"WAS EVER QUEEN LIKE CLEOPATRA CURST?": THREE OF SHAKESPEARE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES—KING LEAR, OTHELLO, AND ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA—EXTRACTED FROM THE THIRD FOLIO, 1664, SPLENDIDLY BOUND
SHAKESPEARE. The Tragedie of King Lear. BOUND WITH: The Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice. BOUND WITH: The Tragedy of Anthony, and Cleopatra. [London: Printed for P.C., 1664]. Folio (9 by 12-3/4 inches), period-style full black morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and covers, raised bands, red morocco spine label, marbled endpapers; pp. 303-88. $40,000.
The complete text of three of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, King Lear, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra, from the rare and important Third Folio, on 43 original leaves (seven leaves supplied from another copy of the same edition). Splendidly bound in elaborately gilt-decorated period-style morocco.
The four folios of Shakespeare are the first four editions of Shakespeare's collected plays. These were the only collected editions printed in the 17th century (a 1619 attempt at a collected edition in quarto form was never completed). The 1664 second issue of the Third Folio (from which these plays were taken), is the first to include Pericles (along with six other spurious plays) and is therefore the first complete edition of Shakespeare's plays. The Third Folio is believed to be the scarcest of the four great 17th-century folio editions, a large part of the edition presumed destroyed in the Great London Fire of 1666. "The folios are incomparably the most important work in the English language" (W.A. Jackson, Pforzheimer Catalogue).
Leaves [Sss6]-[Bbbb6] contain the three plays King Lear, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra. "The Shakespearean exuberance or gusto is part of what breaks through linguistic and cultural barriers… Shakespeare is to the world's literature what Hamlet is to the imaginary domain of literary character: a spirit that permeates everywhere, that simply cannot be confined" (Bloom, The Western Canon, 52). "There is, as Dr. Johnson conveyed, a terrible desolation in the final scene of The Tragedy of King Lear, an effect surpassing anything else of its kind, in Shakespeare or any other writer… There is a terrible and deliberate gap, a cosmological emptiness into which we are thrown. A sensitive apprehension of The Tragedy of King Lear gives us a sense of having been thrown outward and downward until we are left beyond values, altogether bereft" (Bloom, 65-67). Written sometime between 1601-04, Othello—the grim tale of passion and suspicion both manipulated and untamed, once praised by Macaulay as "perhaps the greatest work in the world"—is also Shakespeare's "most richly human" work, "and in the Greek sense the most beautiful" (Baugh et al., 536). Antony and Cleopatra was first performed circa 1607; the plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Sicilian revolt to Cleopatra's suicide during the Final War of the Roman Republic. Cleopatra is one of the most complex and fascinating female characters found in any of Shakespeare's plays. Seven leaves in King Lear (including the first page of Othello), leaves Vvv1-Xxx1, supplied from another copy of the same edition, and slightly shorter. With facsimile frontispiece and title page; the facsimile title page reproduces the title page of the second issue of the Third Folio, bearing the date 1664 in the imprint rather than 1663. See STC 22274; Jaggard, 496.
Interior generally quite clean. A splendidly bound volume in fine condition, a wonderful volume of three of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies.