‘This great stage of fools’ (IV.v)– Anachronisms and Mockery in Three Victorian Burlesques of King Lear

Roberta Grandi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Though the practice of adapting and rewriting the classics represents one of the mainstays of post-modern literature, it is by no means a recent invention. Shakespeare’s works have been adapted throughout the centuries to make them fit with the tastes and fashions of the changing times. Adaptations have often included a great deal of manipulation and sometimes also some comical rewriting. However, it was only with the advent of Victorian burlesques that “playing with” Shakespeare became a common practice. The chapter studies the case of three Victorian burlesques of King Lear: John Chalmers’s King Leer and His Darters, 1848; Joseph Halford’s King Queer and his Daughters Three, 1855; and Frederick Marchant’s Kynge Lear and his Faythefulle Foole, 1860. These three plays were all staged in minor theatres in London and their presence on the English stage is a very interesting phenomenon as it reflects the success of Macready’s performance that had “restored” King Lear to its full Shakespearean essence by eliminating all remaining traces of Nahum Tate’s version. Shakespearian burlesques are metadramatic works and for this reason they represent a unique occasion to study the typical parodying strategies used by the Victorian authors to “play with” – and often “play down” – the source text. The chapter also focuses on the way anachronisms and topicality were used by these plays to involve the public in a benign satire of Victorian habits, fashions and the social situation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlayfulness in Shakespearean Adaptations
EditorsAidan Norrie Marina Gerzic
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • anachronism
  • burlesque
  • comedy
  • mockery
  • parody
  • shakespeare

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