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Critical History And Contemporary Critics Notes

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Critical History/Cotemporary Critics


17th Century Criticism
-Performed at court for James I, however was not as successful as Hamlet or Macbeth
-After the restoration it was re-written by Nahum Tate in 1681, who felt the structure was disorganised and the ending was too gloomy 18th Century
-Joseph Wharton (1753) objected to Gloucester's subplot as distracting and his blinding too horrific to be done on stage and Goneril and Regan's savagery was too diabolical
-Samuel Johnson (1768) was angered by the plays lack of justice and found Cordelia's death deeply shocking but did find the sisters a 'just representation of the common events of human life'
-Charles Lamb (1811) believed the plays harshness was unactable
-August Wihelm Schlegel (1808) believed the play showed how 'the science of compassion is exhausted' and humans are prey to 'naked helplessness'
-William Hazlitt (1817) noted how the unnatural came to dominate and there was a sense of 'giddy anarchy' but also believed Shakespeare showed faith in devotion, 'firm faith in filial piety'
-Swinburne (1880) notes the dark fatalism, 'words without meaning'
-George Brandes (1895) saw Cordelia as the 'living emblem of womanly dignity' and the play showed the 'titanic tragedy of human life' and the true sense of the plays despair Conflicting Views on King Lear began to emerge
-A.C Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy (1905) believed that a Shakespearean tragedy is the tragedy of an individual who suffers as he comes to terms with his personality
-Saw the carless inconsistencies in King Lear and unwieldy subplot
-Viewed Lear as a great superior figure who's suffering is heartwrenching

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