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O, Lear's Many Reasons

Teachers' Rating:
  4 ratings

Unknown artist. King Lear. Oil on canvas, 1874.

April 2009
Maya McElroy, Rockport-Fulton High School, Rockport, Texas.

Plays/Scenes Covered
King Lear 2.4.305-328
What's On for Today and Why

Students sometimes have trouble discerning Lear's intentions in this outburst. This performance exercise will help them identify his "darker purpose", and let them explore different styles for reading it aloud.


This lesson will take one class period.

What You Need

Folger edition of King Lear
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Lear's Outburst
What To Do

1. Give every student a copy of the handout: Lear's speech, 2.4.305-328.


2. Divide students into groups of four.


3. Give every group a tone to use when delivering the speech: sad, angry, violent, raging, quietly cold, physically sick, old and shaky, joyful, playful, or gently chiding. If your students are versed in the vocabulary of theater, give them an objective that might provoke one of these tones instead of the tone itself.


4. Have each group of the students divide the speech among themselves so everyone has roughly equal speaking parts. Instruct students to study their passage and highlight five words they want to emphasize when they read the passage. Give students time to practice delivering the speech as a group so their parts flow smoothly into each other and they create the desired single tone.


5. Have each group perform their passage. The class can follow along, marking the words they feel have been emphasized.


6. As a group, discuss which tone the students felt Lear was using in each performance. Discuss which tones felt most and least appropriate at the different moments in the speech. Combine the most appropriate moments into one speech in which different groups contribute their tone at the proper time, to model a way an actor might try to present the speech.


7. Possible extension: have the four students in the group cast themselves in the roles of Lear, the two daughters, and the fool. Have the students create either a tableau or a staged performance of the scene. Discuss the contributions to the scene of the three non-speaking parts.

How Did It Go?
Did breaking the speech into parts and emphasizing certain words make the speech easier to understand? Were students able to make distinctions between the different possible tones in this speech? Were they able to select the most appropriate choices for delivering this speech? Did they understand Lear's motivations better after doing this exercise?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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7 CommentsOldest | Newest

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Gabriel November 22, 2014 1:01 AM

Hope this lesson will help to encourage my students to write an essay on "King Lear" next class. Thanks for sharing.
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  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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