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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 260
KING LEAR

again the localities and movements are unusually indefinite. And this indefiniteness is found in smaller matters. One cannot help asking, for example, and yet one feels one had better not ask, where that 'lodging' of Edmund's can be, in which he hides Edgar from his father, and whether Edgar is mad that he should return from his hollow tree (in a district where 'for many miles about there's scarce a bush') to his father's castle in order to soliloquise (II. iii.) -- for the favourite stage-direction, 'a wood' (which is more than 'a bush'), however convenient to imagination, is scarcely compatible with the presence of Kent asleep in the stocks.1 Something of the confusion which bewilders the reader's mind in King Lear recurs in Antony and Cleopatra, the most faultily constructed of all the tragedies; but there it is due not so much to the absence or vagueness of the indications as to the necessity of taking frequent and fatiguing journeys over thousands of miles. Shakespeare could not help himself in the Roman play: in King Lear he did not choose to help himself, perhaps deliberately chose to be vague.

     From these defects, or from some of them, follows one result which must be familiar to many readers of King Lear. It is far more difficult to retrace in memory the steps of the action in this tragedy than in Hamlet, Othello, or Macbeth. The outline is of course quite clear; anyone could write an 'argument' of the play. But when an attempt is made to fill in the detail, it issues sooner or later in confusion even with readers whose dramatic memory is unusually strong.

   1It is pointed out in Note V that what modern editors call scenes ii., iii., iv of Act II. are really one scene, for Kent is on the stage through them all.

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