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"The World's Asleep": But Not Your Classroom

Teachers' Rating:
  3 ratings

Robert Smirke. The Awakening of King Lear. Oil on canvas, ca. 1792.

March 2002
Darin Johnson, Ames High School, Ames, Iowa.

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

Students will get an introduction to King Lear by manipulating some of his lines and analyzing them for signs of the character's madness.


This activity will take one class period.

What You Need

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


Handout of King Lear quotations.


Soft foam balls

King Lear Quotations
What To Do

1. Photocopy the attached handout, with different quotations from King Lear. Make enough copies so each student will get one quotation. Cut out the quotations and paste them on construction paper or cardstock.


2. Put students into groups of seven and divide a set of the seven quotations among the group members.


3. Give each group a soft foam ball and have them form a circle. Each group member should toss the ball to a person who is not to his/her immediate right or left. The person receiving the ball should say his/her line out loud upon catching the ball. Repeat the process until students are familiar with all of the lines.


4. Next, announce a rule change. Instead of having the ball catcher say a line, have the rest of the group recite the line as the ball is caught.


5. Have the students look for images in the lines that will help them decide the appropriate order of the quotations. Have them look for two transitions that Lear makes during the play: from regal to more real, and from sane to mad.


6. Have the students order themselves in a line representing the order they believe these lines appear in the play. Have each group read out their order to the rest of the class.


7. Reveal Shakespeare's order for these quotes, as listed below. Discuss the activity. What patterns can the students find in these lines? What clues led to a successful sequencing of the quotations? I think the world's asleep: 1.4.48-49.
Nothing can be made out of nothing: 1.4.136-137
Who is it that can tell me who I am: 1.4.236
O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!...I would not be mad: 1.5.45-46.
'On my knees I beg that you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food': 2.4.175-176.
Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous: 2.4.305-306.
Allow not nature more than nature needs, man's life is cheap as beast's: 2.4.307-308.


8. Have students perform the speeches from which the quotations are taken.

How Did It Go?
Were students able to learn the lines easily? Were they able to sequence the quotes appropriately? Could they explain their logic? Did the meaning of the lines take on new significance once they were returned to their original context?

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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  Common Core State Standards

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