Single Parenting and Family Dynamics Then and Now: King Lear

byJane Upton Hall

(Photo Source: 1)

    This Figure, that thou here feeft put,
    It was for gentle Shakefpeare cut;
    Wherein the Grauer had a ftrife
    with Nature, to out-doo the life:
    O, could he but haue drawne his wit
    As well in braffe, as he hath hit
    His face; the Print would then furpaffe
    All, that vvas vvrit in braffe.
    But, fince he cannot, Reader, looke
    Not on his Picture, but his Booke
    (9, Frontispiece)


This unit will combine elements of King Lear's and Gloucester's familial relationships in what we today call a single parent environment, so students can identify with specific issues they confront in their daily lives. We will blend Lear's and Gloucester's familial situations and show how, in our current environment, the many students who live within a single parent household undergo filial conditions that are not much different those in Shakespeare's day depicted in King Lear. The dealings children experience with their parents, among their siblings, and within their extended families will be visited in this unit as we study Lear's and Gloucester's family dynamics and comparing/contrasting students' family situations.

"Oh, no, here it comes! We have to read another Shakespeare play. Why don't these teachers realize that we have absolutely nothing in common with a dude who wrote plays four hundred years ago? Why can't we at least read something more up-to-date and less depressing than this old junk? What is their objective in making us do this stuff over and over every year? It's just not fair that we're punished like this!" This is the general consensus among high school students at Westside High School in Houston, Texas when they are saddled with having to study a Shakespearean work; they think they are being punished by reading something with which they cannot identify. All of the three thousand students attending Westside - or any high school in the state of Texas - are exposed to various works of the bard during their tenure: freshmen romance their way through Romeo and Juliet, sophomores clash with Julius Caesar, prep/grade level seniors muddle through Macbeth, and Advanced Placement seniors are immersed in Hamlet and King Lear. Westside's demographic includes approximately 30% African American, 30% Caucasian, 30% Hispanic, and 10% Asian/Pacific Islander/Middle Eastern students. The school's classes consist of full inclusion for Special Education and 504-designated students; lessons and assessments for these students must have appropriate modifications or accommodations. Although this unit will be directed predominantly toward Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition students, it can certainly be adapted to address students in regular grade level classes, including those who are classified as 504 or Special Education, with appropriate modifications.


Students will receive a brief refresher course on the background of William Shakespeare and Elizabethan theater by watching a film lecture by Professor Eliot Engel (5). While viewing the film, students will complete a film quiz (Assignment 1), which we will discuss at the conclusion of the film lecture. This will give them a good foundation to understand the workings of the Elizabethan theater, Shakespeare's group of actors, and his theater, The Globe. They will review information about Queen Elizabeth, the English Renaissance, and the Queen's love and support of the theater. Students will be able to visualize the way the play would have been presented in Shakespeare's time on the small jutting stage of The Globe and appreciate the need for audience members to possess a great imagination to see and enjoy a performance in an outdoor theater in the middle of the afternoon in Renaissance England that includes night scenes and indoor and outdoor scenes, without the benefit of elaborate sets and costumes (3). To truly appreciate these theatrical masterpieces the audience's attention had to be focused on the characters and their dialogue.

Shakespeare was not always appreciated as the great dramatist we know and love today by all members of his society. A rival of his, Robert Greene, was an actor who was compared to Shakespeare's character of Falstaff and a "pamphleteer" who warned his supporters and readers against Shakespeare as a "puppet" when he wrote and circulated the following in one of his pamphlets:

"There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes-factotum ["jack-of-all-trades, master of none"] is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country."(2)

An understanding of the background of Elizabethan English society and theater-going behavior is crucial for students so that they recognize the importance of theater productions to the lives of even the poorest Renaissance Englishmen. Stage productions intimately related to the daily lives of the audience. The most ignorant member of the audience was able to understand what the action on the stage meant and could identify with and enjoy what modern audiences consider to be Shakespeare's most difficult works, like King Lear. Shakespeare's most tragic material, like Lear, contains comic moments not immediately grasped by today's audiences, but clearly understood by the poorest Englishmen, like the groundlings, as well as the more well-to-do members of the audience. Shakespeare could not write works to be enjoyed only by the Queen, her Court, and other members of the aristocracy, since, to make money to support himself, his theatrical troupe, and his theater, he had to attract lower members of society who would pay to see his work performed. (8)

Literary and dramatic devices will be discussed and identified throughout the play; for example (3):

Blank Verse

Shakespeare used iambic pentameter verse paragraphs, which give the illusion of speech; this sometimes includes shared lines within the dialogue.

Feminine endings

Some lines include an extra unstressed syllable at the end of a line that may suggest indecisiveness or uncertainty.


The Elizabethans borrowed this technique from the Roman dramatist Seneca; it is the exchange of single or paired lines in which the words of one speaker are picked up and tossed back by another, giving the effect of a duel with words.


There is a pattern of storm images and sight images, which are significant in Lear.


Puns, metaphors and similes involve bringing remote areas of relationships, whether paternal or siblings, into focus and give them meaning.


External conflict refers to a struggle between a character and an outside force such as nature or another character. Internal conflict is a mental conflict occurring within the character.


A humorous confusion of words that sound vaguely similar; from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Sheridan' drama, "The Rivals", who makes amusing blunders in her use of words.

Dramatic Irony

A plot device in which the audience's knowledge of events or characters surpasses that of the characters onstage. The words and actions of the characters take on a different meaning for the audience or reader than they have for the play's characters. This may occur when a character reacts in an inappropriate or foolish way or when a character lacks self-awareness and acts under false assumptions.


Various allusions refer to the Bible, classical mythology, English history, and events in Shakespeare's time.


Gross exaggerations are used for effect.


Stop periodically during the close reading to identify events that have been foretold earlier in the story. For example, what did the sight imagery in the first scene of the first act foreshadow?


Lear uses a figure of speech when he addresses the fool and suddenly breaks off and addresses (in the second person) a person who is not there. In Act I, Scene ii Edmund invokes "Nature" to justify his actions in deceiving his father.

We will identify these and other devices as we go through the play; students will be expected to define these terms connotatively, quote examples of these elements from the play, and cite how they are significant to the meaning of a character's traits and performance. As various literary, dramatic, and poetic devices are introduced, students will be held accountable for finding examples of literary/dramatic devices and explaining their significance within the text as we go through the play's characters and themes. They will also find examples of these devices as they occur in their daily lives, in their own homes, among their own families.


Little do today's high school students realize that the issues with which they are faced - single parent families, sibling rivalry, conflicts, and betrayals within their family units - are also problems confronted by families during the Elizabethan period, in which Shakespeare lived and wrote his plays. King Lear, who is a single father raising three daughters, and his cohort, Gloucester, who is likewise a single father with two sons - one of whom is illegitimate - suffer all the trials and tribulations of parent-child relationships that students wade through with their parents and siblings today. Likewise, the siblings in these two families bicker, love, laugh, and suffer through the gamut of emotions today's teenagers go through within their family units. (11) Just as students are very familiar with the people who make up their family dynamic, we will study the characters in King Lear in depth, searching for comparable familiarity, to draw parallels and observe contrasts within today's family units.

When Lear asks, "Tell me, my daughters, / Which of you shall we say doth love us most, / That we our largest bounty may extend / Where merit doth most challenge it?", Lear's two oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, skillfully tell him whatever he wants to hear in order to receive a large share of his kingdom, although their sincerity is dubious at best. However, Lear's youngest and most beloved daughter, Cordelia, believes she should be honest with him in expressing her feelings when she comments, "Unhappy that I am, / I cannot heave my heart into my mouth, / I love your majesty / According to my bond, nor more nor less"; her honesty leads to her downfall within the family. When she states that she "cannot heave my heart into my mouth", she expresses her difficulty in making her inner self visible to her father; she is more concerned with maintaining her integrity than with protecting her father's feelings. (7) Cordelia may be interpreted as being such a na?ve innocent that she really believes her truthfulness will prevail, and she will remain in her father's good graces. However, Lear's response of "nothing can come of nothing" and his disowning of Cordelia sets the tragedy in motion.

As the tragedy unfolds, Goneril's husband, Albany, reaches a new level of awareness about the nature of his wife: "Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile; / Filths savour but themselves, / What have you done? / Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?" Albany believes that an evil, vile person like Goneril can only perceive wickedness as good, while she accepts virtue as being toxic and distasteful: "See thyself, devil. / Proper deformity shows not in the fiend / So horrid as in woman ... / Howe'er thou art a fiend, / A woman's shape doth shield thee." Goneril involves herself in an affair with Edmund, which adds to her already immoral behavior, which she has plainly demonstrated toward her husband, her father, and her sisters. Regan goes hand in hand with her older sister; Albany calls her a "gilded serpent". She is ruthless and aggressive, and vies for Edmund's affections against her sister. Regan revels in violent and cruel acts, such as the blinding of Gloucester. When Cornwall gouges out one of Gloucester's eyes and stomps on it, Regan comments, "One side will mock another; t'other one too", indicating that his other eye should suffer the same fate. Once both eyes are plucked out, she demands he be "thrust out at the gates" so that he can "smell his was to Dover." She is relentless, and since such evil people dismiss goodness as hypocrisy, Regan never appreciates her virtuous sister, Cordelia, and in fact, she actively dislikes her. Both Goneril and Regan are ultimately recognized for what they are: "they are cultivated ladies of the court on the outside - elegant, well-spoken, and controlled - but inside they are fiends, serpents, dogs. It is not just that their true intentions are hidden; they are actually different kinds of being beneath the silky surface, creatures of another species. Ferocious killers lurk behind the ladylike appearance, occasionally bursting to the surface with fangs flaring." (12) Regan and Goneril are both compared to wild, predatory animals in the play: "It is harder to tell whose fangs are sharper - the lion's or the sisters'."

Cordelia never really stands a chance of being understood by her father when both of her sisters conspire against her. She is the youngest daughter and her father's favorite. However, because she refuses to compromise her integrity and fawn over her father, she is disinherited. She tries to tell her father that when she marries, she will only be able to give him half of her love because the other half is reserved for her husband, but Lear refuses to accept her response. His behavior might have been different if he had a female counterpart to offer her input, but the absence of a mother figure makes Lear's treatment of Cordelia unforgivable because there is no form of nurturing or forgiveness, most often attributed to mother figures, even from her two sisters. He ultimately realizes that Cordelia is his true and faithful daughter. When he reaches the state of being a poor outcast after Goneril and Regan send him away, he better understands the plight he cast upon Cordelia: "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, / That bide the pelting of this pitiless night, / How shall you houseless heads and unfed sides, / Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you / From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en / Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp, Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, / That thou mayst shake the superflux to them /And show the heavens more just." Although Cordelia is married and living with the King of France, she was unceremoniously exiled from her home and her father, whom she had loved all her life. She may feel obligated to care for France because he is her husband, but she has suffered the loss of familial love. Lear also experiences this significant loss but comes to have a greater comprehension of the poor and homeless that he previously scorned, thus instilling in him compassion and a broader vision of social justice. In a paradoxical sense, he is a richer man now than when he was the undisputed king of Britain. In this same vein, when she reconciles with her father, Cordelia learns to put on an act for the sake of other people's feelings, rather than valuing her honesty and integrity above all, and she understands that kind words can be better than the truth.

Lear's ultimate madness sobers him, and he reconciles with Cordelia: "Pray, do not mock. / I am a very foolish, fond old man, / Fourscore and upward, and to deal plainly, / I fear I am not in my perfect mind. / Methinks I should know you, and know this man; / Yet I am doubtful, for I am mainly ignorant / What place this is; and all the skill I have / Remembers not these garments; nor I know not / Where I did lodge last night. / Do not laugh at me, / For as I am a man, I think this lady / To be my child, Cordelia." He is no longer the powerful, egotistical, arrogant king but is, quite literally, a rather decrepit old man full of self-doubt, perhaps recovering from a serious mental blackout, which may have been partially brought about by the deception of Goneril and Regan.

Gloucester mirrors Lear's behavior in a way when he mistakenly sides with his illegitimate son, Edmund, over his legitimate child, Edgar, and in the end, he suffers for this decision. Edmund, the bastard son, deceives Gloucester by pretending to have a traitorous letter penned by Edgar. Gloucester, convinced of Edgar's perfidy, tells Edmund, "Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing." Edgar, who is unjustly rejected by his father, roams around in the guise of a beggar, Poor Tom. Edmund's very first act is to make his father believe that Edgar is about to deceive and betray him. However, Edmund believes that he is possibly evil by nature and not by intention when he remarks, "Some good I mean to do, / Despite of mine own nature." When Gloucester is betrayed by Edmund and struck blind by Regan and Cornwall, his physical blindness allows him to see that "Edgar was abused." Edgar, who is forced to disguise himself as the beggar, Poor Tom, to survive, although he is a virtuous man, makes his father believe that he is saving him from suicide at the white cliffs of Dover, although they are nowhere near the cliffs, thus allowing Edgar to emerge as a truly virtuous hero.

A major theme in King Lear is the intolerance, deception, and betrayal the family members have for each other, both among Lear and his daughters and Gloucester and his sons. (10) The play presents an interpretation of a seriously dysfunctional family. Lear brings out the worst in his daughters Goneril and Regan by allowing these two women to triumph as deceitful, greedy, manipulative, foul, loathsome creatures who easily give rise to suffering and discord within their family unit. When they achieve their self-serving goals of attaining their father's entire kingdom, they vie for the same man, Edmund, and eventually evoke the downfall of each other. Goneril's husband, Albany, is good at heart, and although he eventually denounces the evil trio of Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall, he is slow to act and indecisive. Although Cordelia initially embodies a positive female image, Lear is irrational in his decisions toward her due to his ideas of how a female should honor her father. She is dishonorably cast out of the family and forced to marry the King of France, a man she neither knows well nor probably wants to marry. He is clearly the second choice after Burgundy refuses to marry her because she is disinherited and has no dowry. Additionally, she is having to leave her homeland to live in a foreign environment among total strangers; she is removed from all that is familiar to her. This theme of family dysfunctionality transcends time, thus allowing today's students to identify with the hostility that ensues between Lear and his daughters as well as between the three siblings. Students today experience similar events in their lives because so many of them either live in single parent families, with grandparents or other relatives, or in other undesirable environments, yet they manage to survive. They can convey their feelings about Lear and Gloucester and their familial relationships compared to how their circumstances may parallel Lear's or Gloucester's.

Another strong theme that aligns with the familial relationships addresses the battle between good and evil among the family members. (4) The main characters are betrayed by the people closest to them, the people they should love the best. Although the Lear's and Gloucester's betrayal of their children is basically unintentional, the other children deceive their fathers due to their greed and their hunger for power. Lear believes Goneril when she says, "Sir, I love you more that word can wield the matter; / Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty", and likewise, he believes Regan when she remarks, "...I profess / Myself an enemy to all other joys / Which the most precious square of sense possesses, / And find I am alone felicitate / In your dear Highness's love." Even when Cordelia brings it to his attention that "Why have my sisters husbands, if they say / They love you all? ... / Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters / To love my father all," he pays no attention. Only later when these two eldest daughters rebuke him and cast him out of their homes is he driven to understand the true meaning of love and devotion, which Cordelia felt for him all along. Similarly, Gloucester too quickly believes Edmund when he is told that Edgar, his biological son, is set on betraying him and is, in fact, plotting his death. Shakespeare presents two patriarchal families and tackles problems arising within single parent families.


Journaling / Socratic discussion / connecting to life

Each class period begins with journaling. Students engage in silent sustained writing about a journal prompt on the board; the prompts are relevant to the topics we will be discussing in class that day, for example:

Explain the significance of Cordelia's statement to her father that she loves

him "according to [her] bond, no more no less".

Explain why Edmund is determined to trick Gloucester into thinking that Edgar

is plotting to betray his father. Be very specific in your response. Explain the

apostrophe in I, i. Cite evidence.

Write a persuasive paragraph about how France sees Cordelia's "tardiness in

nature". Is her inarticulate nature with her father a source of human frailty OR is

it a vice? Choose one side. Be sure to cite evidence to defend your response.

Students share their responses to the journal prompts aloud in class, which promotes Socratic discussions about the characters and their actions. From there we launch into active conversations regarding the characters and how they fit into today's society and family dynamics. Students may share anecdotes that parallel with the actions of the characters and literary devices.

Vocabulary in Context / Frayer Model

Close reading of the play requires that students define words they do not know in the text. Students identify words and phrases that are unfamiliar to them and determine connotatively what they mean in context. Students have the Frayer Model format to use for defining words and phrases. This model offers students the opportunity to learn what the word/phrase means, the antonym, and a visual expression of the word/phrase. If a parallel text is used, like the Perfection Learning Edition of King Lear (13), many words are identified and explained.

Episodic Notes / Think in Outline Format

Students will take notes episodically in an outline format. This format will be modeled for them through the use of an Elmo and overheads. Since the play is, of course, in sequential order, episodic notes will be easier for the students to master to help them order events and improve their writing skills. This ability will allow students to get their list episodes as they occur quickly, examine transitions from one episode to the next, and synthesize their ideas when they have practice timed writings and finally, will enable them to be really successful when they have forty minutes to read a passage, pre-write a brief outline, and complete a full, focused essay on the AP exam.

Graphic Organizers

Allow students access to graphic organizers for: 1) the outline for writing about literature, 2) Cornell Notes, 3) Frayer Model, 4) Jane Shaffer essay format. When students are familiar with several options for graphic organizers, they are able to choose what works best for them to take notes, outline, define terms in context, and organize/write a comprehensive essay.

Think / Pair / Share

Students are assigned a theme or motif in the play concerning familial relationships, conflict resolution, bullying, or sibling rivalry. Each student will spend about seven minutes thinking and freewriting about their assigned topic. After this time, they will group together with the other students who have the same topic and brainstorm, making notes as they work. After fifteen minutes in their groups, they will share with the class how their group has analyzed and interpreted their topic as it is presented in the play. This again promotes Socratic discussion in the class and promotes Cornell notetaking. This activity allows students to think on their own, interact with a group, and present to the class by peer teaching.


Through close reading of the play, students will look for patterns of grammar, like inverted sentence structures, shared lines, and short lines to see how this impacts understanding the text. We will also look at obsolete language to clarify meanings in context.


Filial and sibling relationships dominate in the play, as Shakespeare pits a father against his daughter, brother against brother, and sisters against each other. The Elizabethans believed in established natural laws and natural order in the universe in their concept of child/parent relationships; this concept is turned upside down by the filial treachery of Lear, Regan and Goneril against Cordelia, and by Edmund's relentless campaign against Edgar. As filial relationships crumble, the natural hierarchy is upset, unleashing the full fury of the physical elements, which are no longer subject to order. (6) Therefore, it is fitting to address the conflict between man's law and nature's law; characters who adhere to divine justice - Kent, Albany, Edgar, and Cordelia - act instinctively for the common good, while their counterparts - Goneril, Edmund, Regan, and Cornwall - act without conscience as they plot their evil schemes. Lear is the undisputed King of Britain by divine right, but he, unfortunately, divides his kingdom between Goneril and Regan, which naturally gives their husbands a stake in the estate. Goneril's husband, Albany, ultimately denounces her deception and vile actions because he has a conscience and believes she, Regan, and Cornwall are wrong in their aggressive, greedy behaviors. Regan and Goneril not only act completely without any sense of right or wrong regarding their father and younger sister, they betray each other further in vying for Edmund's attention and affection, to no avail. Both Kent and Edgar are disguised for a large part of the play because they fear for their own survival; their loyalties remain with Lear. Lear and Gloucester eventually turn to natural law to understand why their children have betrayed them. This strain of thought also opens the door to address Shakespeare's own political views as they apply to the state rather than just to the individual and a government that is unified and centralized without a system of checks and balances. Certainly single parent households may be tyrannical arrangements in that the children are expected to do exactly what is ordered by the parent. When they do not, as in the case of Cordelia, they may be extricated from the family unit. In order to restore order in the family, sanctions have to be lifted and unification has to be achieved.

Edgar's speech at the end of the play exposes the difficulties involved in managing a union of love and justice in relationships between parents and children: "We must accept the burdens of this difficult time; / say what we feel, not what we ought to say. / The oldest have carried the heaviest burdens. We who are young / shall never see so much happen, nor live so long."

Through the study of King Lear , students will come to understand and appreciate the roles of parents and children, filial expectations, the nature of familial relationships, and their deterioration and renewal as these concepts apply to their daily lives. Just as Shakespearean audiences enjoyed the plays because the performances related to their daily lives, our students today can enjoy the plays for the same reasons.

Classroom Activities

Engel Film Summary Video Quiz

While watching the video (Engel), complete all of the following questions. Be very

specific in your responses. All answers must be written in complete sentences.

  1. 1How does Professor Engel describe William Shakespeare as a writer?
  2. Why is Shakespeare's writing different from that of other authors? What is the "problem" with Shakespeare's works?
  3. What was it like to attend the theater in Shakespeare's day? Be detailed in your response.
  4. Define the origin of the term "box office".
  5. What three items were sold at the theater's refreshment stands? What item was most popular? Why?
  6. What determined whether or not the play was bad and if the audience got a refund?
  7. Why did actors think it was dangerous to be down stage if there were a lot of groundlings in the audience?
  8. What is the origin of the phrase "break a leg"?
  9. What did Shakespeare change in Macbeth when he rewrote the script? Why?
  10. Explain why a pig was killed before each performance of Julius Caesar.
  11. What is Shakespeare's best-loved play? Why?
  12. What are the three "opening scene promises" in all of Shakespeare's plays?
  13. What is Shakespeare's most difficult play? Why?
  14. Cite two reasons why the study of Shakespeare's work is difficult today.
  15. Explain the "fairy tale motif" used in the plots of Shakespearean tragedies.
  16. Cite two reasons that let you know when you are reading a tragedy.
  17. How does "Humpty Dumpty" teach even the most ignorant people like the groundlings the basic principle of great tragedy?
  18. How did Shakespeare use characters' words to allow all people to understand his plays?
  19. Shakespeare was a master of language and coined hundreds of words and phrases that are still used today. List ten that are mentioned in the film.
  20. Vocabulary: Write a connotative definition of the following terms as they are explained in the film:
price gouge groundlings
salivate superstitious
down stage up stage
dialogue fairy tale


Choose ONE of the following characters with which you most identify. List the character's traits; list your traits that most closely mirror this character. Construct an essay in which you compare your life today with the life of this character as he/she is portrayed in King Lear, detailing why you chose this character and how he/she most represents your place in your family. Be sure to cite evidence to defend your stance.

King Lear Gloucester Albany
Goneril Edgar Cornwall
Regan Edmund

Timed Writing

(40 minutes)

This writing assignment will be completed during a single class period. Students will read their essays aloud for peer review.

Read the following passage, and write a clear, cohesive essay in which you fully explain Lear's emotions and why he is railing against Goneril and Regan. Be sure to cite evidence to defend your response. You must show your pre-writing preparation.

      II, iv, 259-281
      O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
      Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
      Allow not nature more than nature needs,
      Man's life's as cheap as beast's ...
      You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
      If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts
      Against their father, fool me not so much
      To hear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
      And let not women's weapons, water-drops,
      Stain my man's cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
      No, I'll not weep,
      I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
      Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
      Or ere I'll weep, O fool, I shall go mad!

Culminating Project

Complete ONE of the following options as a culminating project for the study of WilliamShakespeare and King Lear.

  1. Write a one-act play - SATIRE/PARODY - about King Lear. The work will have a maximum of five characters. You will design the setting, write stage directions for the actors, design costumes, cast your play, and direct it. The work may be in a contemporary setting. You have two options for presenting your play to the class:
  2. Film the production on a DVD to show to the class, or
  3. Present a live performance in class (mini-theater)
  4. ur final presentation/production must be very well prepared and show effort and professionalism. You will give the instructor a copy of your script before you present.
  5. Construct a model of The Globe. Your model must be to scale of the current Globe in London. You will illustrate a scene from King Lear on the jutting stage of your theater. You will write a paper (minimum FIVE pages, typed, double-spaced, 12-pt. Times font, 1" margins, separate page listing references in MLA format) about the history of the theater in Elizabethan/Shakespearean times. Be sure to label all parts of your model appropriately. You are required to make an oral presentation - minimum five minutes - and have a handout to distribute to your classmates.
  6. Write a research paper about the life and times of William Shakespeare and the history of King Lear. The paper will be a minimum of 15 pages long; you must have a minimum of six verifiable references, at least three of which will be from books; you may have a maximum of three internet sources.

The paper will be typed, double spaced, 12 pt. Times font, 1" margins. References should be cited appropriately in the text and listed in MLA format on the "References" page.

You will include a poster depicting a time line of Shakespeare's life, including when he penned King Lear. You are required to make an oral presentation - minimum five minutes - and have a handout prepared to distribute to your classmates.

Annotated Bibliography

1. Absolute Shakespeare, (This website has pictures for public use, copyright free.)

2. Barnet, Sylvan (Gen. Ed.), The Complete Signet Classic Shakespeare, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc., New York, NY, 1972, pp. 1174-1226. (The section of this volume that is used is the text of King Lear and the introductory materials to the play.

3. Burger, Sidney, "That Rough Magic: Teaching Shakespeare's Plays", Houston Teachers Institute, University of Houston, Spring, 2009. (Information presented by Dr. Burger in a Shakespearean seminar at the University of Houston)

4. Craig, Hugh, "Defining Shakespeare", Shakespeare Quarterly, 55:4, 2004, pp. 462-464. (A refereed journal that publishes articles about research into Shakespeare's life and works.)

5. Engel, Eliot, William Shakespeare, The Writing Wonders Series (film), SVE and Churchill Media, Chicago IL, 1996, 50 minutes. (This film is a lecture by Professor Eliot Engel that presents background on Elizabethan theater and William Shakespeare.)

6. Friedlander ER (2003) Enjoying "King Lear" by William Shakespeare Retrieved Dec. 25, 2003 from (This site gives a overview of the play.)

7. Garber, Marjorie, Shakespeare After All, Anchor Books, Div. of Random House, New York, NY, 2004, pp. 649-94 (Individual essays written by Ms. Garber about each of the plays)

8. Greenblatt, Stephen, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, W.W. Norton & Company, 2004, ISBN: 0-393-05057-2, 430 p. (Mr. Greenblatt explains how Shakespeare used events in his life and his world to write his plays.)

9. Hinman, Charlton (Ed.), The First Folio of Shakespeare Academic Edition, W.W. Norton Company, Inc., New York NY, 1968, Frontispiece, pp, ix-xxii. (This volume presents Shakespeare's works as they were first written and offers a comprehensive Introduction.)

10. Lamb, Sidney (Ed.), Shakespeare's King Lear, Wiley Publishing Company, New York NY, 2000, 224 p. (This book offers a study guide to understanding some of Shakespeare's meanings in a contemporary setting.)

11. Lettiere, Argo Community High School, "Mr. Lettiere's English on the Web, (This site offers a teacher's perspective of Shakespearean study for today's students.)

12. McGinn, Colin, Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2006, pp. 109-133, 153-204. (Presents McGinn's philosophy about the plays, gender roles, psychology, and tragedy)

13. Shakespeare, William, King Lear, The Shakespeare Parallel Text Series, Third Edition, 2004, Perfection Learning Corporation, Logan IA, 367 p.

14. Texas Education Agency, TEKS skills for English IV, (This website has the criteria for teachers in Texas.)

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) (14)

Texas Education Agency Requirements for English IV ELA:

Reading/Comprehension Skills: Students use a flexible range of metacognitive reading skills in both assigned and independent reading to understand an author's message. Students will continue to apply earlier standards with greater depth in increasingly more complex texts as they become self-directed, critical readers. The student is expected to: (A) reflect on understanding to monitor comprehension (e.g., asking questions, summarizing and synthesizing, making connections, creating sensory images); and (B) make complex inferences (e.g., inductive and deductive) about text and use textual evidence to support understanding. Specific skills addressed in this unit are:

110.45 (2)(C)Writing/writing processes. The student uses recursive writing processes when appropriate. The student is expected to use vocabulary, organization, and rhetorical devices appropriate to audience and purpose;

110/45 (3)( B) The student relies increasingly on the conventions and mechanics of written English, including the rules of usage and grammar, to write clearly and effectively. The student is expected to demonstrate control over grammatical elements such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, verb forms, and parallelism Writing/grammar/usage/conventions/spelling.

110.45 (7)(B) Reading/word identification/vocabulary development. The student acquires an extensive vocabulary through reading and systematic word study. The student is expected to rely on context to determine meanings of words and phrases such as figurative language, idioms, multiple meaning words, and technical vocabulary.

110.45 (7)(D) Research word origins as an aid to understanding meanings, derivations, and spellings as well as influences on the English language.

110.45 (18)( D) Listening/speaking/evaluation. The student evaluates and critiques oral presentations and performances. The student is expected to identify and analyze the effect of artistic elements within literary texts such as character development, rhyme, imagery, and language.

110.45 (16) (A) Listening/speaking/purposes. The student speaks clearly and effectively for a variety of purposes. The student is expected to use conventions of oral language effectively, including word choice, grammar, and diction

110.45 (19) (B) Viewing/representing/interpretation. The student understands and interprets visual representations. The student is expected to analyze relationships, ideas, and cultures as represented in various media.

(Source: Texas Education Agency,

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