King Lear Critics- AO3

Orwell- the Fool’s influence ‘The Fool is the only trickle of sanity running through the play’
Sean MacAvoy- Fool’s wisdom ‘In the Fool’s mad ravings there is a kind of wisdom’
G Wilson Knight- The Fool as a chorus ‘The Fool is used as a chorus, pointing us to the absurdity of the situation’
Heilman- madness and sanity ‘The sanity of the mad is that they can understand eternal truths’
Jan Kott- the Fool and the world ‘The Fool has no illusions, he knows that the only true madness is to regard this world as rational’
A.C Bradley- the Fool’s part in the tragedy ‘Imagine the tragedy without the Fool, and you’d hardly know it. To remove him would spoil its harmony’
Charles Dickens- the Fool in Shakespeare ‘The Fool is one of the most wonderful creations of Shakespeare’s genius’
Tolstoy- the Fool’s value ‘The Fool is a tedious nuisance’
G Wilson Knight- Comedy and humour ‘This is not comedy, nor humour’
G Wilson Knight- animal symbolism ‘The animal symbolism throughout King Lear is everywhere natural, rooted in nature, in country life’
Jan Kott- Lear as ridiculous ‘Lear is ridiculous, naive and stupid. He does not see or understand anything’
Terry Eagleton- Language and biology ‘Language is the edge we have over biology, but it is a mixed blessing’
Hare- lessons from Lear ‘One must be poor to be rich, a fool to be wise and blind to see’
Susan Bruce- Shakespeare’s use of the soliloquy ‘Shakespeare used the soliloquy to allow the audience to understand the inner complexities of some (but not many) characters’
Kenneth Muir- suicide as the absurd ‘The mock suicide is a grotesque element in the play, an example of the absurd, and it is assumed the audience would regard the episode as comic’
G Wilson Knight- sinister humour ‘It is the sinister humour at the heart of this play; we are continually aware of the cruelty of humour and the cruelty of humour’
Kenneth Muir- Prose and the mad ‘Elizabethan dramatists used prose for mad persons. Lear moves in and out of prose, using a form of verse during his more coherent moments’
Speziae- Blagliacca- Lear’s childhood ‘The type of insensitivity Lear displays is symptomatic of a lack of affection during his childhood’
G Wilson Knight- Love and God ‘Love is the last reality but one in Lear’s story: love and God’
Kathleen McLuskie- evil women ‘There is a connection between evil women and a chaotic world’
Sarah Doncaster- Nature as a theme ‘Nature is not simply one of many themes to be uncovered and analysed, but rather it can be considered to be the foundation of the whole play’
Sarah Doncaster- Shakespeare’s views on man and nature ‘Shakespeare belonged to a world where mans nature and his place in the universe were an amalgamation of both philosophies’
A.C Bradley- the storm scenes ‘The storm-scenes in King Lear gain nothing and their very essence is destroyed’
Wells- Lear’s masculinity and order ‘When Lear gives up his masculinity, the natural equilibrium breaks down’
A.C Bradley- poetry ‘For King Lear is admittedly one of the world’s greatest poems’
John Knox- women in the world ‘All three daughters are dead, and women have no part in the new world which is uncompromisingly male’
Alfar- Lear’s submission ‘Lear is unwilling to submit to his daughters’
Kiernan Ryan- the political and the moral ‘Cordelia and Kent are morally preferable to Goneril and Regan, but what is clear is that the political has no place for the moral’
Hal Halbrook- Lear, madness and truth ‘Lear goes mad because he is unable to face the awful truth’
Sean McEvoy- Divine justice at the end ‘There is no divine justice at the end of the play, where all order and authority seems to have collapsed’
Susan Heinzelman- state vs family ‘The play deliberately invokes the tension between the demands of the state and the demands of the family, the political and the personal’
L.C Knights- microcosm ‘The play is a microcosm of the human race’
Coppelia Kahn- the mother’s influence ‘What the play depicts is the failure of a presence of a mother: the failure of a fathers power to command love in a patriarchal world’
L.C Knights- Exposure ‘Exposure is the very essence of King Lear’
Susan Bruce- Edmund and class ‘Edmund’s opposition to his peers are inflected by the politics of class just as much as they are by the personal animosity he feels’
Dr Johnson- justice ‘Justice is what the play denies us, and by doing this the play denies the tumult of our feelings their natural resolution’
Knight- child vs titan ‘Lear is mentally a child, in passion a titan’
Sean McEvoy- destruction and society ‘The tragedy is that only through destruction can an unjust society be revealed. But once its nature is understood there is the potential for change’
Sun- King and beggar ‘Under his clothes, the King is equal to the beggar’
Richard Adam- Edgar’s aim ‘Edgar’s single aim is self-preservation’
Richard Adam- Edmund’s motives ‘Edmund’s prime motive is the acquisition of property, power and family title that he would others be denied’
A.W Schlegel- Macbeth vs Lear ‘As terror in macbeth reaches its utmost height, in King Lear the science of compassion is exhausted’
Rob Worrall- The main focus of the play ‘Lear is not the main focus, nor is Britain; the main focus is how we should best rule ourselves’
Susan Bruce- Lear and the human condition ‘Kign Lear offers us enduringly pertinent perspectives on the fundamental challenges of our human condition’
Dollimore- the gods ‘The gods are at best callously just, and at worst, sadistically vindictive’
Goldberg- morals ‘The play does not offer us a guaranteed moral vantage point’
Johnson- wicked and the virtuous ‘A play in which the wicked prosper and the virtuous miscarry’
A.C Bradley- injustice ‘King Lear is monstrously unjust’
Harrison- children and loyalty ‘Children are naturally loyal to their parents’
Wilson Knight- delineation ‘King Lear is great in the abundance of human delineation’
Rubio- Cordelia opposing authority ‘Cordelia is an opposition to Lear’s authority. She uses silence, the only possible way of subversion for women in the middle ages’
Susan Heinzelman- Law ‘One could argue that the play is one long trial of law’s capacity to survive its own subversion’
Dr Johnson- Wicked prosper ‘The wicked prosper, the virtuous miscarry, may doubtless be good, because it is a just representation of the common events of human life’
Richard Adam- Edgar as leader ‘Edgar remains the only person qualified to reign’
G Wilson Knight- Spiritual evolution ‘King Lear shows us the spiritual evolution of man: not one age, but all ages, of natural and human progress are suggested in its pages’
Kathleen McLuskie- feminine ‘King Lear is an anti-feminie play’
Kathleen McLuskie- violations of nature ‘The sisters treatment reverses existing patterns of rule and is not simply cruel and selfish but a fundamental violation of human nature’
Susan Bruce- Lear’s error ‘Lear’s most profound and devastating error, of course, is that he doesn’t know his daughters’
Susan Bruce- love’s economies ‘Lear never learns love’s real economies until it is much too late’
Susan Bruce- model of female behaviour ‘A play which, like so many other texts, offers a very polarised model for female behaviour’
Harold Bloom- divine justice ‘For those who believe that divine justice prevails in this world, King Lear ought to be offensive’
Susan Heinzelman- injustice and suffering ‘What drives Lear mad is the recognition that the injustice he suffers is the injustice he has already rendered’
Jan Kott- bonds to dust ‘All bonds, all laws, whether divine, natural and human, are broken, social order from the kingdom to the family, will crumble into dust’
A.C Bradley- tragic flaws ‘Shakespeare’s great tragedies stem from the tragic flaws of their protagonists’
S. Goldberg- what the play represents ‘The play is commonly thought to represent a man moving from blindness and folly, through the bitter lessons of his consequent suffering, eventually to see the truth’
Sarah Doncaster- Edmund vs Edgar ‘Edmund is wounded and killed by Edgar, restoring the natural social order, proving legitimacy is always superior to illegitimacy’
Edward Dowden- Gloucester’s influence ‘The story of Gloucester enlarges the basis of the tragedy; his affliction serves as a measure of the huger affliction of the king’
John McLaughlin- types of power ‘The characters are driven by the need to achieve social and personal power’
Goldberg- supernatural justice ‘There is no supernatural justice- only human justice’
Leonard Tennenhouse- division and patriarchy ‘Lear’s dividing up his kingdom in and of itself the most serious principle of patriarchy’
Richard Adam- Edgar as linchpin ‘Edgar is the linchpin that holds the two plots together, and he as important structural function within the play
Rob Worrall- Edmund ‘Edmund is today’s entrepreneur; a risk taker, a chancer, a charmer, a self-made, self-reliant, and self-centred man’
Johnathon Dollmore- What the play is about ‘King Lear is ultimately about property, power and inheritance’
Coppelia Kahn- Maternal presence ‘Lears madness is essentially his rage at being deprived of the maternal presence’
Unnamed critic- suffering ‘In King Lear we see humanity suffering. It is a play of creative suffering. Mankind are working out a sort of purgatory. The good ones know it; the bad seem not to.’
A.C Bradley- Lear’s fate ‘Lear’s fate would appear to us at best pathetic, at worst shocking, but certainly not tragic’
Edward Dowden- Lear’s suffering ‘Lear is the greatest sufferer in Shakespeare, though he is so old, he has strength which evokes prolonged vast agony’
Peter Rudynsky- Cordelia and femininity ‘Killing Cordelia is the epitome of masculinity slaying femininity’
Rebecca Warren- Edmund’s rise and fall ‘Edmund’s fall is as meteoric as his rise’
Stilled Good- age and heart ‘Lear has a good heart however age ruins this’
A.C Bradley- Lear’s drama ‘King Lear on the whole is imperfectly dramatic’
Susan Heinzelman- redemption ‘By the end, there hardly seems the hope that redemption might be possible- either for Lear or for the state, both of which seem in ruins’
Rob Worrall- a new ruler ‘At the end of the text, a new king of ruler is required, capable of compassion and motivated by integrity’
G Wilson Knight- nature vs death/fear/time ‘The thought of ‘nature’ is as ubiquitous as that of ‘death’ in Hamlet, ‘fear’ in Macbeth or ‘time’ in Trolious and Cressida’
G Wilson Knight- Edgar as philosopher ‘Lear welcomes Edgar as his ‘philosopher’, since he embodies incongruity and the fantastically- absurd which is Lear’s vision in madness’
Terry Eagleton- Lear’s severing ‘In severing himself from Cordelia, Lear cuts himself from his own physical life, leaving his consciousness to consume itself in a void’
G Wilson Knight- Lear’s revolt ‘Lear revolts form man, tries to become a thing of elemental, instinctive life: since rational consciousness has proved unbearable’
Katherine O’Mahoney- villains ‘Goneril and Regan are the most notorious villains of the Renaissance stage’
Susan Bruce- tragic woman deaths ‘As one long-forgotten eitheenth-century midwife noted, it never is a tragedy until the women die’
Terry Eagleton- Gonerils love for Lear ‘Goneril’s love for Lear is indeed beyond value since it doesn’t exist; it is inarticulable not because it transcends meaning because it has none’
Katherine O’Mahoney- the sister’s ends ‘Goneril and Regan meet their ends, ultimately and perhaps inevitably, over a man’
Cathy Cupitt- crux of play ‘the chaotic result of Goneril’s and Regan’s evil is the crux of the play’
Susan Bruce- Cinderella ‘And Cinderella really is one of Cordelia’s literary ancestors’
Katherine O’Mahoney- suicide ‘Committing suicide was the worst sin possible and therefore, characters who kill themselves, achieve the status of the ultimate villain’
G Wilson Knight- Edmund, Lear and Cordelia ‘On the wide canvas of this play three persons stand out with more vivid life than the rest; Edmund, Lear and Cordelia’
Danby- the word nature ‘It is a play dramatising the meaning of the single word nature’
Schneider- Kent as touchstone ‘We find that Kent is a useful touchstone against which to test all the characters’
Lauren Lind- Disguise ‘Disguise often reveals true sense of the character’
Stephen Greenblatt- vanity ‘King Lear’s own vanity results in his ultimate demise’
Oynett- incestuous desire ‘there are undertones of incestuous desire’
Heilman- suicide ‘The suicide clarifies the essential difference between the two sons. Edgar deceives his father for profit, Edgar for the spiritual finding of his father’
Alfar- Goneril and Regan as imitations ‘Goneril and Regan act in perfect imitation of their father’
O’Toole- Cordelia’s flaw ‘Some critics believe Cordelia has a fatal flaw in not telling a small lie for the sake of a great truth’
Tromly- Edmund toying ‘Like Edmund, Edgar is toying with his father’
Heilman- product and means ‘The suffering in tragedy is not an end but a product and a means’
Luke Walters- Edgar’s view of the world ‘Edgar is not looking to see the world entirely anew, but to see it differently, to encourage his father to perceive the world differently, to ‘see better’
Bradley- bastards ‘Bastards are all rotten’
Frank Kermode- blinding ‘There is something appalling about the thought of an author who will submit his characters and audience to such a blinding’
Speziale-Bagliacca- Kent’s limitations ‘One of Kent’s limitations is his inability to perceive that beneath Lear’s blindness and injustice, lies madness’
Herbert Coursen- Cordelia as a Christ figure ‘To make Cordelia a ‘Christ-figure’ would be to suggest that Shakespeare is oriented toward ‘truth’- not a figure in an allegory’
G Wilson Knight- Edmund’s attractiveness ‘But then Edmund, wittiest and most attractive of villains’
G Wilson Knight- Poor Tom ‘As poor Tom, Edgar expresses its peculiar animal-symbolism, and raises the pitch of the madness-extravaganza of the central scenes’
Jessica Berg- Cordelia’s death and grace ‘Cordelia’s death alone is not what leaves the conclusion of King Lear so unsettling. It is the Christian concept of grace that brings tragedy to her death’
G. Wilson Knight- Edmund and nature’s bounty ‘Edmund is beautiful with nature’s bounty. He is purely selfish, soulless and in this resoect, bestial’
A.C Bradley- Edmund as adventurer ‘Edmund is an adventurer pure and simple. He acts in pursuance of a purpose, and, if he has any affections or dislikes, ignores them’
G Wilson Knight- Edgar as high priest ‘So, later, Edgar becomes the high-priest of the Lear religion. He has little personality: his fiction is more purely symbolical’
Richard Adam- Edgar and Lear ‘Edgar and Lear share a significant spiritual bond’
Rob Worrall- Edgar’s learning ‘Edgar has learned more than anybody’
G Wilson Knight- anguish and loveliness ‘As though the whole play in anguish brings to birth one transcendent loveliness, only to stamp it out, kill it’
Everett- the old and new Lear ‘The old Lear died in the storm. A new Lear is born in the scene where he is reunited with Cordelia’
Coppelia Khan- Cordelia as a possession ‘Lear regards Cordelia as a possession to be disposed of as he sees fit’
Maxwell- Christian and pagan ‘King Lear is a Christian play about a pagan world’
Simon Palfreys- nothing ‘King Lear makes the idea of nothing echo with possibilities’
Holly- Kent and Edgar’s disguises ‘Kent and Edgar are able to disguise themselves because they know exactly who they are’
Wilson- Nature as a force ‘To Edmund, Goneril and Regan, nature is a force encouraging the individual to think only of fulfilment of their own desire’
A.C Bradley- Kent ‘Kent is one of the best-loved characters in Shakespeare. He is beloved for his own sake, and also for the sake of Cordelia and of Lear’
A.C Bradley- blinding on the stage ‘Thus the blinding of Gloucester belongs rightly to King Lear in its proper world of imagination; it is a blot upon King Lear as a stage-play’
Susan Bruce- Inherent evil ‘So unaccountable is this aberration of nature that Lear accredits this to the inherent evil of all women’
Coleridge- Kent as good ‘Kent is the nearest to perfect goodness of all Shakespeare’s creations’
Hudson- Goneril and Regan ingratitude ‘Goneril and Regan are personifications of ingratitude’
G. Wilson Knight- purgatory ‘King Lear is a purgatorial text, wherein takes place the expiation of sins, in order to enable a purification through adversity’
Jan Kott- the decay and fall ‘The theme of King Lear is the decay and fall of the world’
Jan Kott- Gloucester’s suicide ‘Gloucester’s suicide has a meaning only if the gods exist’
Jan Kott- characters and morality plays ‘Of the twelve major characters half are just and good; the other half, unjust and bad. It is a division as consistent and abstract as in a morality play’
Jan Kott- the gods and cruelty ‘Defeat, suffering and cruelty have a meaning even when gods are cruel’
Charles Moseley- Lear as justice ‘Lear’s rightful authority is undeniable. He is a picture of justice.’
Charles Moseley- Lear, Gloucester and land ‘The tragedies of Lear and Gloucester are connected with the ownership of land’
Nigel Smith- utopia ‘The word utopia means literally ‘nowhere’ and resonances if this are carried powerfully within Shakespeare’s play’
Nigel Smith- Fools ‘Being a fool is being nothing. Lear is foolish in his act of division, but Edgar must adopt the guise of a mad fool’
Richard Adam- Edgar’s aim