The Closing Speech of King Lear: Textual Incongruities between Q1 and F

King Lear Closing Speech  (Scan)

The textual departures between the Q1 and F versions of King Lear give occasion for intriguing readings. Nearly three hundred lines are missing from F which appear in Q1. On the other hand, F has approximately one hundred lines which are not found in Q1 (McEachern 134). The very closing of the play is riddled by the differences between Q1 and F. In Q1 the closing speech of the play (5.3.319-22) has been attributed to Albany; while in F the same has been attributed to Edgar (5.3.323-26). After Lear dies Albany warmly invites both Kent and Edgar to rule Lear’s kingdom (Q1 5.3.315-16). Kent politely refuses the offer by saying he will soon follow his master and embark upon his journey of afterlife. Kent’s speech is followed by the concluding speech of the play which is ambiguously attributed to Albany/Edgar. If the Q1 version is followed and the speech is attributed to Albany, then it signifies that Edgar remains silent to Albany’s invitation to rule the kingdom. Edgar’s silence could be interpreted as his unwillingness to accept the throne which would mean that Albany would be ruling all of Lear’s kingdom. If the F version is followed, then the closing speech of the play could be considered as Edgar’s response to Albany’s offer. In the speech, Edgar expresses his reverence for the trials and tribulations of the old and reminds the young of their duties. This could be read as an oblique articulation of his willingness to accept the throne. If the Q1 version is followed, it appears somewhat incongruous that Edgar would remain entirely silent and present no response to Albany’s offer. Even if he does not wish to accept Albany’s offer, that could have been represented in a brief speech like that of Kent, instead of the ambiguous silence which could come across as discourteous to Albany. As opposed to this, the F version appears less anomalous. It is only natural that Kent and Edgar would announce respectively their reactions to Albany’s offer. In its attribution of the speech to Edgar F implies that the righteous Edgar would assume the throne in near future. In this F provides a relatively less problematic ending to the play in comparison with the equivocal conclusion of Q1. This is possibly why Heminges and Condell amended the ending of Q1 and attributed the speech to Edgar in F.


Texts Cited    

Halio, Jay L., ed. The First Quarto of King Lear. By William Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. (Follows the First Folio as copy text)

McEachern, Claire, ed. King Lear. By William Shakespeare. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2005.


A Note on the Scanned Images

Pages 1 and 2 of the scan represents the Q1 text and page 3 of the scan represents the F text.


Shinjini Chattopadhyay