King Lear

King Lear was first printed in the First Quarto edition of 1608. This described the play on its titlepage as the 'true chronicle history of the life and death of King Lear and his three daughters'. When Shakespeare's editors came to publish the play in the 1623 First Folio, however, they titled it 'The Tragedie of King Lear', and included it with the tragedies among which it has been seen to belong ever since. These two texts differ in more than a title - it is now widely recognised that they represent two very different renderings of the play.

Between these two editions came the Second Quarto of 1619. This was published by the bookseller Thomas Pavier, who produced a series of quarto editions of Shakespeare plays in what was perhaps an unsuccessful attempt to create the first complete works. Some of Pavier's editions - like this one - contain misleading information about their publishers and date of publication on their titlepages. Pavier did not own the rights to all the plays he printed, and such peculiarities may well be an attempt either to acknowledge, or to conceal, that fact.

 

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Further Study

This copy is in the National Library of Scotland, shelfmark Bute.488. For the textual and publication history of the play, see Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge, 2003), and Gary Taylor and Michael Warren, eds, The Division of the Kingdom: Shakespeare's Two Versions of 'King Lear' (Oxford, 1983).