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Shakespeare: King Lear

4. The Role of Lear

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the role of Lear, thinking in particular about how the age of the actor affects the audience’s response. In particular, we explore how various actors have played Lear through history, from David Garrick in the 18th Century, to Paul Scofield, Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen in the 20th and 21st.


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 - The Role of Lear [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: King Lear – The Role of Lear." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,