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Poor TomLiving "King Lear"$
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Simon Palfrey

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226150642

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226150789.001.0001

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(p.5) 2 Introduction
Poor Tom

Simon Palfrey

University of Chicago Press

This section introduces Edgar/Tom’s role as one that epitomizes Shakespeare’s radical testing of theatrical, political, experiential, and metaphysical possibility. It also explains how the book will be a sustained reading of King Lear. The Edgar-part witnesses, suffers, or refracts everything in the playworld. It distils and explodes theatrical form. It moves in the shadowlands between here and elsewhere, sense and transcendence. This section summarizes how the book understands the relation between the Quarto and Folio Lear-texts, and how Edgar/Tom encapsulates this divided, layered textuality. It summarizes the sources of both Edgar and Tom of Bedlam, and the character’s history in criticism and performance. It explains how the character evades expected types, is at once human, non-human, and post-human, and thus resists easy accommodation or sentiments. The Edgar-part is very intimate to Shakespeare’s most intimate purposes. To get at its secrets, we need to pay unsleeping attention.

Keywords:   Quarto Lear-text, Folio Lear-text, Edgar, Tom o’ Bedlam, non-human, post-human, playworld, criticism, performance, possibility

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