King Lear

The Pragmatic Theory of Literature in Shakespeare's King Lear

A pragmatic approach to literary criticism enhances the 21st-century reader's understanding of Shakespeare's King Lear in a multitude of ways. The pragmatic approach was the popular canon at the time of Shakespeare's composition, and continued to dominate the perspectives of critics and authors alike through the neoclassical period, continuing until the rise of Romanticism. An exploration into the characteristics of Shakespeare's audience will improve the modern reader's appreciation of the author's intentions, themes and structure; furthermore, it will demonstrate that pragmatic views directly influenced the writing of King Lear. Finally, an examination of the pragmatic critiques of Shakespeare's work, namely S. Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare (1765), will illustrate how Shakespeare deviates from the 'rules' of the pragmatic perspective, which consequently adds to the timeless quality of his work.

Shakespeare wrote King Lear between 1604 and 1606. At that time, theatre in London had become a popular institution, despite some religious and moral objections. The Globe theatre was host to a variety of social classes. Courtly gentlemen and the newly wealthy gathered to exhibit themselves...

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