White cliffs of Dover
Photo of Dover by diamond geezer used under a Creative Commons license.

William Shakespeare, King Lear (Washington Square Press, 2005).
Perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, set in the royal court of a pre-Christian Britain. King Lear decides to divide his lands between his daughters, Goneril and Regan, and to disown his youngest daughter, Cordelia, who fails to flatter him as her sisters do. Lear then struggles with age, powerlessness, and madness, while Britain suffers as his daughters intrigue. Cordelia, who has married the King of France, returns with a army at Dover, where she finds Lear and the play finds its denouement.  While King Lear is hardly a guide to Dover, all of the major characters save the Fool are drawn to it, and the place has a special significance within the play.  (On this point, I am indebted to Susan Snyder, whose essay follows the play in the Folger edition noted above.)  Dover functions as a frontier, the edge of Britain, and the place where Lear and Gloucester go to transcend their experiences.

There are so many sources on Lear that a few posted here will only scratch the surface. Wikipedia’s entry on King Lear is lengthy and worthwhile. Google Books gives you a preview or MIT gives you the whole thing. You can listen to the play here. Is this Lear’s domain? Ed Friedlander wrote this essay on enjoying the play.  Here is more on the Dover connection. Songline visited Shakespeare Cliff. Plinius looked for it in the play. Here are Shakespeare playing cards. Here is Laurence Olivier playing Lear, Act IV, Scene 6, on the heath near Dover.

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