Scott O'Neil teaches at North Harford High School in Pylesville, MD.
King Lear, Act 2, Scene 4
What's On for Today and Why
The most recognized and accomplished English language writer, William Shakespeare’s themes, characters and speeches are quoted in literature, contemporary society and popular culture. This unit will expose students to the plot lines of selected of Shakespeare’s plays and the language of some of his best speeches. After each speech, students will have an opportunity to see examples of those lines popping up in contemporary entertainment and culture.
The lesson using a speech from King Lear will take one 45-minute class period. It could also be expanded into a Shakespeare unit, with speeches from 10-11 plays studied over a sequence of several class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of King Lear
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Shakespeare Scribbles - King Lear
Shakespeare's Greatest Speeches: King Lear
What To Do
1. Distribute copies of the Shakespeare's Greatest Speeches handout. You may want to open class with a discussion on the following questions as a warm-up.
What is the practical importance of reading difficult text?
How can we tell what the mood or tone of a speech is?
2. Working alone, in pairs, or in groups, students will use the Shakespeare's Greatest Speeches handout to familiarize themselves with the plot of King Lear and the actions that happen before and after the "Lear's Tear's" speech in Act 2.
3. Distribute the Shakespeare's Scribbles handout for "Lear's Tears." Using what they have learned about the play's characters and plot, students will write three questions they have about the play, as well as three predictions for what might happen in Lear's speech.
4. Students will read Lear's speech from Act 2, Scene 4 on the Shakespeare's Greatest Speeches handout and then work with a partner to write a detailed summary of the speech.
5. You may ask students to brainstorm where they have seen and heard Shakespeare's plays alluded to in popular culture or share your own list of allusions. For King Lear, references include the Canadian sitcom series Slings and Arrows, the song "Cordelia" by The Tragically Hip, and the novel A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (also made into a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer.)
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.