Are there expurgated texts of "King Lear"? I have heard of expurgated and unexpurgated verions of some books (e.g, Lady Chatterlies Lover, etc.). Is it applicable to King Lear too? This...

Are there expurgated texts of "King Lear"?

I have heard of expurgated and unexpurgated verions of some books (e.g, Lady Chatterlies Lover, etc.). Is it applicable to King Lear too? This passage seen in an old edition is missing in current ones.

quote unquote......

The Works of William Shakespeare. . Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd. London and Melbourne.
1930. (with 64 pictures by well-known artists). Rs.5.Annas 10.

King Lear : Act IV Sc. VI. (page 1278-79)

Lear: Ay, every inch a king: When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man's. What was adultery.?
The wren goes to 't, and the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive: for Gloucster's bastard son was kinder to his father than my
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
To 't, luxury, pell-mell ! for I lack soldiers.
Behold your simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks presages snow ;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure's name ;
The fitchew, nor the soiled horse, goes to 't
With a more riotous appetite.

Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above :
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends';
There 's hell, there 's darkness, there 's
The sulphurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption ;
Fie, fie, fie ! pah !pah !
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to
Sweeten my imagination : there 's money for three.

Expert Answers
robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question!

Well, you know that Lady Chatterley's Love was famously expurgated of its sexual content in order to meet with the prudish literary tastes of the day. King Lear, oddly enough, came from far more permissible times (Shakespeare's work is filled with sexual and bawdy jokes that wouldn't have made it past D. H. Lawrence's censors!).

There are two major extant texts for King Lear: the First Quarto (Q1, published 1608) and the version in the First Folio (F, published 1623). Q1 has 285 lines which F1 doesn't, and F1 has about 125 not in Q1. The passage you discuss above features in both texts.

Ater the Restoration, editors and directors famously and repeatedly re-wrote and changed King Lear in order to alter its depressing ending of death and despair - and of course, even today, it is commonplace for a director to do his or her own cut of the text to suit their production. Nahum Tate, for example, in 1681, cut the fool entirely and invented a happy ending which married off Edgar and Cordelia (who lived!). If you've got an edition with these sort of changes, it's likely a Restoration one.

But ultimately, that passage should be in most modern editions. If you search "gilded fly" in Google Books, you'll see that it appears very regularly there.