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Shakespeare: King Lear

7. Reconciliation and Reunion

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Acts 4-5 of the play, focusing in particular on: (i) the return of Cordelia in Act 4, and the reconciliation between her and Lear (‘No cause, no cause’); (ii) Act 4, Scene 6, in which Edgar tricks to blind Gloucester into thinking he is throwing himself off the white cliffs of Dover (‘But have I fallen, or no?’); (iii) the shifting of loyalties from Goneril and Regan away from their own husbands and towards Edmund, and the deaths of both sisters and Edmund by the end of the play; (iv) the significant differences between the 1608 and 1623 editions with regards to the ending of the play, and the extent to which the ending provides redemption for any of the characters – or for the audience; and (v) what James I might have made of the ending of the play – and of the play in general.


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)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Ioppolo, G. (2019, November 05). Shakespeare: King Lear - Reconciliation and Reunion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ioppolo, G. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Reconciliation and Reunion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Nov 2019,