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Shakespeare: King Lear

6. Act III – The Blinding of Gloucester

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the blinding of Gloucester in Act 3, Scene 7, focusing in particular on: (i) the reasons why Shakespeare chose to show the blinding of Gloucester on stage, as opposed to having a character describe the events; (ii) the genre of the play – is it a revenge tragedy? a classical tragedy? – and the relation of genre to staged violence; (iii) the significance of King James I being in the audience for the performance of the play on St Stephen’s Day (26th December) 1606; (iv) the Medieval concept of the king’s two bodies – the body natural and the body politic; and (v) the extent to which a monarch could be mistreated on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage.


In this course, Professor Grace Ioppolo (University of Reading) explores Shakespeare’s King Lear. We begin in the first module by thinking about Shakespeare’s sources for King Lear – what he took from earlier versions of the story, and what he invented for himself. After that, we think about the critical reception of the play, focusing in particular on Peter Brook’s 1962 production and the influence of Jan Kott’s ‘Shakespeare Our Contemporary’ (1961). In the third module, we explore the opening scene of the play, before turning in the fourth module to the theme of the absent mother in the play. In the fifth and sixth modules, we focus on the long central act of the play, thinking first about Act III as an exploration of human nature, and then about what Act III tells us about the kind of tragedy King Lear is. Finally, in the seventh module, we think about the final two acts of the play, focusing in particular on the very end of the play, and the meaning of the play as a whole.


Grace Ioppolo is Professor of English at the University of Reading. Her teaching focuses mostly on Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists, although she also has an interest in American drama of the 20th century. Her recent publications include the Norton Critical Edition of King Lear (2015) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2018)

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APA style

Ioppolo, G. (2019, November 05). Shakespeare: King Lear - Act III – The Blinding of Gloucester [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ioppolo, G. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Act III – The Blinding of Gloucester." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Nov 2019,