What a combo – stationary bike and King Lear. I love this edition, too. I always felt like I wasn’t in on the whole Shakespeare cult in college – classmates would read some swatch of King John and we were all supposed to sigh and sip from our water bottles and marvel at the beauty of the language (for the Peter Brook The Empty Space fans out there, this would be Holy Theatre). I understood why these stories are timeless and why their plots and sentiments echo across generations – but felt that the language bound them to obscurity and the comedies had to be enriched with slapstick to be even remotely funny (and I still think A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be set on fire).
The No Fear edition realizes what nearly every other edition fails to: normal readers don’t care jackshit about the footnotes. Yes, I would love to take a few days and compare this edition to the Riverside edition or the fascimile of the First Folio. This edition presents the original text on the left page and then on the right – a complete modern language translation. I so wish I’d had this in undergrad. I hated to read a line – see a footnote – read the reference – reread the passage – forget where I was in the plot and then reread it again. Further, these types of translations can be a gateway drug to reading the full text, unencumbered by such easements. It would be great to use this edition for staging – have the actors first play out the scenes in the modern language to ensure sentiments and staging echo the meaning – and then reign it back into the original text.
I contend the best parts of Shakespeare are the plots, not the language. I say hack and slash for comprehension – keep the rhyming couplets, but damn-it-all if no one understands what the hell you’re saying. So far I’m re-thinking my stereotyped view of Regan as a victimized Ophelia – the play just sort of happens to her. Now, as I read the ‘modern English’ version – I see how pissed off she is that her dad is being so pig-headed. A play should muddle an audience in moral ambiguity. Like with Antigone, Creon and Antigone are both being stubborn, selfish assholes – the moral high ground is always a murky one.
Anyway – if you want a good approach to a Shakespeare play (Julius Caesar is often a good start because it is pretty streamlined or Othello because there’s few sub-plots – Macbeth is fun because it’s so bloody) I’ll toss the No Fear recommendation to you. Also: you can get them cheap and used on Amazon (though buy from only highly ranked sellers).