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An Amateur Enthusiast’s Guide to Shakespearean Insults: King Lear (c. 1606), by William Shakespeare

King LearIn honour of the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I thought it was high time to get around to some of the Shakespeare plays I’ve been putting off reading for a while now. And since I’ve been making my way through Shakespeare’s plays since the age of about thirteen, the play at the top of the list is now King Lear (currently #42 on my Classics Club list). I’ve always had an idea of what King Lear looks like; for some reason, I’ve always imagined the titular character of Shakespeare’s play to be a big, bear-like man, perhaps because of the similarity in the words Lear/bear, or perhaps because I watched too much Blackadder as a kid and my idea of a Shakespearean king is basically Brian Blessed in chainmail.

King Lear tells the story of Lear, King of Britain, who has three daughters. Being a whimsical and, one might argue, politically na├»ve monarch, he decides that he will hold a talent contest to determine how much of the kingdom each of his three daughters will inherit. Since the kind of clothing worn by Shakespearean women was not exactly suited to Britain’s Got Talent-style acrobatics, Lear decides he will go for a less physical approach. So he asks each of his daughters how much they love him. If you’re curious as to how this might play out, just imagine the spoiled rich girl from any 90s teen comedy ever.