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Breaking the Shakespearean Code: King Lear, Gunpowder and the Scholarship of 'Innocent Fraud Mike Wilcock, author of a groundbreaking study of Shakespeare and the Director (Hamlet, the Shakespearean Director) offers a major reading of KING LEAR in this important book. With forensic skill and tenacity, Wilcock uncovers the textual and historical evidence that makes KING LEAR one of Shakespeare's most complex and provocative plays. This compelling study deepens our understanding of the play and its turbulent times with wit, understanding and illumination.

Breaking the Shakespearean Code: King Lear, Gunpowder and the Scholarship of 'Innocent Fraud

Publication Date 31st, August, 2016

ISBN 9781909325807

Cost 25.00

The book sees 'King Lear' as a play about division, and interprets that division in terms of 16/17th-century European-wide religious conflicts that followed the Reformation split between Rome and Protestantism. Countries are ‘in discord’, and kingdoms are divided. King James I claimed four kingdoms. Two were Protestant; two were Catholic.

The book explores these tensions particularly through the suffering of Lear, and the ‘pilgrimage’ of Gloucester with Lear’s ‘godson’, Edgar.

Edgar/Lear’s password (Folio: ‘Sweet Mariorum’) suggests that the name Mary is central, as indeed are other names and anagrams. Mary, Queen of Scots was, like Cordelia, a British princess, who became Queen of France, but also like her died in a British prison at the hands of ruthless political operatives. Thus Cordelia’s unjust execution in Act 5 is a kind of pietà, an image of the cruel fate of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary’s martyrdom in 1587 created a tsunami of fury that culminated in the madness of the Gunpowder Plot. The drama intends to ‘catch the conscience of the king’, for James had co-operated fully with the English in the execution of Mary in 1587. He had chosen power over love, and the struggle between those incompatible old enemies is a key not only to the opening scene, but is the central preoccupation of the play.

Mike Wilcock has been reading, teaching and directing Shakespeare for nearly forty-five years. He has lectured widely on Shakespeare and his world. He lives with this wife, Kay, in Killiney, Co. Dublin.



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About the Author(s)

Mike Wilcox


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