"In the past, no criticism has gone farther astray than much of the criticism of Shakspere's plots", said Professor G. L. Kittredge '82 in discussing the tragedy of "King Lear" last night in Sanders Theatre. Professor Kittredge confined himself chiefly to a broad view of the plot, bringing in the characters only as they vitally concerned the structure of the play.
"Shakspere's plots", he said, "often limp and stagger in a lamentable way. The motives do not always adequately account for the actions of the characters. However, these are of little consequence, for only children read Shakspere for the story, and we cannot expect him to invent his own plot."
The speaker then pointed out the two separate tragedies combined in "King Lear". The first is the tragedy of Lear and his three daughters, while the second is that of Gloucester and his two sons, which is of minor importance. Shakspere took the story from Holinshed's Chronicle, but he changed it from a nursery tale to a gripping tragedy, mainly by the transformation of the hero's character. Professor Kittredge stated that the madness of the king was the author's chief contribution to the plot. He disproved the theory, however, that King Lear was made from the beginning of the play to the end, pointing out several instances where the old man was quite clearly sane, especially in the catastrophe where it was dramatically necessary that he regain his reason in order to effect a complete reconciliation with Cordelia.
In regard to King Lear as a character. Professor Kittredge concluded, "He is a true hero and every inch a king, even in madness when he rejects suggestions to flee. He never ceases to believe that the realm is his and he is its master. He is a man, a father, a king, and he is old."