Someday Your Fool Will Come
An Introduction to King Lear Edited for Middle School
by Danielle Bottinger
Editing Shakespeare makes people nervous, particularly English teachers. We feel unworthy of marring the sacred text. The idea that we, teachers, may choose what words our students do or do not read is a difficult task. Sadly, choosing not to edit a text may limit which plays our younger students are able to read and perform. Time does not allow my seventh grade students to tackle an unabridged Lear.
In my desire to stray from the standard middle school texts (i.e. Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth), I offer an edited version that I hope will allow students and teachers to explore Lear undaunted. It is debatable whether I have the authority to reinterpret this text, but in doing so, I maintain the best possible intentions: to continue to instill a love of language in my middle school students.
Glosses were made based on the types of words that often confuse my students. I review the use of “thou” and “thee”, as well as early modern verb forms before tackling a play, so those types of words are not glossed. Neither are words I feel students could easily reference or understand in context. I also try to clarify scene locations and basic character relationships in my notes.
This version entirely omits the character of the Fool, a choice I made after a great deal of agony. The Fool’s lines, so often made of puns and clever wordplay, require more explanation than I can offer to my students. If this abridged version can be seen as only an initial exposure to this great text, one that leads to more detailed work later, then students will meet their Fool when the time is right.
King Lear - edited for middle school
Danielle Bottinger teaches literature and creative writing to sixth and seventh graders at the Epiphany School in New York City. She attended the Folger's Teaching Shakespeare Institute in 2008.