King Lear, Part II--It's All About the Play

byJanelle A. Price


Introduction and Rationale



Background for Teaching

Classroom Activities

Additional Resources for Teachers and Students



Introduction and Rationale

William Shakespeare's play, The Tragedy of King Lear, has been written, rewritten, resurrected, and regurgitated more than any other work by the Bard. The play was significantly altered in the late 17th century in order to produce a happy ending (so much for the play having the word "tragedy" in its title). For almost 150 years, audiences saw Lear, Cordelia, and Gloucester live and Cordelia marry Edgar.

There are also two different versions of the play that are referred to as "Q" for the quarto edition of 1608 and "F" for a folio printed in 1623. Both are credited to Shakespeare, but over 300 lines are different, affecting how characters and scenes can be interpreted. This leads to questions such as: should Edgar be more naïve and Edmund more dastardly? Perhaps Albany's role be larger? Lesser? Every production and reprinting need to evaluate which version's lines should be closely adhered to, or "conflated" (as Jay L. Halio in his 1996 book Critical Essays on Shakespeare's King Lear terms it)(1); and, if one chooses to conflate them, what criteria does one use to choose? Many essays and books have been written trying to sort out this dilemma.

The many lives of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear along with the wonderful untidiness of the play's ending makes the play the perfect fulcrum to inspire middle school students to craft a one-act play sequel. In order to reach that apex, students will read and perform the work and learn Shakespeare's syntax and grammar through activities that will scaffold most levels of mainstream learners to make their production as close to Shakespeare's writing as possible. This work will increase students' vocabulary repertoire, understanding of the play's and the time period's language, appreciation of the Bard's works, identification of rhetorical devices, and use of dialogue while boosting reading comprehension.

This unit is geared for the sixth and seventh grade Communications students I teach at my district's creative and performing art school. A typical class will encompass 25 to 30 students ranging from below basic to advanced proficient, with the majority of students completing homework. Their academic day is truncated as they report to their art major (dance, writing, stagecraft, theatre, vocal, or instrumental) for the first two to three periods, and then to their academic classes along with lunch sandwiched in. Being flexible, having a clear idea of what the students need to learn, and hooking students into working hard through enjoyable lessons is paramount for success in teaching in my building, and are thus the guiding principles in this unit.


My objectives in this unit are to comprehensively meet state standards in the categories of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. In broad state reading standard language, students will be able to read, understand, and document their understanding of Shakespeare's play, The Tragedy of King Lear. Through their reading they will make and support their interpretations and grow through understanding the meaning of key vocabulary as well as apply this vocabulary when speaking their lines, in discussions, and written responses.

For broad state standard writing language, through the various informal and formal writing assignments and the unit's culminating project, students will demonstrate, apply, write with a sharp focus, and use evidence from the work that will highlight their comprehension, analysis, and synthesis of the material. They will further their writing skills by practicing revision through writer's workshop practices.

In the state standard language for speaking and listening, students' engagement in speaking and listening will be enhanced through classroom performances of the work, engaging in small and whole group discussions, and presentation of their final script to the class. Each of these roles mandates that students practice proper classroom etiquette of courtesy and respect in their responses and when listening to others speak.


All lessons for this unit will be written using the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning (IFL) philosophy and lesson design plan. Their philosophy follows the work of Vygotsky, Bruner, and Piaget. For more information, you can visit the Institute's website at or search the web using the key words "Institute for Learning." Coupled with their philosophy, the IFL has a rigid lesson pattern which includes accessing prior knowledge, small and large group discussions, and all students maintaining a Reader's/Writer's Notebook for a continuous recording of class work. After their first reading of any material, students will be responding to the standard gist questions (Who are the characters? What is happening? How do we know?). They will reread the text in order to record significant moments using a T-chart. This means students will find one to three significant lines in the assigned reading section. They will record the lines in their notebook on the left side of the T-chart, and on the right, their explanation of why they feel the lines are significant to the text.

Students will reread the text a third time using one of the following strategies: responding to author's craft questions for the purpose of examining sections of text for how and why the author constructed the section in that way; use of Quickwrites in which students are given a question to which they are to respond first in writing, then in small and/or large group discussion on the question; or inquiry questions in which students first respond in writing to a question posed to them in order for them to gather their thoughts and the necessary textual evidence to support their ideas. All written work is followed by either a small and whole class discussion or only a whole class one.

The unit also includes many activities that will challenge learners while providing additional scaffolds. Underscoring all lesson work is my belief that students will enjoy reading one of Shakespeare's greatest works, and learn his basic writing style.

Background for Teaching

General Notes on The Tragedy of King Lear

While all sources concur that Lear was written between 1604-1606, some cite a British court record listing the play as having its debut before King James I on St. Stephen's Day, December 26th, 1605.(2) This would sandwich Shakespeare's writing of Lear between Othello and Macbeth.

As for Shakespeare's inspiration for the play, the unanimous belief is the main plot of King Lear and his daughters is based upon the legendary tale of an 8th century Celtic king named Leir as told in Raphael Holinshed's The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande published in 1587. In turn, Holinshed's source was Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century work, Historia Regum Britanniae. Shakespeare closely followed the basic plot of the Leir tale, and even used the original tale's daughters' names. However, the original tale ends with Leir and Cordelia defeating the two older daughters, and Leir ruling until his death where upon Cordelia succeeds him. As for the plot twist of Cordelia's death by hanging and the exact spelling of her name, it is thought that Shakespeare borrowed these details from Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, published in 1590.

Another influence is thought to spring from two court proceedings occurring around the time Shakespeare was writing Lear. The first dealt with a Sir Brian Annesley, whose oldest daughter (of three) sought to take over her father's estate by having him declared legally insane. Annesley's youngest daughter, Cordell, helped her father to successfully defeat the claim. The second case involved a London Mayor named William Allen, who was treated terribly by his three daughters after he divided his holdings amongst them.

As for the subplot of Gloucester and his sons, Shakespeare based it upon Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia published in 1590. The story is described as, "The pitiful state, and story of the Paphlagonian unkind King, and his kind son, first related by the son, then by the blind father."(3) This leaves the love triangle among Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, the part of the Fool, and Kent's banishment all to Shakespeare.

In his Shakespeare Through the Ages: King Lear compilation, Harold Bloom tracks the stage history of the play. He writes that the play was performed as Shakespeare penned it until Oliver Cromwell shuttered the London theaters in the late 1640s. After the Restoration in 1660, older plays were modernized and adapted to fit the mood of the time, and Lear's punishment of the virtuous, in that Cordelia dies, along with the indecorous raving of Lear made the play unsuitable. (One positive from this time period was that females were again allowed to perform on a London stage although there were limits in their dress along with the proviso that they must have either their spouse or father in the theatre company.)(4)

Nahum Tate, an Irishman, who later became England's poet laureate, undertook the task of rewriting several of Shakespeare's works. He christened his version of Lear, The History of King Lear. Tate, whose last name was originally Teate, wrote stage plays, opera pieces, and of course poetry. Besides rewriting Shakespeare, Tate retrofitted the values of the late 17th century into numerous other Renaissance plays including works by John Fletcher, John Webster, and Sir Aston Cockayne. In the case of Shakespeare's King Lear, it would not be until almost 150 years later that the original work would again play on the stage. (Appendix A is a classroom exercise comparing Edmund's Act I speech from both versions coupled with a rhetorical identification lesson.)

Basic Information on The Tragedy of King Lear

Middle school children need to learn the basics of literature, and this form of instruction is a standard part of my teaching. For this unit, they will also need to borrow Lear's characters to use in their one-act plays. In order to borrow them, they must be able to understand plot, theme, characterization, etc. all of which are basic literature elements. Therefore, one tool I would have my students use for this unit is charting a work using the Freytag Pyramid, which is outlined for Lear below. As this unit affords such young students a wonderful foray into high classic literature, I would also instruct them in Aristotle's definition of tragedy, and how Shakespeare's tragedies slightly deviate from Aristotle's ideal. (Shakespeare's tragedies always have comic relief, which Aristotle did not value.) These two analytical tools intersect wonderfully in this work.

Freytag Pyramid

The Freytag Pyramid, or Triangle, is a graphic organizer of a story's plot named after its 19th century developer, Gustav Freytag, who realized that stories of all types had a similar pattern. Freytag used a simple pyramid shape to diagram the six parts of a story. The six parts are: exposition or setting in which the characters and setting are provided; inciting incident where something happens that begins the action or starts the tension in a story; rising action that occurs as the story or excitement begins to build; the climax where the most exciting part of the story occurs (and, as I tell students, the point after which nothing will be the same); the falling action, or denouement, in which things happen because of the climax; and the resolution where the main conflict or problem is solved and all the dangling threads or problems are generally neatly tied up. (Today, it is not uncommon for a writer to leave something unsolved or a new plot to be introduced in order to hook a reader into reading a sequel).

Charting Lear is a bit difficult, as Russell Fraser notes in his "Introduction" to the Signet Classic edition of the play. Fraser says, "Ostensibly, the play is one long denouement. In fact the declining action, which is the dogging of the hero to death, is complemented by a rising action, which is the hero's regeneration. As the tragic action moves down toward darkness, the more hopeful action that lives within it begins to emerge. This emergent, or renascent, action is a condition of the hero's loss of the world."(5) Nonetheless, with careful analysis, I found the play does fit into the Freytag Pyramid nicely.

The exposition starts at the beginning of the play with Gloucester and Kent discussing how the King always seemed to love the Duke of Albany better, and that the King is about to divide his kingdom; Gloucester's bragging about his virility to Kent,* introduction of Edmund as the bastard, the grand entrance of Lear with his entourage; and on to Lear questioning his daughters on who loves him most.

*Note: Gloucester's discussion of Edmund being a bastard or illegitimate could be a sensitive subject for some students, especially the manner in which Gloucester brags about his virility. You may need to couch the discussion by reminding students of the rigid code of morals at the time. Do not get into a discussion of right or wrong, just indicate that it was the thought at that time.

The inciting incident is Lear banishing Cordelia. Lear has selfishly given away his power evoking a chasm in the Great Chain of Being. (See Chain of Being section below.) He wants to maintain the glory and trappings of the role, without any regard to the people and the kingdom. Lear has compounded his willing usurpation by casting out Cordelia, showing that he values showy words above reality. He cannot see (blindness symbol) what is really true. In essence, he is leading himself, and everyone else, into chaos. This also plays well in regards to the eclipse Gloucester mentions in Act I, Scene ii. He forecasts such a disturbance as a portentous omen that will wreak havoc on mankind. Immediately after Gloucester's forecast of doom, Edmund, who has already told the audience of his evil plan to discredit his brother and set things in disarray, dismisses the astrological signs as foolishness.

The rising action includes Edmund framing Edgar (so that the illegitimate son becomes the heir, and the heir an outcast), Goneril telling her servants to no longer treat Lear as a king or even deferentially, Oswald's disdainful treatment of Lear, the Fool goading Lear, Goneril's dismissal of half of Lear's knights, Lear fleeing Goneril's castle, Albany's notice of and attempt to rein in his wife's ill treatment of Lear, Kent's placement in the stocks at Gloucester's castle, Regan's and Cornwall's confrontation with Lear, Goneril's unexpected joining in the confrontation, Regan and Goneril scheming together in removing Lear's remaining power and kingly trappings represented by his remaining knights, Lear fleeing the castle into the storm, Regan ordering Gloucester to seal his doors against Lear returning with Goneril concurring, Gloucester confiding in Edmund that Cordelia has landed, and the knowledge of Edmund's soon-to-be treachery.

The falling action or denouement encompasses Gloucester's blinding, Cornwall's death, Gloucester being led by Edgar in disguise, Lear's complete fall into madness and his wandering the field in his crown of flowers, Oswald's confrontation with Gloucester and duel with Edgar, Edgar's recovery of Goneril's letter to Edmund, Cordelia's servants finding Lear and dressing him as a king again, Cordelia's and Lear's tender reunion which to some extent restores his sanity, the loss of Cordelia's French troops to Goneril's and Regan's English troops, Cordelia's and Lear's capture with Lear confiding that he, the once extravagant monarch, is content with a prison cell as long as Cordelia is by him, and Edmund's orders to kill them.

In this section, it is important to stress that both fathers, Gloucester and Lear, are blind to the truth about their children, and suffer mentally and physically for their inability to transcend appearance versus truth. When Gloucester is blinded, he becomes Lear's whipping boy. Lear is the king, and the Laws of the Great Chain of Being, or scala naturae, have already been broken with Lear's attitude of playing king and inability to recognize truth over lies. His daughters' mistreatment of him is the final shove that causes nature, i.e. the storm, to fully burst forth in a symbolic show of Lear's internal struggle and the chaos of the social and natural order. Gloucester, the physical one who took pride in his virility, must suffer bodily before he learns or "sees" the truth. Lear, who blocked the truth and allowed lies to cloud his mental reasoning, must be humbled to feel the plight of the poor and wretched in order to understand that outward show does not make a king or a man. Lear's fall could only lead to a mental breakdown, as the world he had created is pure fabrication. Gloucester belongs to the physical realm as this is the area where his flaw resides, and having Lear suffer Gloucester's physical blindness would only compound the chaos in the cosmos further.

The resolution includes the announcement of Regan and Goneril's deaths with their bodies presented, Edgar fatally wounding Edmund, the announcement of Gloucester's death from grief and shame, Lear's entry with Cordelia's body, his imagining her lips moving as if she is about to speak her love for him (harkening back to Act I, Scene i where she thought she did not need to), Lear's death, Kent's revealing who he is, Albany saying he is not fit to rule, Kent's announcement of needing to follow his majesty in death as befitting Kent's age and loyalty to his king, and Edgar's concluding words summing the general feelings of having witnessed a great tragedy. The resolution's final scene neatly assembles almost the entire main cast (missing are Oswald, the Fool, and Gloucester).

Aristotle's Analysis of Tragedy in the Poetics

In Aristotle's seminal work, the Poetics, he defines tragedy and skeletally maps the six elements of it. Aristotle's discourse anticipates the Freytag Pyramid, and would have been available to Shakespeare, whereas the Freytag Pyramid would not have been. Teaching both methods of analyzing a work is important for introducing the students to a higher level of analysis, gaining insight into Shakespeare's structural method, and being able to use both in order to create their own theatre production.

In defining tragedy, Aristotle notes, "Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions."(6) Aristotle felt that a true tragedy could only be a stage production, and not a narrative as in a story or prose piece. In addition, he believed a tragedy should not be focused on the life of a unique character, but that the character must be larger than a normal man, and the events that occur to the character, be universal meaning that what happens to the individual in the work, could happen to anyone. Therefore the cause of the tragedy is a common fault that all could surrender to, and the effects of the one failing spread out to all involved. A final necessary point to a tragedy is that through the ending of the play, the audience is able to purge the emotional storm of pity and fear they have gathered within themselves.

The six elements of an Aristotelian tragedy in order of importance are: plot, character, thought, diction, spectacle, and music.

Plot is the most important element, and it must include a beginning, middle, and end. Logic is key as each section must transition to the other without gaps in causation. Aristotle believed there are two types of tragic plot: the simple and complex. A simple plot occurs when a character finds their misfortune without a reversal or recognition of having done amiss. In a complex plot, a character finds their misfortune through a reversal or recognition, as Gloucester, Lear, and Edmund do in the play. The plot must also be serious, universal, and not brief. Aristotle believed a number of themes and incidents are important for a rich work,(7) but did warn that too many themes and plots would create an "animal" that was too long of a work to see at one time.(8) Lear has a main plot—Lear and his daughters, and three other subplots—Gloucester and sons, Kent's ordeals in his loyalty to Lear, and the love triangle among Edmund, Regan, and Goneril.(9)

The second ranking element is character. The character (the main character or protagonist) should be larger than life and prosperous so that their reversal, or surprising turn of events (peripeteia) in fortune, results from a character flaw (hamartia) or weakness, spiraling them downward. Ideally, the character will trigger his/her own downfall, as Lear does by giving away his power and banishing Cordelia. Characters in a tragedy should have the following traits as well: be "good or fine" meaning "Even a woman may be good, and also a slave, though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless," be true to type, consistent, and slightly idealized.(10) Lear's characterization is certainly larger than life. His speeches reveal him to be an egotist, needing his daughters to elaborately expound their love for him to maintain an image, and hating any challenge as he is the king and absolute authority.

Thought is third in importance, but Aristotle did not elaborate much on it. According to Barbara F. McManus on her website, "Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy," thought should be associated with the themes of the play, and involves character's revealing themselves through their speeches.(11) This element does reflect on how throughout Aristotle's discourse on tragedy, he is trying to develop a separate and distinct genre for it, especially one that makes a clear distinction between tragedy and epic. An important characteristic of an epic is that the central characters make lengthy speeches. Could this be a characteristic that Aristotle was carrying over from epic to tragedy?

The fourth characteristic is diction, and is defined as "the expression of the meaning in words,"(12) which must be consistent with the plot trajectory of beginning, middle, and end and the characters. Included in this characteristic as well are stylistic elements with particular attention to the use of metaphors. Aristotle felt that the use of a good metaphor was the mark of a genius.(13) Shakespeare was a master in the use of rhetorical devices. (See Appendix A for an exercise in rhetorical tools used by Shakespeare.)

The fifth characteristic is Spectacle, and it revolves around the inner structure of a work, and not the glitz of the production, to elicit feelings of pity and fear. When a playwright uses the spectacle to propel the story, what occurs is not a story of the "terrible," but of the "monstrous."(14)

The use of music is the final characteristic, and in Aristotle's time a Chorus of up to 24 people sang, summarized, commented on the play's action, and expressed the emotion the audience should be feeling. A Chorus was a fixture in all Greek plays. Aristotle felt that the Chorus must be smoothly woven into the play and assist in the plot development.(15) This is the only characteristic that is difficult to chart, as outside of attending a reenactment of a Renaissance play, modern audiences are only presented with "the play."

In Shakespeare's time (Renaissance), music played a huge part in any play performance. The common instruments of the time were the lute, viol, and recorder. Percy A. Scholes notes this in his article "The Purpose Behind Shakespeare's Use of Music." Scholes opens his article with, "The lavish use Shakespeare makes of musical allusion has often been the subject of comment."(16) Scholes notes that music would be used for entrances of ghosts and witchcraft elements, entrances and exits of kings and queens, change of scenes, to soothe and heal, as a sign of madness, spotlighting love and death, and, as Dr. Fry pointed out to me, during military and banquet scenes.(17) Also at the end of every performance the actors would engage in a traditional dance of the time, which can be likened to the one that takes place at the conclusion of the popular and award-winning Bollywood movie, Slumdog Millionaire.

A great enrichment mini-lesson would be to play authentically recorded snippets of the music played during Shakespeare's works. One such CD is Ensemble Galilei's "Come, Gentle Night: Music of Shakespeare's World" released in 2000. Most public libraries will have either music attributable to Shakespeare's play or from the Renaissance time period.

A final addition to the construction of a tragedy is that the end must produce a "katharsis" or catharsis response in the audience, which is a purging of the pity and fear generated by the work.(18) The ending of Lear is definitely heart wrenching, and would prompt many to tears, which is such a response.

Shakespeare added an additional element to his tragedies, and that is comic relief. In Lear, Shakespeare uses the Fool to mock Lear for the plight that Lear brought upon himself.

Black Munday

In the midst of Edmund springing his plot to discredit Edgar and take over his inheritance, Gloucester (1.2.112-124) moans about the fault of Edgar's betrayal being linked to a solar eclipse. Edmund listens, but after Gloucester leaves, he responds via a soliloquy (1.2.128-148) dismissing Gloucester's superstitious nature. When teaching this section, it is important to instruct students in how immensely superstitious people were during this time period.

Two strategies are to reread the two speeches, one at a time, and have students analyze each independently, and then compare them. The second is to access an easily readable leaflet from a 1652 solar eclipse that can be displayed via overhead or a handout which illustrates the hysteria such an event would produce. The leaflet is available on Folger's website under lesson plans for King Lear at either BlackMunday1bottinger.pdf or searching "Black Munday" on the Internet.

An excerpt of the pamphlet is (Note: substitute an "s" for the majority of the "fs"): Black Munday: OR, A full and exact defcription of that a great and terrible Ecliple of the Sun which will happen on the 29. day of March 1652. beginning 48. minutes after 8. a clock in the afternoon, and ending 17.minutes after 11. in which time the Sun will be almost totally darkened (as at the Paffion of our Saviour) and the Stars appear in the Firmament in the day time, Alfo an Aftrologicall conjecture of the terrible Effects that will probably follow thereupon, according to the judgment of the beft Aftrologers: It threatens the fall of fome famous Kings or Princes, and Men in authority Malice, Hatred, Unchariteneffe, cruell Wars and Bloothed, Houfe-burnings, great Robberies, Thefts, Plundering and Pillaging, Rapes, Depopulation, violent and unexpected Deaths, Famine, Plague, &c.

Character Charting

A great tool for students of this age, as well as an aid in their being able to create a one-act play sequel, is character charting. In order to use Lear's characters in their sequel, they need to know them well. One rule I always use for any work is that a true character in the work is someone who has lines. Without lines or dialogue, they are not counted as a character. Other traits in helping to define a character are:

  • how the character speaks,
  • the character's actions and mannerisms,
  • what the character looks like including how they dress, and
  • how other characters react, think, or speak about them.

Character charting in a play has a few quirks. Every performance can change how a character dresses, the mannerisms used by the character, how the character is to speak, and line editing. An added complication with Shakespeare's works is that while modern plays have stage directions that can closely govern a character's characterization, Shakespeare used them sparingly, if at all. This is great for imaginative interpretations by a company of experienced actors, but problematic for middle school students diving into Shakespeare for the first time. Teaching students how to block a scene is an important lesson they will need for this unit's final project. For teaching tips, access Michael Pollick's "How to Block a Theatrical Scene" via URL address: or

search under "block scene."

Costuming is a minimal factor in Shakespeare's plays. The actors would wear their finest clothes and clothes donated to them from their patrons. Many modern productions take great liberty in costuming. There have been productions using a quasi-Nazi setting for Richard III, and Hamlets wearing leather jackets. As the teacher, you will have to decide how much attention you want students to put into any type of costuming. Costumes can up the "fun" factor, but impress upon students that Shakespeare didn't much concern himself with them; his attention was all on the words.

The Great Chain of Being or Scala Naturae

The Great Chain of Being or scala naturae (Latin for natural ladder) can be traced to the Ideas of the Good from the seventh book of Plato's Republic, and solidified during the Elizabethan period. The chain is the idea of the universe having an organic constitution in which all things on the earth and heavenly are arranged into a hierarchy of lowest to highest based the level of spirit contained in the entity.(19) All members of the chain strive to reach a higher level. Unfortunately, while the human soul strives for a higher level, human flesh is weak and sinks to the lower animal levels.

The hierarchal order is governed by the amount of spirit contained within one. The higher the amount of spirit one has, the higher in the order. This places God at the top, followed by angels, stars, the moon, kings, princes, noblemen, men, lions, on down to minerals. The biggest societal and political impact of the chain is that it bestows the Divine Right of Rule on kings, meaning that their placement is sanctioned by God. If anyone tries to usurp someone on a low level, little is disturbed, but on higher levels, natural disasters and wars ensue. Only when the breach is rectified, will peace be restored. A wonderful illustration of the chain can be viewed by searching on the Internet either under "Great Chain of Being" or "Rhetorica Christiana," which is a picture drawn of the Chain by Didacus Valades in 1579.

Possible Plot Threads for the One-act Plays

I eagerly choose Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear for this unit, because there are so many unresolved issues with which to shape a sequel. Some of the sequel options I have thought about are:

Is the Fool really gone? Is the Fool really Cordelia, as some analyses have surmised? The Fool is last in the play when he is in the hovel during the storm. His last line is "And I'll go to bed at noon," in response to Lear's line of, "So, so. We'll go to supper i' th' morning."(17) At the end of the play, Lear carries in Cordelia's body, and he says, "And my poor fool is hanged: no, no, no life?"(20) The footnote in my Folger edition of King Lear states: "fool Cordelia ("fool" being a term of endearment. But it is perfectly possible to take the word as referring also to the character of the Fool).(21) The problem is how one can transcend Cordelia's marriage to the King of France and her leaving with him to his kingdom. A further complication is Gloucester's letter in which he is informed of Cordelia's and France's arrival in Dover with troops. Certainly, the King of France would have a problem with his Queen wandering the countryside dressed like a fool even if she is with her father. But can the Fool appear in a sequel as the Fool? My vote is yes.

Albany—is a widower now. At the end of the play, he states that he is giving up his right to the throne, and only wants to keep the land given to him and Goneril on their wedding. What if he becomes greedier and wants the throne and all of England? Or marries someone who pushes him to want it all? Or has to take over the throne because no one else wanted it? Or just wants to meddle in political affairs?

Edgar—Is he, or isn't he, the next king? Who will be his queen? How will he find a queen? What is happening in the kingdom? What is he doing if he is not the king?

Kent—He says that he has little time left, but what happens if he stays to advise? Dies? What about any children he may have? Are they eager to intervene and take over the throne? Does he have a daughter that Albany and Edgar can fight over? A son wanting power?

Cordelia—O.K. Lear with his dying breath does say, "Do you see this? Look on her. Look, her lips, Look there, look there."(22) I want to stick to only plausible plot lines, and therefore would not allow students to misinterpret the play. Lear's attention to her lips is a referral to Act I, Scene i, where she chooses to speak of her love in simple, curt language and be silent versus the flowery untruths of her sisters. Lear finally understands her silent heart.

King of France—His wife has just died—been murdered in fact. Do you think he wants revenge? Would try to claim the British throne? Or at least some land? He certainly would not come without soldiers.

Baby of Regan and Cornwall—Lear vehemently shouts to Goneril in Act I, Scene iv, lines 281-296 that he wants Nature to keep her sterile, but nothing is mentioned about Regan and Cornwall not having any offspring. So, a girl or boy, or both is plausible, and a good choice to include in a sequel.

Baby of Cordelia and the King of France—Well, they are married. Could the reason France left be to take their child, the future heir to the throne, back to his kingdom? This situation could arise if Cordelia could not yet travel after the birth of their child, and owing to the need to protect the future heir to the French throne.


Themes refers not to the plot, which for Lear would be: selfish king abdicates to two rotten daughters while stupidly banishing loving daughter, but are universal lessons, usually culturally laden, dealing with abstract matters such as love, death, war, betrayal, and fate. The three themes that students should be able to detect in Lear are authority versus chaos, reconciliation, and devotion.

When Lear abandons his kingdom to his two manipulative daughters, he plunges all into chaos. The end result is a war that must be fought, with no side coming out the winner. This theme reappears with Lear wandering in the storm. Nature is rebelling against the havoc wrought because of the position of the king and his mental state. Lear realizes he is powerless and only a man. The chaos theme is evident as well in the subplot of Gloucester and Edgar. Edmund, the illegitimate son, usurps the legitimate son. Finally, the eclipse foretells chaos to come, and the storm is utter chaos on Nature's and Lear's part.

Reconciliation enters the picture the moment Lear disowns Cordelia. While Lear raves and struts, Cordelia remains calm and tries to reason with Lear. Immediately she is thinking of healing versus anger. Even after she is banished, Cordelia tells Lear that even though she has lost his favor, she is better for having had it (1.1.225-233). Cordelia risks all to reunite with and save her father. She comes back to England with a French army to do battle with her sisters, but Lear has to learn humbleness before he can reconcile with her in order to understand how he is at fault and to understand real love. The subplot of Gloucester and Edgar ties into this as well. Gloucester must lose his eyesight in order to see how he has wronged Edgar, and Edgar, in disguise, must wait to reveal himself to his father until he has grown as a man. While Gloucester and Edgar are not reunited on the stage, their reunion is told. An interesting side note concerning why Gloucester and Edgar are not reunited on stage is that many critics feel that such a reunion would take away from the focus of Lear's and Cordelia's reuniting.

Devotion of a parent and child is another theme. Cordelia and Edgar are identical in their love and devotion to their father no matter what transpired between them. Obeying one's parent was obligatory in this time period, and Goneril's and Regan's actions against their father would be almost inconceivable to audiences of the time. They would be considered truly evil. For more on a child's duty to her/his parent, Folger's website includes a primary document, "A Work Worth the Reading" written in 1591 by Charles Gibbons, and a lesson plan for using it in the classroom. To access both, go to tolovenew1.pdf or search under the document's title.


The motifs of the play are central ideas relayed in images—concrete, or ideas—abstract, that recur throughout the work, and contribute toward a piece's theme. Students may wish to continue using the motifs in King Lear in their one-act plays. The two prominent motifs are madness and betrayal.

Lear's descent into madness plunges all around him into chaos, but his descent finally gives him what will ultimately save his soul. Lear resurrects out of his madness, or in his madness, to understand love and the difference between what is real, and what is not. Before he was a child playing at being a king and a man. He was concerned only with his pleasures and having his way. Lear did not concern himself about the well-being of others including his daughters and subjects. Madness, while utter chaos, allows him to look through the mess to find a shard of hope to cling to. His shard is realizing that, like Edmund, he "was beloved."

Betrayal begins all the conflicts in the play, and ends them all, too. In the beginning, the two fathers, Lear and Gloucester, are betrayed by, in Lear's case his older daughters, and in Gloucester's case his youngest son. They continue to betray their parent by denying their father his rightful devotion and through webs of deceit. In the end, Goneril betrays Regan, then can no longer live with the guilt and realization that Regan had won Edmund,(23) and kills herself. Edmund betrays all by ordering Cordelia and Lear killed, but upon hearing that he was loved, repents by revealing his deed in the hope that Cordelia and Lear can be saved. The audience is then betrayed because they are given the hope that Cordelia and Lear can be saved and all can end well. Instead, Cordelia and Lear die.


Again, while teaching students how to discover symbols and the way they can be used in a work is important, but they also need to know the symbols in the play in order to use them in the culminating assignment. If students are not familiar with the use of symbols in literature, explain that a symbol represents an abstract concept and will not be a material object. A good test in deciding if something is a symbol or not is: if it can be held, it is not a symbol, but a metaphor. An example is a red rose; while it is an object, if you give it to someone you love, you are using the image of a red rose to represent your feelings. Love can not be held in one's hand. The major symbols in the play are quite accessible.

The most prominent symbol is blindness. Lear is unable to see the evil of Goneril and Regan. Gloucester cannot see the same in Edmund, yet Gloucester can see the truth about Goneril and Regan. While it takes Gloucester to be physically blinded in order to comprehend the truth about Edmund and Edgar, Lear must fall into madness—total denial of order, at the realization of what he is brought onto himself. One cannot hold blindness, so it meets my informal test. Formally, it is a fault of both fathers in the play. They are unable to perceive the truth, due to their own faulty beliefs, ideals, and rigidity. Blindness, to both, is at first only a fault in their character; it becomes a fact to Gloucester at the exact moment he is gifted with the truth, and Lear loses his sanity when he is able to comprehend all.

The raging storm is a physical manifestation of Lear's inner self, and of the break in the Great Chain of Being or scala naturae. Lear has just been stripped of all his kingly trappings by Goneril and Regan. All that remains is a broken old man. This disrupts the natural order, and the highest ordering of man. Havoc results and will continue until the fissure is healed.

While they are not a symbol or symbols, the play has an inordinate amount of different animals and other creatures sprinkled throughout the dialogue. Shakespeare gives us dogs, a dragon, bears, kites, a serpent, wolves, crabs, oyster, and a snail in Act I alone. Students may wish to continue such references in their dialogue, too.

Strategies for Reading Shakespeare and Writing Like Shakespeare

I feel that the same strategies students will need to comprehend a work by Shakespeare, they also can use to write like Shakespeare. Many editions of his works include such a guide, but they are generally too erudite for my students' age group. The link "The Language of Shakespeare," which is part of the Shakespeare Resource Center website (at language.html) is a nice alternative, but the following is a basic guide for this undertaking.

General dialogue rules for Shakespeare's plays are: commoners or the lower class spoke in prose and heavily used slang; for other characters, he often employed the use of blank verse, which is unrhymed verse with a regular meter, Shakespeare stuck with unrhymed iambic pentameter meter lines that echo normal conversation, but with more grandeur; for royalty and "other serious talkers," he would use rhymed iambic pentameter.(24) Iambic pentameter is defined as a line with ten syllables having the pattern of an unaccented syllable follow an accented one. In writing their sequels, students should try to follow these rules.

The common sentence structure today is Subject, Verb, Object. For example: George Kelly (S) won (V) the race (O). Shakespeare would play with this structure, because the structure was not as set as it is today, and he was creating lines that followed a poetic pattern (iambic pentameter). His lines would often become VSO reading "Won George Kelly the Race" and even OSV as in "The race George Kelly won." If students are having trouble understanding a line, teach them to locate and place the subject and verb in normal order, then add the rest.(25)

Our spelling today reflects, not our current pronunciation, but medieval pronunciation. This time warp effect had already occurred in Shakespeare's time. Elizabethan spelling reflected not the pronunciation of the time, but of the Middle English time period. An interesting note is that while scholars can only guess at how an Elizabethan English person spoke, they believe that the speech of a "modern stage Irishman" is very close with pronunciations like "time" spoken like "toime" and "old" like "awld."(26)

There are three important differences in pronunciation between Shakespeare's time and ours, that if understood will help in understanding his words. The first is in where a word is accented or stressed. Today we would put the strongest stress on the first syllable in "aspect," but it is on the second if you lived in Shakespeare's time.(27)

The second is in the number of syllables, which can be fewer in number or more now. As an example, today the word "needle" has two syllables, but in Shakespeare's time, "needle" was pronounced "neel." This means the word now has two syllables, but had only one in Shakespeare's time. Another example is "villain," pronounced "vil-lay-in." This means the word changed from three syllables in Shakespeare's life to two now.(28) Shakespeare had another trick to cut syllables and stay in the iambic pentameter line count; he often used an apostrophe in the place of a syllable.

The final difference in pronunciation is in puns or jokes. Today, since we often do not follow the pronunciation rules that supported Shakespeare's puns, or know much about many of the subjects such as armory and weapons, their meaning is lost without background. Always look at the line notes for an explanation. However, Shakespeare did not use humor only for fun. He often used a pun to show normalcy, point out facts of life, be ironic, and allow the audience to either be set-up for a sudden reversal or relief pent-up emotion.(29)

Out of use or dead vocabulary poses another problem in reading. Today few of us have a typewriter or a phonograph, so those words are becoming less used, and may eventually become dead. The same has occurred for jobs, hobbies, battle terms, clothing, etc. common in Shakespeare's time, but not ours.(30) Again, line notes are key.

Coinage of words was a talent of Shakespeare's, but while some of his words have become standard words today, such as: dwindle, laughable, assassin, frugal, and countless, others come alive only when the play it is in is performed. In this category, my favorite is "smilet" for a little smile.

There are a number of words from Shakespeare's time that now mean something else. Words like "'a" meant "he," "closet" meant "a small private room," and "fond" meant "foolish." Some can be charted for the class, but line notes explain all.

Playwriting 101—Ideas

Discuss with students the plot threads left dangling at the conclusion of King Lear, those in the section "Possible Plot Threads for the One-Act Play" and any students can devise. I recommend allowing only ones that could plausibly occur. Ask students where can they take these threads, and what characters they are interested in using in their play. Students can begin building their plot through brainstorming exercises like a web and Quickwrites. They should move on to more detailed outlining such as using the Freytag Pyramid structure. Sharing of possible plots is a good to a point, but don't let students reveal too much to others, or too many of the productions will follow the same lines.

Character Study

One step toward completing their culminating project that will be easy for students is developing their characters. By Act I or II, begin letting students use character charting using a simple organizer that asks for use of textual evidence such as the character's speech, position in the play, what other characters say about the character, their actions, and any props used by the character to develop an understanding of the character's personality. Make sure they analyze Lear, Edgar, Edmund, Gloucester, Albany, the Fool, and Kent as the majority of these characters will be able to be used in the sequel, and those that don't, are great characters to study.


The setting is still 8th century England. I would discourage any transportation or beaming the players to another time and place.

Basic Structure to Use

Like a story, a play needs a beginning, middle, and end. A story must also have rising action and conflict. To aid students in their writing, have them test their play plot by charting using the Freytag Pyramid and Aristotle's definition of a tragedy.

Remind students that a play is dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue. This is truly "Show, Don't Tell" time. Yes, there is movement, stage directions (but not many), costumes, and a set, but ultimately, whatever is happening must be voiced by someone. Remind them that Shakespeare was more interested in what his characters said, than how they and the scene looked. There are several exercises geared for teaching the use of dialogue driven stories. The majority set a scene such as a mother and daughter arguing over the daughter coming home hours past her curfew time. The exercise is completed with one student taking the mother's role, and another, the daughter's. Only 26 lines of dialogue can be spoken with the pattern of words per line following from line one use of 2-4 words only, 4, line two use of 2-4 words, line three-2-4 words, four-2-4 words, five-2-4 words, six-2-4 words, seven-2-4 words, eight-2-4 words, nine-2-4 words, ten-2-4 words, eleven-1-2 words, twelve-1-2 words, thirteen-1-2 words, fourteen-1-2 words, fifteen-1 word, sixteen-1 word, seventeen-1 word, eighteen-1 word, nineteen-20 or more words, and twenty-20 or more words, twenty-one-4-6 words, twenty-two-4-6 words, twenty-three-4-6 words, twenty-four-4-6 words, twenty-five-2-4 words, twenty-six-2-4 words. Have the students read their production to the class. They will be amazed at how the story will move using dialogue only.

Finally, dialogue must be action. As Jeffrey Hatcher in The Art & Craft of Playwriting states, "…good dialogue creates an event, changes the dynamic of the plot, and alters the characters' lives. It is action-oriented. It has a subject and a predicate, and it emphasizes the verb. An active verb is dramatic. Good dialogue is language doing."(28)

Since this will be the first time most students will be writing a one-act play, limit their structure to one act with three scenes. They should try to stick with five main characters, not counting a servant, messenger, or a knight or two with only a few lines.

They should use the standard manuscript format structure of:


    Why doth thy mournin' make stars fear thy face?
    For water streak along the course like waves
    blanketing shore of sand, and rocky caves.


    Left alone, am I, to wander the shore.
    The king, mine was, has left a breach of black.

This structure differs from a published play, as it is for a working script. Publishing necessitates compacting space, and thus the speaker and his/her lines, are grouped tighter.

Stage directions must have their own line, be in parentheses, and indented an additional two inches. When stage directions are needed while a character is speaking and will continue speaking, use a single space between the dialogue and the directions. If the directions are needed between two characters' dialogue, double space between the directions and the dialogue.(31)

Soliloquies and Asides

Simply, Shakespeare's plays always have them. An example of a soliloquy in Lear is Edmund's bastard speech (Act I, Scene ii and Appendix A). Asides, or comments an actor utters revealing their thoughts to only the audience, abound in the Fool's lines with King Lear. If you have not already done so, explain to students what they are and the importance of including them in their work.

Culminating Project Differentiation

If you feel writing a one-act play could be too difficult for some or all of your students, change the assignment to writing a ten minute play. Ten minute plays break down to a page per minute for a total of ten pages.

Classroom Activities

Through this section, the basic instructional pathway of the IFL teaching style is demonstrated. I recommend a slow pace in the beginning, which will allow students time to adapt to the language of Shakespeare. This in turn will aid in comprehension and the ability of students to learn his style of writing. All following lessons should flow in much the same manner. However, if needed, a time saver is changing independent work to pair/trio groups and skipping the pair/trio sharing since they would already have done so.

Day One—Access prior knowledge—have students respond to the following question in their Reader's/Writer's Notebook: How do you feel about your parent(s) 'control over you? Explain. After allotting a few minutes for students to write, have them share their responses with a partner. Then go to a whole group share. Following the group share, discuss with students the work they will be doing in this unit & distribute a culminating project guide with the grading rubric. Begin Quote toss-out (Appendix B)—Distribute one of the five quotes to five different students. Have them teach the class the quotes. Afterward, ask students to take one of the quotes and write what they feel the quote means. Share responses with partners, and then whole group. Direct instruction—provide background of the play. Assign parts and begin reading Act I, Scene i. Homework: 1. Students respond in their notebooks to the gist questions—Who are the characters? What is happening here? How do we know? Responses are generally either a list of characters and a bulleting of different happenings in the scene or the list of characters with the happenings in a summary paragraph. Teacher Note—After the Quote toss-out activity display the quotes in the classroom. This can be done in a section of the room, or just randomly throughout the room. Quotes should have act, scene, and line(s) identification. Option: Continue adding quotes throughout the play.

Day 2—Homework share—have students share their homework responses first in pairs, and then whole group. Look at reading strategies (available in most editions of the play and wonderfully done on the website "The Language of Shakespeare" With the class, chart the strategies, and display the chart in the classroom throughout the unit. You may also want to return to the chart after students have finished reading Act I to see how they are using the strategies. Reread Act I, Scene i, but this time have students stand in front of the class and try to move as if they were on stage. Direct Instruction—acquaint students with stage diagram showing stage right, center, etc. and reviewing blocking information from an Internet site such as Michael Pollick's "How to Block a Theatrical Scene" mentioned earlier. After students have learned about the movements and stage directions, they should work in small groups to find three significant lines from Act I, Scene i. They are to record the lines in their notebooks using a T-chart. On the left side of the chart, record the quote (make sure they properly note act, scene, and line), and on the right side they are to explain why each particular line(s) is important. Following completion of the work, have students share their responses. Homework: Students are to read Act 1, Scene 2 and record the gist for the scene in their notebooks. Gist questioning is: Who are the characters? What is happening here? How do we know?

Day 3—Homework share—have students share their homework responses first in pairs, and then in whole group. Distribute copies of the Edmund exercise, which is Appendix A. Note: In copying this form, you may want to use two sheets of paper to make it easier for students to review the "Rhetorical Tools" while they search for them in the two different Edmund speeches. Direct Instruction—explain to students about the rewriting of the play by Nahum Tate. If possible, use a PowerPoint, Elmo, or projector of the exercise, and go line by line through Shakespeare's original version. This will demonstrate to students reading strategies. Then quickly, as Tate's version is not as rich, the rewritten section. Explain to students that Edmund's speech opens Tate's version of the play. You may want to ask students how switching Edmund's speech to the opening of the play changes the story. Review the "Rhetorical Tools" definitions. Have students work in pairs/trios discovering the rhetorical tools. After the assignment is completed, review responses in a whole group discussion. When the whole exercise has been completed, ask them to write a reflection in their notebooks on how the exercise aided their learning. This can be turned into an exit slip exercise by having students write their response on an index card or paper and turn it in at the end of class.

Additional activities for this unit: After reading and writing the gist for Act I, Scene iii, have students make their own family tree and then one for all the characters in the play.

To quickly check on comprehension, have students write a newspaper headline encapsulating a scene's major focus. This can be used as an exit or entry slip exercise.

Having students write a letter works as a synthesizing exercise and lets students begin to dabble in Shakespearean style. Some places for this exercise are: after Cordelia is banished, either she or the Fool writes a letter to the other; Kent writes a letter to his family after rejoining Lear or after Lear's death; the Fool writes a letter explaining why he left Lear (the letter can be sent to Kent or Cordelia); and after leaving Cordelia, the King of France sends a letter to Cordelia or she can send him a letter.

Writing an obituary for Lear, Edmund, and/or Cordelia. For this exercise, have students use the longer story type obituary. Show examples before assigning task.

An important exercise that should be done several times is to take a scene such as Act I, Scene iv, lines 152-193 and have students find rhetorical tools and block it. In this scene, the Fool is using an extended metaphor to the point that it becomes an allegory of how foolish Lear was to give away his power. There is humor in this scene as well. Some questions particular to this section are:

  1. In this scene, the Fool is using a parable to tell King Lear the truth. In your notebook, write the parable and then the truth.
  2. Use your Rhetorical Tool list from "Which Edmund is Best?" exercise, and mark any that you find in this excerpt.
  3. Using a different color pen, a pencil, or a fine marker, indicate how you think the Fool and King Lear move in this scene? How would you block the scene? Refer to your stage diagram for correct labeling of stage right, center, etc.
  4. Look at the scene again. Note on the paper voice instructions. Think of mood, tone, and volume differences.
  5. Confer with a partner on choices. Finalize the blocking, and practice to perform it. Only the two hardest working teams will be chosen to perform their staging for the class.


  1. Jay L. Halio, Critical Essays on Shakespeare's King Lear (New York: Hall, 1996), 2.
  2. Harold Bloom, Bloom's Shakespeare Through the Ages: King Lear (New York: Infobase), 53. This is also noted in the 1998 Signet Classic edition of the play.
  3. Russell Fraser, ed. William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear (New York: Signet, 1998), 163.
  4. Bloom, Critical Essays on Shakespeare, xi-xii.
  5. Fraser, ed., William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear, lxiii.
  6. Aristotle, Poetics, ("The Internet Classics Archive" poetics.1.1.html>), IV.
  7. Barbara F. McManus, "Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics"
  8. Http:// home/bmcmanus/poetics.html>).
  9. Dr. Paul Fry notes from 07/16/09.
  10. I was reminded by Dr. Fry that a subplot is generally defined as a story line woven throughout the main plot, and runs the length of the play. Thus, Kent's story line qualifies as a subplot.
  11. McManus, "Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics."
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Percy Scholes, "The Purpose Behind Shakespeare's Use of Music," J-Stor, 1.
  18. Ibid., 1-15. A side note is that only Shakespeare's Henry V uses a true chorus, in order to help cast the illusion of scope as befitting the still-felt glorious British victory over the French at Agincourt.
  19. Dictionary of the History of Ideas, "Chain of Being" (>), 1.
  20. Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear, 3.6.84-85.
  21. Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear, 5.3.307.
  22. Fraser, William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear, 144.
  23. Norrie Epstein, The Friendly Shakespeare, (New York: Penguin, 1993), 401.
  24. Dr. Fry provided the analysis of possibly Goneril killed herself not just due to guilt over killing her sister, but also realizing that Regan had won Edmund.
  25. J.M. Pressley, "Shakespeare's Grammar," The Language of Shakespeare (http://>).
  26. Fraser, William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear, xix.
  27. Ibid., xix.
  28. Ibid., xiv.
  29. Ibid., xii.
  30. Ibid., xix-xx.
  31. Ibid., xxi-xxiii.
  32. Jonathan Dorf, Young Playwrights 101: A Practical Guide for Young Playwrights and Those Who Teach Them, (New York: YouthPlay, 2005), 46.
  33. Dorf, Young Playwrights 101: A Practical Guide for Young Playwrights and Those Who Teach Them, 118-120.


Aristotle. Poetics. The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. S.H. Butcher. 19 July 2009, Modern translation of Artistotle's seminal work on the definition of tragedy, Ancient Greek history of it, and elements that comprise one.

Bloom, Harold. Bloom's Shakespeare Through the Ages: King Lear. New York: Infobase, 2008. Valuable work for reviewing the work from when first produced to present.

Dorf, Jonathan. Young Playwrights 101: A Practical Guide for Young Playwrights and Those Who Teach Them. New York: YouthPlay Press, 2005. Very user friendly advice on writing a play from a very successful teacher and playwright.

Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Shakespeare. New York: Penguin, 1993. Well-written guide of play summaries, the life of Shakespeare, his stage, and commentary on most things Shakespeare.

Formigari, Lia. "Chain of Being." Dictionary of the History of Ideas. 1 May 2003 19 July 2009 A historical analysis of the chain along with the fluctuations that have occurred since its inception.

Halio, Jay L., ed. Critical Essays on Shakespeare's King Lear. New York: Hall, 1996. Fairly current compilation of essays on the play.

Hatcher, Jeffrey. The Art and Craft of Playwriting. Cincinnati: Story Press, 2000. Basics of playwriting from elements and Aristotle to interviews on craft by playwrights Marsha Norman and Jose Rivera.

Mallon, Harriet. "Writing a One-Act Play: A Webquest for Creative Writers." 2004 25 May 2009. Well-done site with good links, reader's theatre pieces with how-tos, and guidance in first time one-act playwriting.

McManus, Barbara F. "Outline of Aristotle's Theory of Tragedy in the Poetics." November 1999. 11 July 2009. Student friendly explanation of Aristotle's theory.

Pressley, J.M. "Shakespeare's Grammar." Shakespeare Resource Center. 1 May 2009 15 June 2009 Student-friendly site itemizing the differences in language today versus Shakespeare's time.

Scholes, Percy. "The Purpose Behind Shakespeare's Use of Music." Proceedings of the Musical Association. 1916-1917. J-Stor 20 July 2009.>.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of King Lear. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul

Werstine, Paul. New York: Pocket Books, 1993. Folger edition of the play, but interested in the introduction by Mowat and Werstine. —The Tragedy of King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. New York: Signet, 1998. Edition will be using for reading and quotation—also has scholarly addendums including vocabulary, "The Shakespeare Canon," and "The Play Text as a Collaborative."

Ray, Robert H., Ed. Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's King Lear. New York: Modern Language Association, 1986. One book that contains additional readings and 16 different teaching approaches covering character analysis to themes.

Tate, N. The History of King Lear. Norwich: Cornmarket Press, 1969. Shakespeare's play foundation, but adapted for late 17th century times.

Appendix A—Comparing Shakespeare's and Tate's Opening & Learning Rhetorical Tools

Which Edmund Plots Best?

The following is Edmund's soliloquy from Nahum Tate's The History of King Lear" which he adapted from Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear. Tate used Edmund's speech to open his version. Shakespeare used it to open Act I, Scene ii, 1-22.

Enter Bastard solus.

      Thou Nature art my Goddess, to thy Law
      My Services are bound, why am I then
      Depriv'd of a Son's Right because I came not
      In the dull Road that custom has prescrib'd?
      Why Bastard, wherefore Base, when I can boast
      A Mind as gen'rous and a Shape as true
      As honest Madam's Issue? why are we
      Held Base, who in the lusty stealth of Nature
      Take fiercer Qualities than what compound
      The scanted Births of the stale Marriage-bed? [10]
      Well then, legitimate Edgar, to thy right
      Of Law I will oppose a Bastard's Cunning.
      Our Father's Love is to the Bastard Edmund
      As to Legitimate Edgar: with success
      I've practis'd yet on both their easie Natures:
      Here comes the old Man chaf't with th'Information
      Which last I forg'd against my Brother Edgar,
      A Tale so plausible, so boldly utter'd
      And heightned by such luck Accidents,
      That now the slightest circumstance confirms him, [20]
      And Base-born Edmund spight of Law inherits.
  1. Read Tate's version and then read Shakespeare's of Edmund's soliloquy (a soliloquy is when a character talks to themselves—thinks aloud—on stage for the audience's sake. What do you notice different about the two versions? The same? Record your response in your Reader's/Writer's Notebook. Remember to label and date the entry. You can use a Venn Diagram for your responses.) How does the placement of the speech in the play alter perspective?
  2. Shakespeare was a master in the use of rhetoric, meaning the art of using language effectively and persuasively. See if you can find the following rhetorical tools in the speeches: metaphor, simile, repetition, antithesis, oxymoron, malapropism, coining of words, and appositive. (Note: If you can not find one of the rhetoric tools in this section, find one in the play.) Again, use your Reader's/Writer's Notebook to record your answers. Make a T-chart. On the right side, label it "Tate," and on the left, label it "Shakespeare."
  3. After finding as many rhetorical tools as you can, reread the speech and add any new interpretations or thoughts about the writing to your response to Question #One of this worksheet.

Appendix B—Quote Toss-out

The following are quotes that can be used for the opening exercise of this unit. Cut out the quotes and give one to five students as they enter the room. Instruct them that they will be in charge of having the rest of the class memorize the lines. Note: For differentiation, you may need to supply some students with either the longer quotes written on a paper or a copy of this sheet.

      "Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least." (1.1.154)

      "The worst is not
      So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'" (4.1.26-27)

      "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
      They kill us for their sport." (4.1.36-37)
      "so we'll live,
      And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
      At gilded butterflies…" (5.3.11-13)

      "Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
      My services are bound." (1.2.1-2)

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