The Theater: Lear Without Tears

From 1681 to 1840—while Shakespeare spun in his grave—London theatergoers saw, and enjoyed, King Lear with a happy ending. In a version by Poet Laureate Nahum Tate, which used most of Shakespeare's plot and many of his lines, it was played by such theatrical greats as David Garrick and Edmund Kean, and applauded by Dr. Samuel Johnson. Even Charles Lamb, who disliked the happy-ending version, conceded that it had a certain stageworthiness when he wrote: "Tate has put his hook in ... this Leviathan, for Garrick and his followers ... to draw it...

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