Lear: The Great Image of Authority

Lear: The Great Image of Authority

by Harold Bloom


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From one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time, a beloved professor who has taught the Bard for over half a century—an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of Lear, arguably Shakespeare’s most tragic and compelling character, the third in a series of five short books hailed as Harold Bloom’s “last love letter to the shaping spirit of his imagination” (The New York Times Book Review).

King Lear is one of the most famous and compelling characters in literature. The aged, abused monarch—a man in his eighties, like Bloom himself—is at once the consummate figure of authority and the classic example of the fall from grace and widely agreed to be 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 Anna Karenina or Jay Gatsby when we are seventeen and another when we are forty, Bloom writes about his shifting understanding—over the course of his own lifetime—of this endlessly compelling figure, so that the book also becomes 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. Now he brings that insight to his “measured, thoughtful assessment of a key play in the Shakespeare canon” (Kirkus Reviews). “Lear is a “short, superb book that has a depth of observation acquired from a lifetime of study” (Publishers Weekly).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501164200
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Series: Shakespeare's Personalities Series , #3
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 1,212,908
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He has written more than sixty books, including Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air, Falstaff: Give Me Life, The Western Canon, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, and How to Read and Why. He is a MacArthur Prize fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards, including the Academy’s Gold Medal for Criticism. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.


New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

July 11, 1930

Date of Death:

October 14, 2019

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Author's Note xi

1 Every Inch a King 1

2 Meantime We Shall Express Our Darker Purpose 7

3 Thou, Nature, Art My Goddess 19

4 Now Thou Art an O Without a Figure 25

5 O Let Me Not Be Mad, Not Mad, Sweet Heaven! 31

6 Poor Tom! / That's Something Yet: Edgar I Nothing Am 35

7 O Heavens! / if Yourselves Are Old, / Make It Your Cause 49

8 This Cold Night Will Turn Us All to Fools and Madmen 57

9 He Childed as I Fathered. / Tom, Away 69

10 He That Will Think to Live Till He Be Old, / Give Me Some Help! 75

11 But That Thy Strange Mutations Make Us Hate Thee, / Life Would Not Yield to Age 83

12 Humanity Must Perforce Prey on Itself, / Like Monsters of the Deep 85

13 O Ruined Piece of Nature, This Great World / Shall So Wear Out to Naught 97

14 Thou Art a Soul in Bliss, But I Am Bound / Upon a Wheel of Fire 123

15 Men Must Endure / Their Going Hence Even as Their Coming Hither. / Ripeness Is All 129

16 The Gods Are Just and of Our Pleasant Vices / Make Instruments to Plague Us 135

17 We That Are Young / Shall Never See So Much, nor Live So Long 151

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