Sharon Hollon, Mt. Vernon High School, Alexandria, Virginia.
King Lear 3.2
What's On for Today and Why
Act 3, Scene 2 is a pivotal moment in King Lear and one that can really get students involved with the play. The text of this scene demands careful analysis by the students if they are to play it well.
This lesson will take one or two class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of King Lear
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Review the evolution of Lear as a character up to this point in the play. Summarize the events of his life in the past scenes, and discuss his particular reactions to them. Ask students to predict how he will act in the next scene.
2. Define pathetic fallacy as the attributing of human behaviors and actions to inanimate objects. Ask the students to provide examples of pathetic fallacy from the play. (You may have them begin by giving examples from other literature, movies, or music until they're comfortable with the term.) Ask the students to consider its usefulness as a dramatic concept. Connect the storm in Act 3 to the idea of pathetic fallacy, and ask the students what its use might be in this play. (The students will probably conclude that the storm raging around Lear is a reflection of his inner storm.)
3. Divide the students into three groups, and give each group a copy of one of Lear's speeches from this scene (3.2.1-11; 3.2.16-26; 3.2.52-63). Have each group read their lines aloud a few times, until they seem comfortable with the words.
4. Now, have each group examine their speech for meaning. This can be done by paraphrasing for meaning, using reference books to look up definitions of words, etc. After the students think they know the meaning of their speech, ask them to read it aloud to the class with storm in their voices.
5. Ask the students to work out a performance plan of the speech with their group. Every person in the group must participate in the performance. Students should use the text of their speech as the basis for the portrayal of Lear they enact. The performance should include background noise, blocking, actions, music, etc. You could assign this as a 10-minute preparation and performance, or you may choose to give the students a full class period to prepare.
6. As the groups perform, ask the audience to watch for how the inner and outer storms are portrayed by the actors. After each performance, have the students fill in a chart divided into two columns—one for examples of inner storming, the other for outer storming. Then, discuss the chart as a group. Where was storming indicated in the text? What were some effective ways of portraying it? How did the outer storm reflect or enhance Lear's inner storm?
7. Read all of 3.2 aloud as a class. Have the students pay close attention to Lear's lines after his raging. As a culminating activity, ask the students to write an essay describing how Lear should deliver those lines. How should he physically move through the scene? Is his storm continuing to rage?
How Did It Go?
Do the students understand the concept of pathetic fallacy? Can the students connect pathetic fallacy to the play King Lear? Were students able to portray emotion in their performances?
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.