Tuesday 11 April 2023

King Lear - William Shakespeare - Oxford School Shakespeare

King Lear
Oxford School Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
Roma Gill (Editor)
2013 Edition
ISBN 9780198392224
1994 Edition
ISBN 9780198320548
2023 eBook Edition
ASIN B0BWG8T3Z6


Some might wonder why write a review of King Lear. For many know the story of the King who wished to be flattered, and whose temper cost him much. And it would be a good question to ask. I have always enjoyed Shakespeare, to read, to listen to, and to watch. My 15-year-old son is reading this because we have just watched a film version from 2015 of Colme Feore playing the title role at Stratford, and have tickets in a month to see Paul Gross play the role on stage at Stratford in Ontario. So, I got the eBook of the same edition I had used over the last couple of years with my daughter for Romeo & Juliette and MacBeth. But this edition proved very frustrating. The first Oxford School Shakespeare I found for King Lear dates to 1999, there is a paperback edition that matched the others I have read recently dating from 2013. I picked up the eBook edition and it was a disaster. The Kindle edition has released a few weeks ago, it has the same cover, but the eBook only had the play, none of the other material. I had to rush out and find a used physical copy to have all the extras that make these Oxford School Shakespeare editions so great.

This review will be more about this edition than the story itself. 

The description of the 2013 edition is:

“This edition of King Lear is especially designed for students, with accessible on-page notes and explanatory illustrations, clear background information, and rigorous but accessible scholarly credentials. This edition includes illustrations, preliminary notes, reading lists (including websites) and classroom notes, allowing students to master Shakespeare's work.

About the Series
Newly redesigned and easier to read, each play in the Oxford School Shakespeare series includes the complete and unabridged text, detailed and clear explanations of difficult words and passages, a synopsis of the plot, summaries of individual scenes, and notes on the main characters. Also included is a wide range of questions and activities for work in class, together with the historical background to Shakespeare's England, a brief biography of Shakespeare, and a complete list of his plays.”

The description of the 1999 edition is:

“The Oxford School Shakespeare is a well-established series which helps students understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays. As well as the complete and unabridged text, each play in this series has an extensive range of students' notes. These include detailed and clear explanations of difficult words and passages, a synopsis of the plot, summaries of individual scenes, and notes on the main characters. Also included is a wide range of questions and activities for work in class, together with the historical background to Shakespeare's England, a brief biography of Shakespeare, and a complete list of his plays. Roma Gill, the series editor, has taught Shakespeare at all levels. She has acted in and directed Shakespeare's plays, and has lectured on Shakespeare all over the world.”

And depending on where you check it is based on either 1994 or 2012 edition. With the eBook version releasing in 2023. There are some features I like and some I do not about this edition. When I was in school the main versions in use were the Signet Classic, Pelican Classic or the Penguin Classic versions. The chapters as they appear in this volume are:

Introduction
 Leading Characters in the Play
 Synopsis
 King Lear: Commentary
 Date and Text
 Shakespeare’s Verse
 Characters in the Play

King Lear

Appenmdix A: Quarto & Folio
Appendix B: Shakespeare’s Sources

What the Critics Have Said

Classwork and Examinations
  Discussion
  Character Study
  Activities
  Context Questions
  Comprehension Questions
  Essays
  Projects

Background
 Government
 Religion
 Education
 Language
 Drama
 Theatre

Suggested Further Reading

William Shakespeare, 1564–1616

List of Shakespeare’s Plays

The features and section before the play and after are awesome. Way more background than any other edition I have read. And much more than the versions we read in school back in the 1980’s. It is an excellent learning edition from that perspective. What I found frustrating with this edition was the sheer volume of footnotes. Most scenes have over 100 footnotes. It was ludicrous, and frustrating while reading. Especially in the eBook edition it should have two copies of the play one with footnotes and one without. They broke up the text so much. 

I have read many different editions of Shakespeare’s plays over the years. And have a beautiful hard bound collection of his complete works. I found this specific edition one of the worst for reading the play. And one of the best for supplemental material. For the price I would pick up this edition in eBook for the next one that one of my kids read in school. But I would only read before and after the play in this edition, and find a better version for just reading the play.

5 stars for the academic material. The eBook edition only has the play with no footnotes or anything else. The physical copy had all the supplemental material I was expecting. I have reached out to OUP to find out what is up with the brand new digital edition. But to read this I had to pick up 2 separate copies. 

I would absolutely love to see the 19 Oxford School Shakespeare Editions available as eBooks. And I would love if the play was in the book twice, once with all the notes and footnotes and once without any for just reading the play.





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