Understanding King Lear: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents / Edition 1

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Considered one of Shakespeare's most powerful dramas, King Lear, with its combined elements of political and domestic tragedy, is as interesting to today's readers as it was to Elizabethan audiences. While the play's intricate plot and timely themes can be challenging to students, studying the play in its historical contexts sheds a great deal of light on important dramatic elements and topical references. This casebook was prepared to help students understand the literary and historic issues in King Lear, as well as its contemporary applications. Readers are introduced to the work with a Dramatic Analysis focusing on genre, character archetypes, themes, and sources. Excerpts from actual historical and literary sources demonstrate how King Lear incorporates elements of fairy tale, legend, and history as it alludes to the political controversies of Shakespeare's day. The final chapter in the casebook helps readers appreciate the thematic relatedness of King Lear to contemporary issues by focusing on the treatment of the elderly in our own society.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-By using documents and literature from Shakespeare's own time as well as from the present, Woodford illuminates the text of King Lear. The selections include Geoffrey of Monmouth's "The History of the Kings of Britain," "The True Chronicle History of King Leir and His Three Daughters," treatises on insanity from the Renaissance, speeches by King James I, sermons on marriage and family responsibility, various retellings of the Lear story, and current information about Alzheimer's and dementia. The volume works much like a textbook, with "Questions for Written and Oral Discussion" and suggested readings at the end of each chapter. While the few black-and-white photographs are unremarkable, the historical perspective is quite valuable. By understanding more about attitudes and conventions in Shakespeare's time as well as now, students are better able to interpret the play either as literature or as a stage production. The presentation is clear and orderly. Anyone interested in King Lear could learn much from this book, which is especially good for classroom study and as a source of information for reports. A first purchase.-Carol Durusau, Newton County Public Library, Covington, GA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313319365
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/30/2004
  • Series: The Greenwood Press "Literature in Context" Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

DONNA WOODFORD is Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico Highlands University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xv
Introduction xvii
1. Dramatic Analysis 1
Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1135), in The British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Ed. J. A. Giles, Trans. A. Thompson 4
Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Vol. 1 (1587) 5
Sir John Wildgoose, letter to Lord Cecil (1603), in Historical Manuscripts Commission, Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Honorable The Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, Vol. 15, Ed. M.S. Giusseppi 8
Cordell Annesley, letter to Lord Cecil (October 23, 1603), in Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's Patron 8
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Goose Girl at the Well, in Grimm's Household Tales, Trans. Margaret Hunt (1892) 9
The True Chronicle History of King Leir and His Three Daughters, Gonorill, Ragan and Cordella (c. 1594), Ed. A.F. Hopkinson 12
Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (1590), Ed. Oskar Sommer 13
Aristotle, The Poetics (c. 330 B.C.), in Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art, Trans. S. H. Butcher 15
Samuel Johnson, Afterword to King Lear (1765), in Johnson on Shakespeare, Ed. Walter Raleigh 18
2. "That way madness lies": Insanity in Shakespeare's Time 29
Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Ed. A.R. Shilleto, Vol. 1 (1893) 35
Anonymous, "Tom-A-Bedlam" (1682) 38
Thomas Dekker, The Belman of London (1608), in The Non-Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, Vol. 3, Ed. Alexander B. Grosart 41
Sir Thomas More, The apologye of Syr T. More Knyght, chapter 36 (1533) 43
Sir Thomas Elyot, The Castle of Health (1541) 45
John Case, The Praise of Musicke (1586) 48
Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, The Honest Whore, part 1 (1605) 50
Thomas Tryon, A treatise of dreams and visions, To which is added a Discourse of the Causes, Natures and Cure of Phrensie, Madness or Distraction (1689) 53
The case of Edmund Francklin a lunatic (c. 1630), Bedford Country Record Office, Francklin MS, FN 1060-84. See Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry: 1535-1860: A History presented in Selected English Texts, Ed. Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine 55
3. Kingship: The Responsibilities and Weaknesses of a Ruler 59
The True Law of Free Monarchies: Or the Reciprocal and Mutual Duty Betwixt a Free King, and His Natural Subjects (1598), in The Political Works of James I, Ed. Charles Howard McIlwain 64
Basilicon Doron (1599), in The Political Works of James I, Ed. Charles Howard McIlwain 65
King James, A Speech to the Lords and Commons of the Parliament (March 21, 1609), in The Political Works of James I, Ed. Charles Howard McIlwain 66
King James I, A Speech to the Upper House of Parliament (Monday, March 19, 1603), in The Political Works of James I, Ed. Charles Howard McIlwain 69
King James I, A Speech to Both Houses of Parliament (March 31, 1607), in The Political Works of James I, Ed. Charles Howard McIlwain 71
Sir Roger Wilbraham, The Journal of Sir Roger Wilbraham, in The Journal of Sir Roger Wilbraham (1513-1616), Together with Notes in Another Hand (1642-1649), Ed. Harold Spencer Scott 74
Francis Osborne, Esq., Some Traditional Memoirs on the Reign of King James I (1658), in The Secret History of The Court of James the First, Vol. 1 77
Sir Anthony Weldon, The Character of King James (1650), in The Secret History of The Court of James the First, Vol. 2 79
Nicolo Molin, Report on England presented to the Government of Venice (1607), in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Affairs, Existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice, Vol. 10, 1603-1607 81
4. "According to my bond": Family Ties in Shakespeare's Time 85
Othello 91
A Midsummer Night's Dream 92
The Two Gentlemen of Verona 93
The Geneva Bible 94
Juan Luis Vives, The Instruction of a Christian Woman, Trans. Richard Hyrde (1529) 96
Bartholomew Batty, A Christian Man's Closet, Trans. William Lowth (1581) 99
William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties: Eight Treatises (1622), Treatise 5, Duties of Children 101
William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties: Eight Treatises (1622), Treatise 6, Duties of Parents 103
Henry Swinburne, Treatise of Testaments, Part 5 (1635) 105
Henry Smith, A Preparative to Marriage and Two Other Sermons (1591) 107
William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties: Eight Treatises (1622), Treatise 7, Duties of Servants 108
5. Adaptations: A Tale Retold 113
Nahum Tate, letter to Thomas Boteler, in Nahum Tate, The History of King Lear (1681) 115
Nahum Tate, The Final Scene, in Nahum Tate, The History of King Lear (1681) 116
Ron Carlson, King Lear in Zebulon County (1991) 123
Russell Smith, Film Review of A Thousand Acres (1997) 128
David Ng, Review of Ran (2001) 132
6. Contemporary Application: Treatment of the Elderly 137
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NINDS Alzheimer's Information Page 139
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NINDS Multi-Infarct Dementia Information Page 141
President Ronald Reagan, letter to the American people (1994) 142
Former First Lady Isn't Sure Former President Even Recognizes Her (2002) 143
An Interview with Alzheimer's Caregivers: Part I 144
Beth Witrogen McLeod, "Caring for a Parent--Did I Do Enough?" (2000) 151
An Interview with Alzheimer's Caregivers: Part II 153
Stephanie Smith, "Musician Helps Alzheimer's Patients" (2001) 162
Excerpts from the Family Caregiver Alliance Fact Sheet: Home Away from Home: Relocating Your Parents (2003) 165
Lori Burling, "Health Care Facility Takes New Approach for Dementia Patients" (2003) 166
An Interview with Alzheimer's Caregivers: Part III 168
Cary Smith Henderson, Partial View: An Alzheimer's Journal, Ed. Jack Henderson Main, Ruth D. Henderson, and Nancy Andrews, Photographs by Nancy Andrews (1998) 173
Index 177
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