Chris Rose                5 February 2002

GCSE Major Coursework Assignment: Shakespeare: King Lear

The play king Lear written by William Shakespeare deals with relationships, greed and selfishness as issues. The play is about an aging king and his three daughters to decide how much each daughter gets he asks them all to in turn to put their love for him into words. The most loved daughter and youngest daughter called Cordelia goes last. After Regan and Gonerills speech Cordelia refuses, saying that she cannot ask her love into words. Lear casts her away and as disowns her. She goes off to marry the king of France, and later returns leading an army. The rest of the play revolves around the consequences of these actions.

Shakespeare would have got the ideas that he put in king Lear from topical gossip and books that were around at the time. One topic of conversation in London around this time was sir William Allen. He suffered a similar state of affairs as King Lear did, because he was also aging and he also decided to give up his estate and split it three ways, only, Lear had one advantage, Lear had Cordelia whereas sir William Allen was mistreated by all three of his daughters. One winter, his daughters got so sick of looking after him, that they even refused to give him fuel to keep himself warm. Another celebrity from around that time that suffered a similar mistreatment by his daughters was Sir Brian Annesly. Sir Brian was also aging, so he to, as did Lear, decide to split up his kingdom according to his daughters love. However, unlike Sir William, and like Lear, Sir Brian did have a Cordelia. Many parallels can be drawn between the story of King Lear and of Sir Brian, the most obvious one is of the youngest daughters names. In King Lear it is Cordelia and in the case of Sir Brian Annesly it is Cordell!

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Despite that this could have influenced Shakespeare during the production of this play, there are references in King Lear to things that are mentioned in books published almost four hundred years before Shakespeare was born. The first known telling of the story of King Lear was in Geoffrey Manamousts ‘History of England’, a second telling of King Lear is in Raphael Hollinsheds ‘Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande’ (1557). Shakespeare made references to other stories in this book in other plays. This version tells of a story very similar to Shakespeare’s play but with a different ending. In ‘Chronicles ...

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