King Lear

Language in King Lear

"There is a cliff, whose high and bending head

Looks fearfull in the confin'd deep.

Bring me but to the very brim of it...

... From that place I shall no leading need."(IV.i.73)

It is often difficult to gain entry into a work of such complete and dazzling genius as King Lear--reading Shakespeare can sometimes feel like trying to get a good long look at the sun on a cloudless day. And yet there are moments when one comes across passages that, by the sheer force of their lyrical, poetic beauty, leap off the page and resonate so strongly within one's mind that they become a kind of distillation of the entire play. One can read this play again and again, and still be struck anew by Shakespeare's utter mastery over language; surely there is no other writer who had so full a sense of, and who used to such merciless ends, the power of words. In a genre that denies the novelist's luxury of narrative explication, language in its barest, purest form, becomes Shakespeare's precision instrument, and he wields it with a perpetually astonishing combination of force, subtlety and exactitude.

The introductory quoted lines, when brought out of their immediate textual surroundings, form for this reader the kind of...

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