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King Lear Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, thought Shakespeare was a horrible writer and that King Lear was an especially terrible play. (Source)

For over 100 years the only version of King Lear performed was a re-write that gave the play a happy ending. Nahum Tate's popular 1681 version of King Lear ended with a suddenly muscular King Lear rescuing Cordelia from the men who tried to hang her – which allowed lovebirds Cordelia and Edgar to get married. (Source)

At one point in the play, Lear starts stripping off his clothes so he can be an "unaccommodated man," like Poor Tom. Some recent stage versions of the play have had the actor playing Lear go all the way. These (temporarily) naked Lears have stirred up a lot of media controversy. When Ian McKellen got naked as King Lear in 2007, journalists joked about the wizard's wand. (McKellen played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies.) (Source)

King Lear was not allowed to be performed anywhere in England during the late 1700s and early 1800s. The reason? The real King of England, George III, had actually gone insane. That made the subject of royal insanity in King Lear a little too sensitive to perform in public. (Source: Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z. Dell Publishing: New York, 1991.)

In one historical account of King Lear and his daughters, the character Shakespeare called Goneril has a much better name: Gonorilla. (Source)

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