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Shakespeare: King Lear

2. Comedic Structures

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About this Lecture


Although it is one of the bleakest plays in Shakespeare’s canon, King Lear makes use of several comedic devices to structure the play – of which this module explores three. First, we look at the folkloric structure of the three siblings, two of whom are ‘evil’, while the other, the youngest, is ‘good’. Second, we look at the senex-figure from Classical comedy, the foolish old man whose primary aim is to marry off his daughters to suitable husbands. And finally, we think about the ‘green-space’ of Shakespearean comedy, found in plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, and which promise chance encounters, mistaken identities, and theatrical performance – all of which we see in King Lear.


In this course, we explore several aspects of King Lear. We begin by looking at some of the textual problems of the play, before looking at aspects of the play and its performance. In particular, we explore the play’s comedic structure, the staging of the play, the role of Lear himself, and the problem of the play’s bleakness.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: King Lear - Comedic Structures [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: King Lear – Comedic Structures." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,