WR
search
search by author or title

Lear

The Great Image of Authority

(amazon)

Harold Bloom (View Bio)
Hardcover: Scribner, 2018.

Lear
(amazon)

Lear: The Great Image of Authority is the third in a sequence of five brief volumes on “Shakespeare’s Personalities.”  The first, Falstaff: Give Me Life, and the second, Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air, were published in 2017. The fourth and fifth, Iago: Nothing If Not Critical and Macbeth: A Dagger of the Mind, wiil be published in October 2018 and April 2019.

Harold Bloom starts fresh with five of Shakespeare’s personalities endless to meditation, extending an open hand to readers who desire to find themselves in Shakespeare and Shakespeare in themselves. The reader and playgoer will gain an intensified awareness of the reality of great selves that differ from us only in vividness and sheer amplitude of being.

Harold Bloom, the greatest Shakespeare scholar of our time, presents an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of King Lear—the third in his series of five short books about the great playwright’s most significant personalities, hailed as Bloom’s “last love letter to the shaping spirit of his imagination” on the front page of The New York Times Book Review.

King Lear is perhaps the most poignant character in literature. The aged, abused monarch—a man in his eighties, like Harold Bloom himself—is at once the consummate figure of authority and the classic example of the fall from majesty. He is widely agreed to be William Shakespeare’s most moving, tragic hero.

Award-winning writer and beloved professor Harold Bloom writes about Lear with wisdom, joy, exuberance, and compassion. He also explores his own personal relationship to the character: Just as we encounter one Emma Bovary or Hamlet when we are seventeen and another when we are forty, Bloom writes about his shifting understanding—over the course of his own lifetime—of Lear, so that this book also explores an extraordinarily moving argument for literature as a path to and a measure of our humanity.

Bloom is mesmerizing in the classroom, wrestling with the often tragic choices Shakespeare’s characters make. He delivers that kind of exhilarating intimacy, pathos, and clarity in Lear.

"At the outset of this pithy exegesis of King Lear, Bloom describes the play's title character as, along with Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's 'most challenging personalities,' in part because 'his violent expressionism desires us to experience his inmost being, but we lack the resources to receive that increasing chaos.' As in other books in his "Shakespeare's Personalities" series, Bloom guides the reader scene by scene through the play, quoting long but well-chosen swaths of text and interjecting commentary that reveals the nuances of Shakespeare's word choices—for example, repeated references to nature, natural, and the unnatural, whose ominous repetition throughout the text foreshadows the depths of degradation to which Lear and the other characters will descend by the play's end. He is also deft at bringing out dramatic contrasts between characters, notably the juxtaposition of the Earl of Gloucester's loyal but naive son Edgar and his devious 'bastard' son Edmund, as well as parallels between characters—for example, between Lear and Gloucester, both of whom are betrayed by their children, or between Cordelia and the Fool, each of whom is chastised for speaking honestly. Bloom's short, superb book has a depth of observation acquired from a lifetime of study, and the author knows when to let Shakespeare and his play speak for themselves." — Publishers Weekly