King Lear critics

Kathleen McCluskie ‘the feminine must either be made to submit or destroyed’Believes the play presents women as the ‘source of primal sin of lust’
Georges Brandes Saw Cordelia as the ‘living emblem of womanly dignity’
Coleridge Believes Shakespeare allows us to admire Edmund through his bastardy and humiliation
R. A. Foakes – Edmund Believed that to demonize Edmund as merely evil ignores his ‘energy, humour and self-command’ Recognises Edmund’s courage as a positive.
Nahum Tate in 1681 Felt the ending was far too gloomy and went on to write his own version that allowed Lear to survive and that connected Edgar and Cordelia romantically.
Samuel Johnson Accepts the fact that ‘the wicked prosper’ and the ‘virtuous miscarry’ as simply a representation of common events in human life. However, he rejected the original ending that featured Cordelia’s death on the grounds that it displayed a complete lack of justice.
A. C. Bradley – cordelia ‘it is not even satisfactorily motivated’
Wilson Knight “mankind is, as it were, deliberately or comically tormented by the gods”
York Notes on ‘King Lear’ ‘The suffering presented in King Lear is pointless and extreme’
R. A. Foakes – paradox Suggested the idea of ‘virtuous disobedience’ and ‘improper loyalty’
Jonathon Dollimore – themes The play is really about ‘power, property and inheritance’
Jonathon Dollimore – Lear Lear’s identity is no kingly essence, but his authority and his family.
R. A. Foakes – good and bad in King Lear ‘unsparing in its depiction of human cruelty and misery, but also rich in its portrayals of goodness, devotion, loyalty and self-sacrifice’.
A. Kettle – Lear ‘Not so much a breakdown as a breakthrough’
Wharton – Goneril and Regan ‘Their behaviour is too diabolical to be credible’
Elton – Cordelia She is a Christ-like figure so her downfall suggests a God-less society.
Isaac Asamov – the Fool ‘great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all’
Cheri Halvoson – the Fool The Fool, being deemed lowly, destabilises conventional wisdom, divine gift as a ‘seer’
George Orwell – Edgar ‘A superfluous character’
Jonothon Bate the play is a dramatisation of not just one man’s error but of a whole civilisation – ‘we are on the brink of an apocalypse’
York Notes on ‘King Lear’ – Cordelia’s hanging Proof of a ‘deranged universe’
R. A. Foakes – social range ‘In its social range it encompasses a whole society, from king to beggar’
A. C. Bradley – setting ‘the warm castle is a room in hell, the storm swept heath a sanctuary’
Professor Brandl The Fool is a representation of Cordelia