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English Literature   >   Shakespeare: King Lear


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Shakespeare: King Lear

In this twenty-five part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s King Lear. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England. After that, we go through the play scene by scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism – and more.

We use the Arden (Third Series) edition of the play. Students using a different edition of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


In this module, we provide a broad introduction to the play, focusing in particular on: (i) the basic plot of the Leir/Lear myth, which dates back to at least the 12th century; (ii) the historical context to the play (early 17th-century England); (iii) the position of ‘King Lear’ in Shakespeare’s career; (iv) the importance of family (especially the relationship between a father and his children), as well as the themes of nature and old age; and (v) Shakespeare’s experimentalism, and the ways in which ‘King Lear’ might have confounded audience expectations.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2019, February 26). Shakespeare: King Lear - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Feb 2019,

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Prof. John McRae

Prof. John McRae

Nottingham University