In his post about editing King Lear for Internet Shakespeare editions, Michael Best notes that Pervez Rizvi thinks editors should be able to produce a single version of the play. But I think that producing a “fair representation of the author’s art,” which Best cites as Gabriel Egan’s conception of an editor’s responsibility, necessarily involves producing two texts. The starting point for any edition of King Lear has to be either quarto or folio. That is not to say, however, that we can’t look at two texts at the same time.
If I were producing a digital text of King Lear, I would start, as Best has done, with clean, edited copies of both the quarto and the folio. But I would create an option to “turn on” the other text. So, if you’re looking primarily at the folio, you could add in the additions and variants from the quarto (and vice versa). I would probably distinguish these additions and variants as the editors in the Enfolded Hamlet have done, with a different color and the use of brackets. (At first, I thought this system would be cluttered and confusing, but after viewing the Enfolded Hamlet edition, I changed my mind. It’s actually quite easy to read.)
I like the annotation model provided by the Milton Reading Room, where each portion of the text that includes a note is underlined, as if hyperlinked. You can click on the hyperlink to see the note, which appears just to the side of the text. When you click on another portion of text, the new note appears and the previous note automatically disappears. (Internet Shakespeare Editions does something similar, but it’s a little clunkier—you have to click the note again if you want it to disappear.) The notes themselves could also easily link to outside sources as they do in the Milton Reading Room—for example, if Milton quotes a passage from the bible, you can click the link to read the full passage in context on another site. However, unlike the Milton Reading Room, I would create an option to turn off the annotations.
I’m still not fully satisfied with this solution, since there are a few technical details to work out and I could see it being quite cluttered. But I’m not sure there’s a means of providing all this information in a way that is completely clean—giving readers options to turn off the information, and therefore the clutter, seems like the best solution for now.