and the play. The play occupies the top half of each page, while the editorial notes and "translations" are found on the bottom. So, for example, when King Lear first lets us know about "divesting" his kingdom, Foakes tells us that this word is important because it sets an important pattern regarding clothes throughout the play.

Sometimes the observations are incisive and surprisingly good, sometimes not as good. For example, when Lear starts talking about "By all the operation of the orbs / From whom we do exist, and cease to be", Foakes points out that the orbs are the planets (during Shakespeare's lifetime, the alignments of the planets was important - the word "disaster" actually means stars out of alignment - the kind of worldview that held the earth as the center of the universe was the worldview that Shakespeare inherited and lived in). But Foakes fails to mention that the orbs are also our EYES and in their full operation, opening your eyes can make one "exist" (as in we see them) and closing your eyes can make one "cease to be" (as in you don't see them). Furthermore, the orbs can be seen as being the eyes of God and us existing in them. Bishop Berkely's philosophy relied heavily on the idea that everything exists because God perceives it.

Anyway, just realize that the greatest of notes are nowhere near as good as the greatest of care and attention when reading. Especially when reading the greatest writer that ever lived.

Now onto some things I believe everyone should pay attention to. The word "love" appears in the play more than any other word of meaning (obviously I'm excluding words like "the" in the search). Now if you combine language that are related to eyes (sight, orbs, look, see, etc) you will also notice a great preponderance of these words. The same thing will happen if you combine the other senses (touch, feeling, smell, etc). Why is this of any import? Well, if you're going to write about something, you're going to have to use words. If something is important, you're going to want to drive that point home so you will be using some words more than others. This is an indication that the play you're reading is going to be about those things. So "love", "seeing", "nature", "clothes" and animals such as "dog, snake, wolf, etc" are words that appear a lot and are important.

Sometime Shakespeare is so goddamn clever that you could spend a lifetime and not catch everything. For example, it wasn't until my 2nd reading of the play that I noticed he tells Kent
"Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days we do allot thee, for provision
To shield thee from diseases of the world;
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,
Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked."

Notice the word "provision". The root of the word is pro-vision. It means to look ahead. Later on in the play Kent reappears, in disguise! Is Shakespeare having fun with us or am I reading too much into what could be an unintended use of the word? Let me put it this way - if I'm going to find morsels like this one, Shakespeare gets the credit.

The words relating to seeing and feeling are especially important if you take tragedy to be an epistemological problem. If the tragic figure is one that denies a kind of knowledge (Lear and Gloucester certainly do this) then one can deny it by not seeing or feeling, hence the words that relate to the acquisition of knowledge through empirical means. Notice in the above verses that Kent will be told to re-appear, but he can only reappear in disguise. Lear has already denied his love and devotion. Kent must reappear as something else to allow Lear to "love him" again.

Lastly, pay close attention to Shakespeare's doubling and mirroring. This is a favorite thing of his to do. I remember that the first time I read "Measure for Measure" I noticed doubling and mirroring on every page. Then I read it again and noticed these things every 5 lines. Then I read it again and started noticing them with ever increasing frequency! In King Lear the mirroring is much more subtle and even more rewarding. Notice how Goneril ends up "confusing" Gloucester with Lear when she tells him to "smell" his "way to Dover". From that moment on Gloucester and Lear become doubles and possibly even more and the reader becomes a party to the confusion.

Reading Shakespeare is a mind blowing experience and King Lear is probably his greatest play (and that's saying something considering he also wrote "Hamlet", "Othello" and "Macbeth").

Shakespeare wrote this play towards the end of his playwright's career. He had two daughters, one of which was a bit of an embarrassment to him. It's fun to hypothesize whether retiring was on his mind and if it was his own intent

"To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthen'd crawl toward death."

I cannot leave a review of King Lear without mentioning some important essays on it. A few years back philosopher Stanley Cavell wrote a review called "The Avoidance of Love". His reading of King Lear is revolutionary beyond belief. No student or lover of Shakespeare's plays should be without it. The essay has been combined with other Cavell essays on other Shakespearian plays and is available in the book "Disowning Knowledge". this site has it. It will blow your mind. Also, A.C. Bradley wrote a famous essay on King Lear that should be read as well.

P.S. check out the cool and artistic cover which features a tree trunk splitting into three branches. Is it an allegory for the play? By golly, I think it is. That's Arden for you - quality cover to cover :)
That's what Men say when Women rule nations  Nov 18, 2004
This is a terrific play, and the characterization is remarkable. It's considered a masterpiece, and for good reason.

But there is still one small comment I would like to make. Read the play. Then ask yourself who on Earth the character Goneril was. Um, she was the Queen of England. Not the wife of the King. The Queen. Albany was her consort.

Lear was no longer the King. Regan was not the Queen. Cordelia was not the Queen. Goneril was. And had a Man with her attitude about power been the ruler, no one would think it strange.

Yes, Lear is a tragic character, and it sure is tragic when he holds his beloved but dead Cordelia and asks if she is still alive. But Goneril is a tragic character too, and it is tragic when, upon getting clobbered in a battle, she decides to kill herself. And when asked how the battle is going, right before she dies, she replies, "Not so hot."

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