Chapter

The Matter of Messengers in King Lear

Stewart Alan

in Shakespeare's Letters

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780199549276
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191701504 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549276.003.0006
The Matter of Messengers in King Lear

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King Lear is a play riddled with letters — letters written, letters delivered, letters read, letters forged, letters recalled, and letters denied. Since the time of A. C. Bradley at the turn of the 12th century, critics have drawn attention to the play's letter communications, and especially to how perverse they are. However, far from being an inconsistent mess, as some critics have alleged, the epistolary transactions are more firmly and particularly plotted in this play than in any other William Shakespeare drama. By tracing the play through its letters one can find a consistent attempt to reconceptualize the relationships between individuals, and the letters and messengers that facilitate and maintain them. This chapter suggests that it is in conflicting ways of being messengers that one finds the central opposition of the play.

Keywords: King Lear; play; letters; William Shakespeare; messengers

Chapter.  13270 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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