William Blake, Lear and Cordelia in Prison

Tate Britain, London

Date: c. 1779
Technique: Pen and ink and watercolour on paper, 123 x 175 mm

The ageing British king Lear lies sleeping on his daughter Cordelia’s lap while in prison. Lear’s wilfulness has split the kingdom, and Cordelia laments the fate of her father and of the nation. This is one of a group of drawings by Blake dealing with British history made around 1779. His source for this scene though was Nahum Tate’s reworking of Shakespeare’s King Lear (1681).


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