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King Lear


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Henry Irving as King Lear, 1892.

In the Spotlight

Quote in Context

My cue is villanous melancholy, with a
sigh like Tom o' Bedlam.
                                 King Lear (1.2), Edmund

In 1247 a convent was founded just outside the London wall for the order of St. Mary of Bethlehem. By 1330 the convent had become the General Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, ready to treat the gamut of common ailments. However, by 1403, Bethlehem had developed into a hospital for the mentally ill, the first such institution in England. In 1547 King Henry VIII granted Bethlehem Hospital, known by now as Bedlam, to the city of London as an asylum for the mentally deranged. Read on...


King Lear Fast Facts

 King Lear was performed during the Christmas holidays for King James I at Whitehall Palace in 1606.

 Shakespeare's friend and fellow actor, Richard Burbage, would have likely been the first Lear. Burbage was a legend in his own time, and originated the roles of many of Shakespeare's greatest characters, including Hamlet.

 King Lear was first published in 1608.

 The play has a total of 3298 lines, of which 903 are prose.

 The historical time of King Lear is roughly 800 BC, making it the second-earliest setting of any of Shakespeare's plays. Click here to find out the first.

 The list of characters, or the Dramatis Personae, is not found in the quartos or folios. Dramatist and Shakespearean scholar Nicholas Rowe was the first to organize the characters. He was also the first to write a critical (annotated) edition of Shakespeare's works.