Dragon Fathers and Unnatural Children: Warring Generations in King Lear and Its Sources


Meredith Skura


The old King Leir play was more evenly balanced than Shakespeare's Lear between Leir's experience and Cordella's. Shakespeare divided the old play into his two plots, one based on Leir's story and one on Cordella's, one about a parent, Lear, and one about a child, Edgar. At the same time he increased Leir's moral complexity by making both Lear and Edgar sinning as well as sinned against. He traced a generational history as well as an individual's experience, and, as in Greek tragedy, suggested forces beyond individual conscious awareness. The emphasis on generational change also made the play particularly relevant to the new King James at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

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