Digital Editions


Though it may seem as if Shakespeare wrote and shaped the plays we read and watch on his own, all of his texts are actually a product of collaboration among textual scholars, editors, literary critics, directors, audiences, and actors. That is to say, all new editions and new productions are the result of thousands of textual and critical decisions. King Lear is a exemplary instance of a text that is produced, over and over again, through the process of collaborative judgement. According to Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, “The textual traces of King Lear have probably given scholars more cause for debate than any of Shakespeare’s other works. The debate centers on the relative authority of the two early texts of the tragedy, the First Quarto (Q1) and the First Folio (Q2), and the relationship between them” (Norton Shakespeare, 2nd ed. 578). Not only do textual and performance scholars make decisions among textual variants, they also situate the play relative to other plays and historical context, and gloss (i.e. interpret) difficult words and scenes. So no matter how neutral an edition or performance may seem, it is an interpretation based off an irrecoverable original.

Projected Learning Outcomes

Producing a digital edition of one scene or portion of King Lear meets the following projected learning outcomes: literacy, persuasion, collaboration, and imagination. You are composing a digital edition to develop your familiarity with theories of authorship & authority;collaborative textual production; performance constraints; and book histories/futures. The project allows you to produce a primary text, while developing best practices for judging among documentary evidence. The skills gained in this unit will be applicable to subsequent course work.




  • Create a static WP page and add it to a menu
  • Write a 1,000-1,250 (min.) word headnote broken down into the following subsections in which you provide, as Stanley Wells has done, your theory of the play. You need to make a claim about the play and then substantiate that claim with analysis of at least 2 citations from the text.

    After you argue for what the play means in the Introduction, develop your Edition through 2 or more of the following subheadings:
    (Tip, might want to break the word count down as follows: 500 words for the intro.; 250 words for each of the subheadings)

    Textual Criticism
    For instance, if you chose to work on a portion of the text only found in Q1 and not F, what difference might that make for your readers? What strategies guide your decisions? Include at least 2 pieces of analyzed evidence. 
    Critical Responses
    Say you argue that the play is about Nature, what have other scholars said on the topic of King Lear and nature? Give a brief overview of at least two critical sources and then compare them. Include at least 2 pieces of analyzed evidence. 
    Performance History
    Give a short overview of a performance or adaptation of King Lear that supports or challenges your interpretation.  May also want to talk about recent trends in performance. Include at least 2 pieces of analyzed evidence. 
    King Lear Today
    Connect themes, ideas, images, etc. in King Lear to a contemporary event of your choice. Ex: how does King Lear help up talk about or understand issues like crisis that results from global climate change? Include at least 2 pieces of analyzed evidence. 
  • Transcribe a Scene or portion of a scene (min.50 lines) of your choice from the The History of King Lear Oxford Shakespeare. Ed. Stanley Wells (Q1)
  • Devlop your introduction and reading of the play by linking at least 15 words or phrases in your Scene to VALID ONLINE RESOURCES THAT HELP DEVELOP/SUPPORT YOUR READING OF THE PLAY. Link destinations may also work to challenge readers expectations of the play.
  • Use WordPress layout/design tools to make the play text accessible to readers.
  • For full credit you must also include at least 8 explanatory footnotes, i.e. gloss.


Your peers and I are your primary audience, and keep an ever expanding web readership in mind as you write and publish. Really consider what an audience might need you to illustrate or link to in order to better read the text you choose? May also want to consider ways in which your choices influence the way readers interpret your text.


  • Does the Digital Edition meet the assignment criteria? Does the project have its own page on your site? Do all the links take users to the destinations they promise? (10%)
  •  Does the Introduction announce the topic and then make a clear, explicit claim about that topic (i.e. provide, just like Stanley Wells does, a theory of the play? Do you develop your Introduction through at least 2 analyzed pieces of text? Does the Introduction announce what will come next? (25%) 
  • Do you include at least 2 subheadings? Do you develop the subtopics according to the requirements listed above? Do each of the subheading discussions contain at least 2 pieces of analyzed evidence? (25%)
  • Is the introductory material laid out clearly? Is the play text material formatted in a way accessible to readers? (10%)
  • Are there at least 15 linked key words or phrases in the play text to VALID ONLINE RESOURCES? Do the links DEVELOP/SUPORT your argument (i.e. theory of the play)? Are there at least 8 glossed words or phrases? Does your gloss develop your argument? (30%)