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King Lear: General Introduction

The epic tragedy, King Lear, has often been regarded as Shakespeare's greatest masterpiece, if not the crowning achievement of any dramatist in Western literature. This introduction to King Lear will provide students with a general overview of the play and its primary characters, in addition to selected essay topics. Studying a Shakespearean play deepens students' appreciation for all literature and facilitates both their understanding of themes and symbolism in literary works and their recognition of effective characterization and stylistic devices.

Dozens of versions of the tale of old Lear were readily available to Shakespeare and shaped the main plot of his own drama. However, it is clear that Shakespeare relied chiefly on King Leir, fully titled The True Chronicle History of King Leir, and his three daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella, the anonymous play published twelve years before the first recorded performance of Shakespeare's King Lear. Exploring what changes Shakespeare made to the drama is an excellent way to gain a full understanding of King Lear.

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. King Lear General Introduction. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/kinglear/kinglearintro.html >.
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 Shakespeare's Language
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 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
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Lear and Cordelia, Act V, Scene III. From the painting by Sir J. Noel Paton.