King Lear has long been regarded as one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays and is not infrequently judged to be perhaps the ﬁnest specimen of the Western dramatic tradition. Nevertheless, it has also been viewed as problematic both morally and aesthetically. The most powerful example of the discomfort caused by the play among audiences and critics is the revision by Nahum Tate, which has Cordelia surviving and marrying Edgar. This version was the basis of every theatrical production of King Lear from 1681 until 1838, and it was endorsed by no less a ﬁgure than Dr. Johnson:
In the present case the public has decided. Cordelia, from the time of Tate, has always retired with victory and felicity. And, if my sensations could add anything to the general suﬀrage, I might relate, I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia’s death that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.