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King Lear (International) assertion single work   drama  
Alternative title: The Tragedy of King Lear
This international work is included in AustLit to identify a relationship with Australian literature.
Issue Details: First known date: 1605... 1605 King Lear
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Written between 1603 and 1606 and published in quarto in 1608, The True Chronicle of the History of the Life and Death of King Lear and His Three Daughters, was later revised as The Tragedy of King Lear (1623). The plot revolves around Lear, who descends into madness after giving his estate away to two of his three daughters based on their flattery. This results in tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king.

King Lear has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, and the role of Lear has been coveted and played by many of the world's most accomplished actors. King Lear has been regularly staged in Australia since the early colonial period, and has also been adapted into various other forms and gnres, including musicals, pantomimes and burlesques.


y separately published work icon Harlequin King Blear and His Three Daughters : A Grand Maniac-al, Demoniac-al, Fairy-gale, Scenic-al, Parodical, Dev'lish Goodical Christmas Pantomime Henry Thornton Craven , Sydney : Andrew Torning , 1854 Z812990 1854 single work musical theatre pantomime fantasy

Billed as a 'grand scenical, historical, fictional, parodical, balygalical, musical match-if-you-can-ical, comical Christmas Pantomime' (Sydney Morning Herald 26 December 1854, p.1), Harlequin King Blear is also described as 'a rich burlesque on Shakespeare's King Lear, whereby the king seeks to relieve himself of the cares of state in favour of what he seems to think the more agreeable delights of drinking potations deep' (Age 27 Dec. 1855, p.5). Although the 1854 and 1855 productions involved mostly different companies (with the exception of Frank Belfield as Bloatero), the similar synopses and characters (published in the Sydney Morning Herald and Argus) indicate that they are related (at least in the dramatic action). New comic business and songs are believed to have been added to the latter production.

According to the Age's plot synopsis, King Blear decides to abdicate, and announces that he will divide his kingdom and possessions between his three daughters (Scragina, Fatima, and Lightstep) if they will each promise to provide him with comfort in his declining years. Meanwhile, Blear is also persuaded by his right-hand man Demon Goggle to promise his youngest and finest daughter (Lightstep) in wedlock to a Falstaffian lothario, Bloatero, much to the dismay of the damsel and her true knight, Edward. The lovers are, however, given support by Queen Graceful, who promises not only her protection but also her best assistance to thwart the schemes of Goggle. The Sydney production included Sydney's George Street Market, the exterior of Woolloomooloo Gaol, Castlereagh Street, the Newtown races, Homebush Nursery Grounds, and the Prince of Wales Restaurant in Pitt Street. The Melbourne production had these scenes changed to local settings.

The songs incorporated into the Sydney production included 'Gin a Fairy Meet a Fairy, Comin' Through the Sky' (fairy chorus), and 'Bonny Done' (Queen Graceful and ladies). The musical aspects of the revival were described in the Age as 'creditable.' They included 'new and beautiful songs', two of these being 'Hot Coddlins' and 'Tippetywitchet.' The production also involved several dance sequences.

y separately published work icon A Thousand Acres (International) assertion Jane Smiley , United States of America (USA) : Knopf , 1991 6609802 1991 single work novel
The Shadow King Tom E. Lewis , Michael Kantor , 2013 single work drama

'Bringing together the country's finest creative talents including Tom E. Lewis (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) and Jimi Bani (Mabo) this majestic and physical reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear employs the timeless tragedy to speak to the history and current circumstances of Indigenous Australia. Working across cultures and generations, The Shadow King is unmissable theatre of a scale and significance to match the land upon which it is made.'

Source: (Sighted 12/09/2012).


  • This international work is included in AustLit because it is published (in part or in full), advertised or reviewed in Australian newspapers and magazines during the colonial era; and/or is the subject of Australian literary comment, adaptation or creative writing.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: ca. 1605

Works about this Work

In the Dark i "bruised night congeals in madness", Sheryl Persson , 2013 single work poetry
— Appears in: The Mozzie , May-June vol. 21 no. 4 2013; (p. 4)
Forest Murmurs i "Rehearsing solo for a solo show", Paul Sherman , 2013 single work poetry
— Appears in: The Mozzie , December vol. 21 no. 10 2013; (p. 7)
Meditative Tangents : Fred Schepisi's 'The Eye of the Storm' (2011) Jonathan Rayner , 2012 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Studies , no. 4 2012;
'This essay examines Fred Schepisi’s 2011 film adaptation of Patrick White’s novel The Eye of the Storm. The process of bringing White’s novel to the screen is complicated by White’s own allusive response to Shakespeare’s King Lear, which erects parallels to Lear’s tragedy within its narrative of the members of a wealthy, emotionally scarred Australian family reuniting at the death of its over- bearing matriarch. In translating the work of the first Australian Nobel Prize-winning author to the screen, Schepisi and his collaborators engage with two over-arching and competing cultural canons: the national importance, fame and famous difficulty of White’s prose work, and the status and significance of Shakespeare’s texts and their adaptations. At times both play and film strive to articulate their meanings via references and similarities to Lear, and to varying degrees exhibit deference towards or disregard for their Shakespearean inheritance within an Australian context. The film of The Eye of the Storm therefore constitutes a test-case for the difficulties and opportunities presented by literary adaptation from complex and culturally elevated sources, but it also exhibits, like the novel, a subversive urge to transplant and translate an English icon to an antipodean setting. It engages with two texts, one nested within the other, and in adapting, editing and extrapolating from them produces a third at once faithful, disrespectful, divergent and nationally specific, which popularises White and naturalises Shakespeare.' (Author's abstract)
To the Director of King Lear, Performed at the Merlyn Theatre, Melbourne i "You felt you had to make it relevant -", Erica Jolly , 2006 single work poetry
— Appears in: Friendly Street Poetry Reader : Thirty 2006; (p. 63-64)
Mrs. Lear i "He spoiled those girls. I told him but", Gloria B. Yates , 2003 single work poetry
— Appears in: The Mozzie , July vol. 11 no. 6 2003; (p. 19)
Mrs. Lear i "He spoiled those girls. I told him but", Gloria B. Yates , 2003 single work poetry
— Appears in: The Mozzie , July vol. 11 no. 6 2003; (p. 19)
Bobby J. and Mr. Lear Den , 1934 single work short story
— Appears in: The Herald , 28 May no. 17794 1934; (p. 6)
To the Director of King Lear, Performed at the Merlyn Theatre, Melbourne i "You felt you had to make it relevant -", Erica Jolly , 2006 single work poetry
— Appears in: Friendly Street Poetry Reader : Thirty 2006; (p. 63-64)
[Untitled] 1867 single work review
— Appears in: The Ballarat Courier , Monday, 9 September no. 79 1867; (p. 2)
A laudatory and detailed review of Mr Anderson's performance as King Lear. The supporting actors receive a brief favourable mention, except for Miss A. Wiseman. Although acknowledging her talent, the reviewer believes Shakespearian characters are beyond Miss Wiseman's capabilities.
The Eye of the Storm : Art in Fragmentation A. M. McCulloch , 1983 single work criticism
— Appears in: A Tragic Vision : The Novels of Patrick White 1983; (p. 109-148)
Last amended 28 Jan 2015 05:50:05
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