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Nothing to Lear but Lear Himself

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Harrison. Forrest As King Lear. Photograph from Harrison, Edwin Forrest. Brooklyn, 1889

April 2002
Ron Clark, Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins, Colorado.


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

In this introductory lesson, students will read a scene from King Lear and decide collaboratively how best to present it. In doing so, they will begin to understand the scenes and the play from multiple perspectives. This lesson is based on a session given by Michael Collins at the Folger's summer 2000 Teaching Shakespeare Institute.


This lesson will take two class periods.

What You Need

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

Copies of the handout:

Two Scenes from King Lear
What To Do

1. Discuss with the students the relationships of power/obedience, honesty/deception, and respect/disrespect and how these can be demonstrated on stage through voice, physicality, body langauge etc.


2. Split the class in half. Divide one half into groups of four, and give them copies of Scene 1. Divide the second half into groups of three, and give them copies of Scene 2.


2. Give each group one or more of the relationships you discussed to focus on as they do their project. Using a sketch of whatever stage area they will be using, have students block out their scene. They should diagram the entrances, exits and movements of each character in the scene. Be sure students are able to defend the choices they are making.


3. When they've finished blocking their scene, give them time to rehearse it. The emphasis here is on using inflection and tone to convey the ideas they have worked on in the scene blocking, not all the aspects of acting.


4. Have the groups present their scenes to the class. All groups presenting Scene 1 should go first and consecutively. Then the audience can ask questions and the players can offer explanations. Then, students presenting Scene 2 should go, with a similar discussion to follow.


5. Finish up with a group discussion in which you identify different ways of presenting power and status issues, multiple perspectives of these scenes, and possible questions for the students to consider as they read the play.

How Did It Go?
Did students come up with unique ways of presenting the same ideas? Did students present insightful ways of expressing complex relationships? Do students express new insights in discussion? Are students curious about the play, and the connections between the two scenes?

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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