|This page contains resources for teaching King Lear, a play that relentlessly challenges readers in its depiction of suffering and the tragic downfall of two families. Below you'll find links to resources from Folger Education that include activities, lesson plans, teaching tools, and more.
Folger Education offers lesson plans on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as lessons on introducing Shakespeare. Try the two plans below, or, for more lesson plans on King Lear, visit the Lesson Plans Archive.
"Speak What We Feel"
In this lesson plan, you'll cover NCTE standards 3, 4, 7, 11, and 12. Working in groups, students explore character interpretation, motivation, and relationships.
"Nothing to Lear but Lear Himself"
This interactive lesson plan encourages students to engage with the text on a physical and vocal level. You'll cover NCTE standards 1, 2, 6, and 9.
The Folger edition of King Lear includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play; background information on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times; notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day; and a scholarly assessment of the plays in light of today's interests and concerns.
For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in King Lear:
In King Lear Shakespeare often places the verb before the subject, or places the subject between two parts of the verb (i.e. instead of "He goes" we find "Goes he" or "Does he go"). Shakespeare also frequently places the object before the subject and verb (i.e., instead of "I hit him," we find "Hit I him").
- unfamiliar word order
- words with multiple meanings, or words with meanings that have changed since Shakespeare's day
- puns and figurative language
Often, words that normally appear together are separated. With your students, you may wish to rearrange the words into a more familiar order. Students will generally find that the sentences will gain in clarity, but may lose its rhythm or shift its emphasis.
Puns are used less frequently in King Lear than in other plays. However, when they are used, it is often to express courtly wit or a double entendre. For example, when Kent tells Gloucester, "I cannot conceive you" (in which "cannot conceive" means "do not understand"), Gloucester replies, "This young fellow's mother could," pretending to understand conceive to mean "conceive a child."
About the Play
King Lear was printed in two different versions in first quarter of the 17th century. The first appeared in 1608 in a quarto edition. The second version appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623.
To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.
From the Collection
King Lear Photo Gallery
Shakespeare's King: James I
King Lear Family Trees
Did You Know? - Cool King Lear Facts
King Lear: Flickr Album
Read the Play
Folger Digital Texts:
Abridged Version of King Lear for Middle School Students
King Lear Study Guide