Article Title

Leir and Lear: Matthew 5:33-37, The Turning Point, and The Rescue Theme


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Comparisons between Shakespeare's King Lear and the old Leir source-play have been misleading, because critics have been imprecise as to the meaning of the source-play. In putting the story back in pagan times, Shakespeare avoided his most immediate source's didacticism and explicitness, but this does not mean that the two plays contrast simply as "Christian" versus "pagan." The question to be answered-How does the ethos of Shakespeare's tragedy differ from that of the source-play and other versions of the story with which he may have been familiar?-requires more careful discriminations. Critics have not commented upon certain obvious biblical allusions in the source-play, let alone, as point of departure for interpretation, discussed the difference between their significance in that play and the significance of more subtle echoes of the same biblical passages in Shakespeare's tragedy. Yet Shakespeare's transformation of one such biblical allusion at the story's turning point epitomizes his transformation of the entire play and facilitates insight into the meaning of his tragedy.

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