The Complete Text of Shakespeare's King Lear
with Quarto and Folio Variations, Annotations, and Commentary

by Dr. Larry A. Brown, professor of theater, Nashville, TN


Table of contents

Act I, sc i
Act I, sc ii
Act I, sc iii
Act I, sc iv
Act I, sc v

Act II, sc i
Act II, sc ii
Act II, sc iii
Act II, sc iv

Act III, sc i
Act III, sc ii
Act III, sc iii
Act III, sc iv
Act III, sc v
Act III, sc vi
Act III, sc vii
Act IV, sc i
Act IV, sc ii
Act IV, sc iii
Act IV, sc iv
Act IV, sc v
Act IV, sc vi
Act IV, sc vii

Act V, sc i
Act V, sc ii
Act V, sc iii


Various scholarly editions were consulted for notes, including those by David Bevington, R. A. Foakes, Russell Fraser, Alfred Harbage, John Dover Wilson, Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells. Stage histories come in part from  J. S. Bratton's King Lear: Plays in Performance (1987) and Alexander Leggatt's King Lear: Shakespeare in Performance (2004).

The comments for each scene are a work in progress, and not all links are active yet. Currently there are comments for I.i, I.ii, I.iv, II.iv, III.ii,, III.vii, IV.i, IV.ii, IV.iii,, IV.vii, V.ii, V.iii.

A note on the text:

There are two major textual traditions for King Lear: the First Quarto (Q1) published in 1608, and the version of the play in the First Folio (F1), the first collected works of Shakespeare, published in 1623, seven years after his death. 

Q1 contains 285 lines not in F1, while F1 has about 130 lines not in Q1. For centuries editors have debated over the merits of both texts. Is Q1 based on Shakespeare's own handwritten copy, and thus more authentic? Is F1 Shakespeare's own and final revision, or the work of editors? As long as scholars must publish, there will be disagreement over the status of the texts of Lear

I make no claims to being a textual scholar, but I wanted to indicate the major differences between these texts. I have followed the Folio edition for the most part, while indicating additional lines from the Quarto in brackets and lines not found in the Quarto in italics. Different words in Q1 are also in brackets, when other than differences in spelling. Spelling has been modernized throughout, and name references made consistent.


Introductory notes on Tragedy

Aristotle and Greek Tragedy

Tragedy after Aristotle



Please email comments to:

See my home page for other academic studies of:

John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
Ovid's Metamorphoses
the Hindu epic Mahabharata
The Ring of the Nibelung
Stephen Sondheim

hits counter

since October 2001

Latest revision October 2015


How to cite this page for use in a paper or electronic report:

Brown, Larry A. King Lear. (today’s date)

Here are links to several excellent video productions of King Lear, some of which I refer to in the notes:


Larry Brown is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I collect no personal information from this program.