A Host of Lears: Howard Barker’s Seven Lears, Elaine Feinstein’s Lear’s Daughters, and Sarah Kane’s Blasted

  • Graham Saunders
Part of the Adaptation in Theatre and Performance book series (ATP)


This chapter focuses on the popularity of Shakespeare’s King Lear as an appropriated text and the different concerns and approaches by which contemporary dramatists have approached this work. One thing that all of the reinterpretations have in common is how they reconfigure family structures in the play. Elaine Feinstein and the Women’s Theatre Group’s Lear’s Daughters (1989) is a feminist appropriation that considers the consequences of fatherly neglect in King Lear as well as the absence of the Queen. That absence is also the central focus of Howard Barker’s (Seven Lears, Calder, London, 1990), while Sarah Kane’s Blasted (1995) revisits certain motifs such as blinding and specific scenes from King Lear–notably ‘the Dover scene’ as well as its incorporation of Jacobean tragedy–focusing on human suffering, damnation, and redemption–for contemporary audiences.


  1. Barker, H. 1990. Seven Lears. London: Calder.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, G. 1993a. Preface to the Merchant of Venice. London: Nick Hern.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1993b. Preface to King Lear. London: Nick Hern.Google Scholar
  4. Bayley, C. 1995. ‘A Very Angry Young Woman.’ Independent, January 23.Google Scholar
  5. Bennett, S. 1996. Performing Nostalgia: Shifting Shakespeare and the Contemporary Past. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bond, E. 1972. Plays Two. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  7. Bono, B. 1992. “The Chief Knot of All Our Discourse”: The Maternal Subtext Tying Sidney’s Arcadia to Shakespeare’s King Lear. In Cerasano, S.P and Wynne-Davies, M (eds.). Gloriana's Face: Public and Private, in the English Renaissance. London: Harvester: Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  8. Bosse, L. 1989. ‘The Father’s House and the Daughter in It.’ In Daughters and Fathers, (ed.) Bosse, L., and Flowers, B.S. 19–74. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bradley, A.C. 1967. Shakespearian Tragedy. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Brown, J.R. 2001. Shakespeare: The Tragedies. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  11. Callaghan, D. 1989. Women and Gender in Renaissance Tragedy: A Study of King Lear, Othello, The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  12. Cohen, D. 1993. Shakespeare’s Culture of Violence. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Curtis, N. 1995. ‘Random Tour in a Chamber of Horrors.’ Evening Standard, January 19.Google Scholar
  14. Dollimore, J. 1984. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Brighton: Harvester.Google Scholar
  15. Ellis-Fermor, U. 1961. Shakespeare The Dramatist And Other Papers, (ed.) Muir. K. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  16. Erickson, P. 1985. Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare’s Drama. Berkerley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Feinstein, E. 1991. Lear’s Daughters. In Herstory, Volume 1 (ed.) Griffin, G., and Aston, E. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hay, M., and Roberts, P. 1978. Edward Bond: A Companion to His Plays. London: TQ Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, S. 1969. Samuel Johnson On Shakespeare, (ed.) Wimsatt, W.K. London: MacGibbon and Gee.Google Scholar
  20. Kane, S. 2001. Complete Plays. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  21. Khan, C. 1993. ‘The Absent Mother in King Lear’. In King Lear: New Casebooks, ed. K. Ryan. Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 1985. Man’s Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare. Berkerley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kott, J. 1967. Shakespeare Our Contemporary, trans. B. Taborski rev edn. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  24. Lappin, L. 1987. The Art and Politics of Edward Bond. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  25. Leggatt, A. 1988. King Lear. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  26. Logan, B. 2001. The Savage Mark of Kane. Independent on Sunday, April 1.Google Scholar
  27. ​McGuire, P. C. 1993. Shakespeare: The Jacobean Plays. Macmillan: Basingstoke.Google Scholar
  28. Milton, J. 1959. The Complete Prose Works, ed. E. Sinluck, vol. 2. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  29. Morley, S. 1995. Spectator, January 28.Google Scholar
  30. Nightingale, B. 2001. ‘Passion Still Blazes.’ The Times, April 3.Google Scholar
  31. Novy, M. 1984. Love’s Argument: Gender Relations in Shakespeare. Chapel Hill: University of South Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rabey, D.I. 2009. Howard Barker: Ecstasy and Death: An Expository Study of His Drama, Theory and Production Work, 1998–2008. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  33. Ravenhill, M. 1999. Obituary. Independent, February 23.Google Scholar
  34. Rosefeldt, P. 1996. The Absent Father in Modern Drama. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  35. Sakellaridou, E. 1999. ‘New Faces for British Political Theatre.’ Studies in Theatre and Performance 20 (1): 43–51.Google Scholar
  36. Saunders, G. 1998. ‘British Dramatists Since 1970 and Their Use of Shakespearian and Jacobean Drama.’ Ph.D. dissertation, University of Birmingham. Diss.A2. B98.Google Scholar
  37. ———. 2009. Sarah Kane: The Playwright and Their Work. London: Faber.Google Scholar
  38. Sierz, A. 2001. In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today. London: Faber.Google Scholar
  39. Spencer. C. 2001. ‘Admirably Repulsive.’ Daily Telegraph April 5.Google Scholar
  40. Stockholder, K. 1987. Dream Works: Lovers and Families in Shakespeare’s Plays. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  41. Tinker, J. 1995. ‘This Disgusting Feast of Filth.’ Daily Mail, January 19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations