Picasso and Tragedy

T.J. Clark

There is a moment towards the end of King Lear – many readers and playgoers have found it almost unbearable – when the mad king enters, holding his daughter’s corpse in his arms. ‘Lend me a looking glass,’ Lear says, ‘If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,/Why then she lives.’ Two of his subjects respond, with questions that go on resonating down the centuries:

Kent: Is this the promised end?

Edgar: Or image of that horror?

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