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Miller, L. (1975). A View of ‘King Lear’. J. Child Psychother., 4(1):93-124.

(1975). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 4(1):93-124

A View of ‘King Lear’

Lisa Miller

People have always accorded ‘King Lear’ a special place in the Shakespearian canon: they have never doubted its magnitude, the fact that in some way it overtops even Shakespeare's other tragedies, but they have felt on reflection some puzzlement, some reservation, as though something eluded them. Either they come to the conclusion that the fault must somehow somewhere lie in the play, as Dr. Johnson, Lamb or Coleridge did, or they decide that their own response is at fault, that they have skirmished at the edge instead of fighting to the centre. These feelings persist even in those who have experienced the power of the play to the full. This is a paradox which I think may be explained if we realise that audiences have intuitively felt just as Shakespeare intended them to feel, but that to a certain degree they have not been able to understand why they felt thus, nor perhaps exactly what they were feeling. I do not know of anyone who has come further in apprehension than Charles Lamb. He chooses to isolate his difficulty in the contention that the play is incapable of being acted on the stage — a contention which does not really accord with common experience — but at the same time he expounds brilliantly on the source of the play's power.

He writes:

“The greatness of Lear is not in corporal dimension, but in intellectual: the explosions of his passion are terrible as a volcano: they are storms turning up and disclosing to the bottom that sea, his mind, with all its vast riches.

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