Monday, 19 October 2015

Secondary Sources for King Lear

Part 2! Here we go! HEEEY!!! HOOO!!!
Jk, it's not going to be that exciting

 John Higgins - The First Parte of the Mirour for Magistrates containing the falles of the first infortunate Princes of this lande 

Published 1574, presents stories of famous British monarchs on whom Renaissance rulers could model themselves. Cordelia narrates the story of Lear + his family from her own perspective.


"In age my father had a childishe minde."

Lear denies C of a dowry and marries G to the King of Albany and Ragan to Prince of Camber and Cornwall. The King of France hears of her virtues and she accepts his offer of marriage.

C then talks of 5 yr reign after Leire's death, overthrow by her nephews and her suicide in prison

Edmund Spenser- The Faerie Queene 

Attempts to trace history of British kingdom, in celebration of Elizabeth I. Epic poem = blue print for Renaissance thought, politics, society and religion whilst showing poetic fluency of English. Spenser presents troubled monarchs eg. Lear as a warning to his audience of noble people to seek 'vertuous and gentle discipline' instead.
Cordeill hangs herself. In previous versions she either stabs or 'slays herself'

  • "Whose simple answere, wanting colours faire/ To paint it forth, him to displeasance moov'd"
  • "That love is not, where most it is profest"

Sir Phillip Sidney - The Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia

Sidney is a good example of a Renaissance man- courtier, soldier, poet, philosopher who was dead at 32


Intrigues in the Gloucester family including Edmund's betrayal of his father and his innocent brother don't appear in any other source material except this one.

There is a good and bad son motif
'blind fathers' who have been mislef

Samuel Harsnett- A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures 

This was a sensational account of Catholic priests who exort money by conducting bogus exorcisms on impressionable people. Published in 1603 it was printed on order of Privy council as part of a propaganda war against Catholicism.


WS borrowed names of the devils conjured by Edgar as Poor Tom. There are 82 links to Harsnett in the play. Repeated references to Satan inside Tom meant that Shakespeare was taking the piss- sceptic of witchcraft and demonic possession

James I- The True Law of Free Monarchies 

Responsibilities of monarchs and subjects- published in 1598 and reprinted in 1603. Widely read by those curious or concerned about James's probable behaviour as King of England. Discusses monarchs as father figures and his views on 'monstorous and unnaturall' children


  • "The King becomes a naturall Father to all his Lieges"
  • "fatherly duety is bounde to care for the nourishing, education and vertuous government of his children: even so is the King bounde to care for all his subjects." 
  • "monstrous and unnaturall to his sonnes to rise up against him to controll him at their appetite"

James I - Basilikon Doron [The King's Gift] 

Written as a guidebook for his eldest son Henry. Published in 1599 but reprinted 1603. Henry died in 1612 and Charles I became the monarch. 
Uses an example of Brutus whose 3 children made the fatal mistake of dividing Britain into 3 countries of England, Scotland and Wales = warning to Henry


  • "make your eldest sonne Issac, leaving him all your kingdomes and provyde the rest with private possessions."
  • deviding your kingdome ye shall leave the seede of division & discorde among your posteritie"
  • "King is as one set on a stage, whose smallest actions and gestures , all the people gazinglie doe beholde." 

No comments:

Post a Comment