Shakespeare’s Art: Understanding ‘King Lear’

Students of Shakespeare have spent a very great deal of time debating the meanings of “Othello”, “King Lear”, and “Macbeth”. racial wealth gap

The wealth of criticism of any one of his plays can be overwhelming to the casual student.

I cite my own experience as a high school student struggling to write credible criticism of “King Lear” whilst juggling History, German, and General Studies reading and assignments. Students benefit from guidance concerning what it is best; at the very least to make best use of the time they have, opting perhaps to read the very best sources only.

Now language, spoke or written, is entirely a reflection of individual experience. We speak and write words we have picked up, first from whom ever taught use to speak; later from those we talk to and from those books which we have read. Consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, we also use language to speak and write about our experiences.

Fiction writers use language, no way in exception to this rule. However many planes they may have crossed using their imagination and knowledge, their fiction will be the product of their experiences. It is important then, for students of literature to learn about a writer’s experiences – how they lived, and what they read being the two points of focus in any such study of a writer. Secondary to reading the text apart from knowledge of the writer to consider language in the abstract, it is necessary for students, searching for meaning, to consider texts with knowledge of their writers.

Considering fiction writers’ sources is a practice never more crucial than when studying Shakespeare’s plays. Firstly, it is a relatively easy exercise (and therefore good practice), as none of Shakespeare’s plays are entirely original. Secondly, it is important for most students studying Shakespeare to express their own opinions about the texts. Examiners, certainly of A-Levels, (so I am told), are interested in the thoughts of the candidate, and therefore do not look favorably on regurgitated criticism from leading Shakespeare scholars. Thirdly, knowing something of Shakespeare likely sources is immensely useful at opening paths to substantiated judgments on meaning; it can lead to a whole new level of understanding, from which it is even easier to appreciate bard’s genius.

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