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Teaching King Lear

Resources from Folger Education

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, teaching tools, and more.

Teaching Modules

Folger Education offers teaching modules on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as modules on introducing Shakespeare. Try the modules below, or, for more modules for King Lear, visit the Teaching Modules 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.

Teaching Tools

The Folger edition of King Lear includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play, fascinating essays on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times, and notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day. Request a desk copy of this edition from Simon & Schuster


Curriculum Guides lay out everything you need to teach this play for the first time: an introduction to the play, character connections, synopsis, teaching modules, suggested scenes for performance, fun facts, and familiar quotes.


Other Resources

Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help students feel confident reading and understanding Shakespeare's language. To see performance-based education strategies for your classroom, check out our clips on YouTube here.


Archived study guides from past Folger Theatre performances provide activities and discussion questions for students to consider before seeing a performance or as they rehearse scenes from this play.


For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in King Lear:

  • unfamiliar word order
  • words with multiple meanings, or words with meanings that have changed since Shakespeare's day
  • puns and figurative language
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").

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.

King Lear

King Lear

From the Collection

King Lear Photo Gallery

In The Shop

Folger Editions
Trade Paperback

Learn More

Discover Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Life

Shakespeare's Theater

Shakespeare's Works


Shakespeare's King: James I

King Lear Family Trees

Did You Know? - Cool King Lear Facts

Photo Gallery

King Lear: Flickr Album

Read the Play

Folger Digital Texts:
King Lear

Related Items

Abridged Version of King Lear for Middle School Students

King Lear Study Guide

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