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Shakespeare, William. King Lear. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.

Questions to be explored:

What is a family?

Why do people trust the people they do?

What is the value in family?

What is the value in friendship?

What are the affects of guilt?

What is the importance of forgiveness?

What is the importance of the fool?

Why is nature important?

Why is King Lear one of the least performed tragedies?

What makes King Lear one of the most enduring of Shakespeare’s works?
Quotes to respond to:

“I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at night.”

  • William Harding

“I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people.”

“True friends stab you in the front.”

  • Oscar Wilde

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

  • C.S. Lewis

“Nothing will come of nothing: Speak again.”

  • Lear

“Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:

Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.”

  • Cordelia

“The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.”

  • Edgar

Rather than a synopsis of the play – I asked several people why King Lear is Shakespeare’s most affecting play.
Why do I find this the most affecting of Shakespeare's plays? (I've seen seven different stage productions, and two on TV, and it only gets more powerful upon repeated exposure.) I can't really pin it down - it's a combination of various elements. The characters are idiosyncratic, fully realized, and their behavior is highly relatable, so the play is convincing at the level of the individual protagonists. But the fable-like nature of the opening scene also confers a kind of universal quality to its message, and the themes explored within the play - abuse of power, relationships within families, responsibilities of parents and children, the breakdown of the natural order and its consequences, the human capacity for enormous cruelty - are no less relevant today than in Shakespeare's time. The skillfully constructed parallel plotting of the Lear and Gloucester arcs adds to the power of the story, the breakdown in natural human behavior is further accentuated by the raw fury of the elements during the storm scenes, where Nature echoes Lear's fury.

  • David Giltinan

King Lear is perhaps Shakespeare's most psychologically dark tragedy, though many may argue for Macbeth. The central theme is that of the family and the emotional and physical exile that can be brought about for simple material gain. The naive and pitiable Lear with his Cinderella-esque children, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia present all that is right and wrong with a father's relationship with his children. From his opening gambit:

"What will thoust say to gain
A third more opulent than thine sisters?"
We see exactly why the terrible tragedy must unfold. In the end, there is no victory, only self-realization and, ultimately, death. Lear's supporting cast of characters can only dance to the tune he sets in slow, unalterable motion, and there can be no silver lining at the end. Only a deep and terrible understanding of the destruction of the human psyche. King drives home the failings of the human soul but ensures that inner understanding and remorse is attainable at a great price. It is Shakespeare's finest tragedy.

  • George Starlin

Like "The Comedy of Errors," "Hamlet," and "Richard III," this is a phenomenal masterpiece beyond expectations. Goneril, Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund are the most frightening and demonic characters in Shakespeare's writing. (Only his King Richard III compares). I cannot overemphasize Shakespeare's mastery of writing in how he gradually unfolds the evil of these characters. While we may not know what to think of them at first, we soon learn that they would do Satan proud. Lear is handled well. First we don't know what to think of him, but then we are moved into deep and intense pity for him. Shakespeare also offers us powerful dramatic irony with the fool. He also offers us powerful (and very terrifying) images. There are also several moving passages in this play. (Especially Edgar's soliloquy 3.6.111-125). Somehow, Shakespeare even managed to squeeze some welcome comical touches in. Simply put, the tour de force of all theater.

  • Sean Ares


Shakespeare is the king of complicated sentence structure. Throughout King Lear we will be discussing what cohesive and interesting sentence syntax does to an essay; furthermore, we will be exploring new and creative ways to create elaborate sentence structure through the use of the colon, semicolon, and dash.

We are also going to review coordination in conjunction with subordination. We will also be evaluating how we use clauses effectively, and we also will examine the value in juxtaposition and everything from morphology to analogy.
Essay Paper:

Choose one of the following topics for your essay.

Explain the importance of appearance versus reality.
Explore the theme of suffering and explain its affect on a character or characters.
Explain the value in nature and its affect on other people.
Explain the importance of the fool in King Lear.
Create your own topic on the theme of family, friendship, enemies, or some other idea that interests you (your thesis must be approved by me).
Due Date: Weather permitting March 21st

At least four outside sources.

Paper must be 5 –7 pages.
No more than 10 typographical errors.
Extra Credit:

Choose a Sonnet from Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Write a 2-3 page paper on how the sonnet compares or contrasts to a character, setting, plot event in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

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