The Complete Text of Shakespeare’s King Lear
with Quarto and Folio Variations, Annotations, and Commentary
by Larry A. Brown, professor of theater, Nashville, Tennessee
Table of Contents
Several scholarly editions of King Lear were consulted for notes, including those by David Bevington, R. A. Foakes, Russell Fraser, Alfred Harbage, John Dover Wilson, Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells. Notes on the production history of the play come in part from J. S. Bratton’s King Lear: Plays in Performance (1987) and Alexander Leggatt’s King Lear: Shakespeare in Performance (2004).
A note on the text of King Lear:
There are two major textual traditions for King Lear: the First Quarto (Q1) published in 1608, and the version of the play in the First Folio (F1), the earliest collected works of Shakespeare published in 1623, seven years after his death.
Q1 contains 285 lines not in F1, while F1 has about 130 lines not in Q1. For centuries editors have debated over the merits of both texts. Is Q1 based on Shakespeare’s own handwritten copy, and thus more authentic? Is F1 Shakespeare’s own and final revision, or the work of editors? As long as scholars must publish, there will be disagreement over the status of the texts of Lear.
I make no claims to being a textual scholar, but I wanted to indicate the major differences between these texts. I have followed the Folio edition for the most part, while indicating additional lines from the Quarto in brackets and lines not found in the Quarto in italics. Different words in Q1 are also in brackets, when other than differences in spelling. Spelling has been modernized throughout, and name references made consistent.
See my essay on Aristotle and Tragedy.
First published online 2001. Latest revision July 2021.