Shakespeare’s work can be understood more clearly if we follow its development as a reflection of the rapidly-changing world of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in which he lived. After the colorful reign of Henry VIII, which ushered in the Protestant Reformation, England was never the same. John Calvin and Michelangelo both died the year Shakespeare was born, placing his life and work at the peak of the Reformation and the Renaissance in Europe. When Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, the time was right to bring in “the golden age” of English history. The arts flourished during the Elizabethan era. Some of Shakespeare’s contemporary dramatists were such notables as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson.
King James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth to the throne after her death in 1603 uniting the kingdoms of England and Scotland. The monarch’s new title was King James I. Fortunately for Shakespeare, the new king was a patron of the arts and agreed to sponsor the King’s Men, Shakespeare’s theatrical group. According to the Stationers’ Register recorded on November 26, 1607, King Lear was performed for King James I at Whitehall on St. Stephen’s night as a Christmas celebration on December 26, 1606.
The legend of King Lear, well-known in Shakespeare’s day, was about a mythical British king dating back to the obscurity of ancient times. It was first recorded in 1135 by Geoffrey of...
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In this section:
- Shakespeare’s Language
- Shakespeare’s Sentences
- Shakespeare’s Words
- Shakespeare’s Wordplay
- Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
- Implied Stage Action
Shakespeare’s language can create a strong pang of intimidation, even fear, in a large number of modern-day readers. Fortunately, however, this need not be the case. All that is needed to master the art of reading Shakespeare is to practice the techniques of unraveling uncommonly-structured sentences and to become familiar with the poetic use of uncommon words. We must realize that during the 400-year span between Shakespeare’s time and our own, both the way we live and speak has changed. Although most of his vocabulary is in use today, some of it is obsolete, and what may be most confusing is that some of his words are used today, but with slightly different or totally different meanings. On the stage, actors readily dissolve these language stumbling blocks. They study Shakespeare’s dialogue and express it dramatically in word and in action so that its meaning is graphically enacted. If the reader studies Shakespeare’s lines as an actor does, looking up and...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Heath. Large tract of uncultivated land covered with small plants and shrubs (the type of landscape also known as a “moor” in Britain), on which the play’s memorable scenes are set. Barren and desolate, far removed from civilized society, the heath represents elemental Nature, a place for fools and madmen—and tragic kings. In the pelting rain and stripped of the garments of majesty, Lear vents his grief and anger by railing against his daughters’ ingratitude, the injustice rampant in society, and the forces of Nature surrounding him.
Lear’s palace. Royal residence of King Lear in whose stateroom the play opens. The palace provides a visual contrast with the scenes on the heath, and the setting for the first scene displays Lear at his most powerful. Supported by this environment and invested with the external objects of majesty, Lear can function arbitrarily in the division of his kingdom.
Gloucester’s castle (GLAHS-ter). Residence of the duke of Gloucester, which is the site of two of the most painful scenes in the play—the moments when Lear is rejected by Goneril and Regan, and when Gloucester is blinded. Significantly, the setting is located halfway between the palace of absolute power and the heath of total nothingness.
Fields near Dover
Fields near Dover. Region in southeastern England, on the...
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Act I, Scene 1: Questions and Answers
1. Explain briefly why King Lear has called his family together in the first scene.
2. Which characters are involved in the subplot of the story?
3. Name one of the major themes of the play.
4. At what period in history does the play take place?
5. Why does Kent defend Cordelia when her father banishes her?
6. Why does the Duke of Burgundy reject the offer of Cordelia’s hand in marriage?
7. Who are the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall?
8. Who eventually marries Lear’s dowerless daughter? Where will she live after her marriage?
9. What advice does Cordelia give to her sisters as she leaves with the King of France?
10. What do Goneril and Regan do as soon as everyone is gone and they are alone together?
1. King Lear calls his family together in order to divide his kingdom among his three daughters.
2. Gloucester and his illegitimate son Edmund and his legitimate son Edgar are the characters involved in the subplot.
3. A major theme of the play is appearance versus reality. King Lear is more impressed with his older daughters’ flowery speeches of love than Cordelia’s sincere response.
4. The play supposedly takes place in pre-Christian Britain but exhibits many sixteenth-century values.
5. Kent defends Cordelia because he feels it is his...
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Act I, Scene 2: Questions and Answers
1. In his soliloquy, what does Edmund want to take from his legitimate half-brother Edgar?
2. What is the piece of paper Edmund is supposedly hiding from his father? What does it say?
3. What is Gloucester’s reaction to the letter?
4. Give an example of alliteration in Edmund’s soliloquy.
5. What does Edmund think of his father’s view of nature?
6. What does Edmund tell Edgar about his father?
7. What does Edmund tell Edgar he must do if he intends to walk in public?
8. Where is Edgar instructed to go?
9. How will Edgar be able to talk to his father?
10. Why is Edmund gloating at the end of the scene?
1. Edmund wants to take land that now rightfully belongs to his half-brother Edgar.
2. The piece of paper is a forged letter supposedly written by Edgar plotting his father’s murder.
3. Gloucester’s reaction to the letter sends him into a rage against his son Edgar.
4. An example of alliteration in Edmund’s soliloquy is “With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?”
5. Edmund thinks his father is only blaming the stars for his own failures.
6. Edmund tells Edgar his father is very angry with him and might harm him.
7. Edmund tells Edgar he must arm himself if he intends to “stir abroad.”
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Act I, Scene 3: Questions and Answers
1. Where is the scene set?
2. What arrangement have Goneril and Regan made for the care of their father, the king?
3. Where has King Lear gone at the beginning of the scene?
4. What kind of servant is Oswald?
5. What does Goneril instruct Oswald to do in order to anger the king?
6. Why does Goneril pretend to be sick?
7. Where does Goneril plan to tell her father to go if he does not like it at her palace?
8. Why does Goneril decide to write to her sister?
9. What is the significance of the father/daughter relationship in this scene?
10. What would an Elizabethan audience of Shakespeare’s day have thought of Goneril’s attitude toward her father?
1. It is set in the palace of the Duke of Albany.
2. Goneril will keep her father first. Then she and Regan will alternate each month.
3. The King has gone hunting.
4. Oswald is a steward in charge of other servants.
5. Goneril instructs Oswald and his fellows to treat Lear’s knights with cold looks and to put on “weary negligence.”
6. Goneril is too angry to speak to her father when he comes home from his hunting trip.
7. Goneril will tell Lear to go live with her sister Regan.
8. Goneril hastily writes to her sister to tell her that Lear is acting badly and might...
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Act I, Scene 4: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Kent speak in verse and then change to prose in the beginning of the scene?
2. Why does the Fool offer his coxcomb to Kent?
3. Why is the Fool often referred to as the chorus?
4. What behavior does Oswald demonstrate to the King?
5. Why is Goneril angry at her father in this scene?
6. In Lear’s rage against his daughter Goneril, who does he think he can turn to?
7. How many of Lear’s followers does Goneril take from him?
8. What does Goneril do to warn her sister of Lear’s departure from Albany’s palace?
9. How does the Duke of Albany feel about his wife’s actions against the King?
10. What is Goneril’s response to Albany’s fears?
1. Kent speaks in verse because he is the Earl of Kent. He speaks in prose when he is disguised as a servant.
2. The Fool offers his coxcomb because he thinks Kent is a fool for following Lear.
3. Traditionally the chorus functions as a commentary on the action of the play. The Fool plays the role of the chorus.
4. Oswald is defiant and treats the King with disrespect.
5. Goneril tells her father that his train of followers are unruly and quarrelsome.
6. Lear says Regan will take him in.
7. Goneril reduces Lear’s followers by 50.
8. Goneril writes Regan a letter...
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Act I, Scene 5: Questions and Answers
1. Who is sent with a letter for Lear’s daughter Regan?
2. How does the Fool expect Regan to receive her father?
3. How does Lear feel about Cordelia at this point in the play?
4. What does the Fool mean when he says that a snail has a house to put his “head in, not to give it away to his daughters”?
5. What does Lear want to do to Goneril because of her ingratitude?
6. In what way is Lear’s illusory world disappearing?
7. What does the Fool mean when he says he is “old before his time?”
8. What evidence do we have that Lear believes in a higher being?
9. What is the purpose of the Fool in this scene?
10. What is the main purpose of this short scene?
1. Kent, the disguised servant of King Lear, is sent to the city of Gloucester with a letter for Regan.
2. The Fool thinks Regan will be exactly like her sister.
3. Lear feels he has not treated Cordelia properly.
4. The Fool is censuring Lear for giving his kingdom to his daughters. He feels it is an unnatural thing to do.
5. He would like to take Goneril’s half of the kingdom back.
6. He has gained new insight regarding his daughter Cordelia.
7. The Fool means that Lear is “old before he is wise.”
8. Lear invokes the heavens to keep him from going...
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Act II, Scene 1: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Edmund ask Edgar to raise his sword against him?
2. Why is Edmund’s arm bleeding in this scene?
3.What does Gloucester propose to do after Edgar’s escape?
4. Who does Gloucester ask to help him find Edgar and bring him to justice?
5. Who does Regan blame for Edgar’s alleged problem with his father?
6. What will the King find when he and his followers reach Regan’s house?
7. Why have Cornwall and Regan come to Gloucester’s castle? What do they wish to discuss with him?
8. Why does Cornwall commend Edmund?
9. Whom does Gloucester call his “loyal and natural boy”?
10. Why does Gloucester intend to publish Edgar’s picture throughout the kingdom?
1. Edmund wants his father to see him attempting to prevent Edgar’s escape.
2. Edmund gave himself a wound with his own sword to impress his father.
3. Gloucester says that Edgar shall not remain uncaught and proposes to send his picture throughout the kingdom.
4. Gloucester asks the Duke of Albany’s help in finding Edgar and bringing him to justice.
5. Regan blames his association with the King’s “riotous knights” who, she thinks, have put him up to it.
6. The King will find that Regan and her husband are not there.
7. Cornwall and Regan have come to ask...
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Act II, Scenes 2 and 3: Questions and Answers
1. Why is Kent violently angry at Oswald, Goneril’s steward?
2. Does Oswald pretend that Kent is a total stranger to him? What proves him wrong?
3. Why is Kent placed in the stocks?
4. What does Regan think would be worse than putting her father’s servant in the stocks?
5. What is Cornwall’s response to Kent’s statement that he serves the King?
6. How does Gloucester feel about Kent being placed in the stocks?
7. Why does Kent speak in verse when he is alone in the stocks and in prose earlier in the scene?
8. Whose letter does Kent read before he falls asleep?
9. Where has Edgar been living since he fled from his father’s castle?
10. How will he disguise himself in order to save his life?
1. Kent is angry because Oswald comes with letters against the King and, pretends he has never seen Kent.
2. Oswald pretends he has never met Kent, but later he tells Cornwall the entire story.
3. Kent is placed in the stocks because Cornwall takes Oswald’s side against Kent’s in the quarrel.
4. Regan feels it would be worse to have her sister’s steward abused than to have her father’s courier put in the stocks.
5. Cornwall remains stoic about putting the King’s servant in the stocks.
6. Gloucester feels the King will “take it ill”...
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Act II, Scene 4: Questions and Answers
1. Why is the King puzzled when he arrives at Gloucester’s castle?
2. Whom does the King see in the stocks? Why was he put in the stocks?
3. Which metaphor does the Fool use to foreshadow the storm?
4. What excuse do Cornwall and Regan give for not greeting the King when he arrives at Gloucester’s castle?
5. Why has Lear come to Regan’s house?
6. Why does Lear fall on his knees to Regan?
7. How many of Lear’s men has Goneril dismissed when he arrives at Gloucester’s castle?
8. How many men does Regan want him to have in his train?
9. Whom does Lear refer to as “unnatural hags”?
10. Where does Lear go after his daughters reduce his train of followers to nothing?
1. The King cannot understand the reason for Cornwall and Regan’s absence on the night of his expected arrival.
2. The King sees Kent, his messenger, in the stocks. He has been placed there by Cornwall.
3. The Fool says that those who serve for gain “Will pack when it begins to rain,/ And leave thee in the storm.”
4. Cornwall and Regan say they are tired and sick from traveling all night.
5. Lear and Goneril have quarreled, and he wants Regan to take him to live with her.
6. On his knees, Lear begs Regan to take him in.
7. Goneril has reduced Lear’s...
(The entire section is 263 words.)
Act III, Scene 1: Questions and Answers
1. Where is the King at this point in the play?
2. Who has stayed with the King to give him comfort?
3. What are the rumors concerning Cornwall and Albany?
4. Who are the spies sent to England by the King of France?
5. What news do France’s spies bring regarding King Lear?
6. Where does Kent think Cordelia will be staying?
7. What does Kent tell the Gentleman to show Cordelia as proof of Kent’s identity?
8. Before the Gentleman goes to Dover, what does he do?
9. What does the French Army intend to do in England?
10. What is Cordelia’s purpose for her temporary stay in Dover?
1. Lear’s Gentleman tells Kent that the King is in the storm on the heath outside of Gloucester’s castle.
2. Only the Fool accompanies the King on the heath.
3. It is rumored that there is division between Cornwall and Albany, leading to civil strife in the kingdom.
4. The spies act as servants in the households of Cornwall and Albany.
5. The spies bring the news that King Lear has had to bear the abuses of Goneril and Regan, his daughters.
6. Kent thinks Cordelia is waiting in Dover.
7. Kent instructs the Gentleman to give Cordelia a ring as proof of Kent’s identity.
8. The Gentleman helps to find Lear in the storm.
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Act III, Scene 2: Questions and Answers
1. How does Lear set the scene at the beginning?
2. How does Lear compare his daughters to the elements?
3. What does the Fool beg Lear to do to get out of the storm?
4. Who later joins Lear and the Fool in the storm?
5. Where does Kent finally lead Lear to shelter him from the storm?
6. What does Kent plan to do after he finds shelter for Lear and the Fool?
7. How does Lear express his compassion for his Fool?
8. What does Lear wear on his head when he goes out into the storm?
9. Whose prophecy does the Fool recite?
10. According to the King, who has sent the terrible storm on the heath?
1. Lear uses imagery depicting the storm on the heath.
2. Lear personifies the elements as “servile ministers” of his daughters who are trying to destroy him.
3. The Fool begs Lear to ask his daughters’ blessing so they will take him in.
4. Kent joins Lear and the Fool in the storm.
5. Kent leads Lear into a hovel to shelter him from the wind and the rain.
6. Kent plans to go back to Gloucester’s castle to see whether he will receive him.
7. Lear feels sorry for the Fool, inviting him into his hovel and asking him whether he is cold.
8. Lear goes into the storm bareheaded.
9. The Fool recites the prophecy of...
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Act III, Scene 3: Questions and Answers
1. Why do Cornwall and Regan refuse to grant Gloucester the use of his own castle?
2. How does Edmund feel about the abusive treatment of the King?
3. What news does Gloucester’s dangerous letter contain?
4. What powers are “already footed” in this scene according to Gloucester?
5. Where does Gloucester keep the letter?
6. What does Edmund decide to do about the news his father has given him?
7. Why does Edmund betray his father’s trust in him?
8. What does Gloucester tell Edmund to say to Cornwall if he asks for him?
9. What will be the penalty if Cornwall discovers Gloucester’s intentions?
10. In what way does this scene function as an interim scene?
1. Cornwall and Regan are punishing Gloucester for giving help to the King.
2. Edmund claims it is “savage and unnatural,” but he feels otherwise.
3. We may assume that the letter talks of powers that are waiting to avenge the abusive treatment of the King.
4. The King of France and Cordelia, we will learn later, are waiting on the shore near Dover with an army.
5. Gloucester has locked the letter in the closet.
6. When Gloucester leaves, Edmund immediately decides to impart the information to Cornwall.
7. Edmund wants his father’s title as Earl of Gloucester....
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Act III, Scene 4: Questions and Answers
1. What does the storm on the heath symbolize?
2. Who is Edgar in disguise?
3. What type of clothing does Tom o’ Bedlam wear?
4. According to Lear, who are the three sophisticated ones?
5. Who does Lear say is the “thing itself”?
6. Whom does Lear pity in his prayer on the heath?
7. What is Gloucester carrying as he enters the hovel?
8. What does Edgar call Gloucester when he approaches the hovel?
9. How does Gloucester’s situation compare to Lear’s?
10. Why has Gloucester come out into the storm?
1. The storm symbolizes Lear’s tempest in his mind.
2. Edgar is disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam, a madman.
3. Tom o’ Bedlam wears only a blanket.
4. The three sophisticated persons are Lear, Kent, and the Fool.
5. Edgar in disguise is referred to as the “thing itself.” He is natural, “unaccommodated” man.
6. Lear pities the homeless and hungry who have no place to go for shelter from the storm.
7. Gloucester is carrying a torch into the hovel.
8. Edgar calls him the foul fiend who walks the streets at night.
9. Gloucester and Lear both have children who seek their death.
10. Gloucester has come to find Lear and offer him food and shelter in an outbuilding near the castle.
(The entire section is 203 words.)
Act III, Scene 5: Questions and Answers
1. What does Edmund produce as evidence of Gloucester’s treason?
2. What important information does the letter contain?
3. How does Cornwall reward Edmund for being his informant against Gloucester?
4. Why does Edmund call upon the heavens?
5. What will Cornwall do to Gloucester for his crime of treason?
6. What is Edmund’s main ambition?
7. What does Cornwall think might have been the cause of Edgar’s plot to murder his father?
8. What does Cornwall promise to do to replace Edmund’s loss of his father?
9. What is Cornwall’s attitude as a Duke in this scene?
10. How will Cornwall search for the Duke of Gloucester?
1. Edmund shows Cornwall the supposed letter that Gloucester received from France.
2. The letter, it can be assumed, contains news of France’s impending invasion of England.
3. Cornwall rewards Edmund by giving him the new title of the Duke of Gloucester.
4. Edmund calls upon the heavens to pity him in his adversity.
5. Cornwall will apprehend Gloucester when he is found.
6. Edmund hopes to replace his father as Earl of Gloucester.
7. Cornwall thinks that Gloucester might have provoked Edgar to plot the death of his father.
8. Cornwall promises Edmund that he will love him even “dearer” than...
(The entire section is 232 words.)
Act III, Scene 6: Questions and Answers
1. Who are the defendants in Lear’s mock trial?
2. Who is chosen by Lear as the “justicer” in the mock trial?
3. Why does Lear refer to Edgar as a “robed man of justice”?
4. What is the Fool’s position in the mock trial?
5. How does Kent respond to his position as one of the judges?
6. Whom does the King arraign first in the mock trial?
7. What is Goneril’s crime in the trial?
8. What does the King wish to do to Regan?
9. What does Gloucester tell Kent to do with the King? Why?
10. What is significant about Edgar’s actions at the end of the scene?
1. Goneril and Regan are the defendants in Lear’s mock trial.
2. Lear chooses Edgar, disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam, as his “justicer.”
3. The blanket Edgar wears is considered a robe by Lear.
4. The Fool is Edgar’s “yoke-fellow of equity” or legal partner.
5. Kent feels only pity for the King and says very little.
6. The King arraigns Goneril first.
7. Goneril’s crime is kicking “the poor king her father.”
8. The King would like to “anatomize Regan” to find the cause of her “hard heart.”
9. Gloucester tells Kent to take the King to Dover in a litter. Gloucester is afraid for the King’s life.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Act III, Scene 7: Questions and Answers
1. Who accompanies Goneril on her way to see her husband, the Duke of Albany?
2. What news does Oswald bring to Cornwall and Regan?
3. Why does Cornwall advise Edmund to leave?
4. What happens to Gloucester after the servants bring him back?
5. Where does this scene take place?
6. Why does Gloucester say he took the King to Dover?
7. Who gouges out both of Gloucester’s eyes? Who encourages him?
8. Who draws his sword on Cornwall and wounds him?
9. Who kills the servant of Cornwall by stabbing him in the back?
10. Which characters appear to be the only good ones in this scene?
1. Goneril is accompanied by Edmund.
2. Oswald tells Cornwall and Regan that the King and 36 of his knights are on their way to Dover.
3. Cornwall says that it is not wise for Edmund to observe the revenge they will take upon his traitorous father.
4. Gloucester is bound to a chair and cross-examined.
5. Ironically, the scene takes place in Gloucester’s own castle.
6. Gloucester tells Regan he took the King to Dover so she would not pluck out his eyes with her nails.
7. The Duke of Cornwall, Regan’s husband, gouges out Gloucester’s eyes in his own castle. Regan encourages him.
8. Cornwall’s servant draws a sword in defense of...
(The entire section is 257 words.)
Act IV, Scene 1: Questions and Answers
1. Who is leading the blind Duke as the scene opens?
2. Who leads Gloucester to Dover?
3. What is Edgar’s mood in his soliloquy?
4. How does Edgar feel when he sees his blind father?
5. What does Gloucester tell the old man to bring for Edgar?
6. How does the old man respond to Gloucester’s request for clothes?
7. Why is it difficult for Edgar to keep up his disguise?
8. Why does Gloucester give Edgar his purse?
9. In this scene how does Gloucester feel about the distribution of wealth?
10. Where does Gloucester want Edgar to lead him near Dover?
1. The old man, a former tenant, leads the blind Gloucester.
2. Edgar, still disguised as Tom o’ Bedlam, leads Gloucester to Dover.
3. Edgar feels encouraged, thinking that the worst is over.
4. Edgar feels he is worse than he ever was, now that he sees his blinded father.
5. Gloucester tells the old man to bring Edgar, disguised as poor Tom, some clothes to wear.
6. The old man says he will bring the best apparel that he has.
7. It is difficult for Edgar to look at his father’s condition and still keep up his madman’s disguise.
8. Gloucester gives Edgar his purse because he trusts him. He is blind and cannot handle his own money.
9. Gloucester feels...
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Act IV, Scene 2: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Goneril send Edmund away when they arrive at Albany’s palace?
2. In what ways has Albany’s disposition changed?
3. To what does Goneril attribute Albany’s change?
4. What does Albany accuse Goneril of doing?
5. What news does Goneril bring to her husband, Albany?
6. In what way does Goneril compare Edmund with Albany?
7. How does Albany describe Goneril’s personality?
8. What important news does a messenger bring to Goneril and Albany?
9. What is Goneril’s reaction to Cornwall’s death?
10. Why does Albany want revenge?
1. Goneril sends Edmund back to her sister because she does not think he would be welcomed by the changed Albany.
2. Albany smiles when told the French army has landed, he does not welcome his wife upon her arrival, and calls Oswald a “sot” for telling him of Gloucester’s traitorous activities.
3. Goneril feels Albany is cowardly and, therefore, he wishes to avoid the recent events that have taken place in the
4. Albany accuses Goneril of cruel treatment of her father, the King.
5. Goneril brings news of the impending invasion by France.
6. Goneril sees Edmund’s manliness as superior to Albany’s.
7. Albany describes Goneril as a devil disguised in a woman’s body....
(The entire section is 259 words.)
Act IV, Scene 3: Questions and Answers
1. Where has the King of France gone?
2. What letters does Kent ask the Gentleman about?
3. What is Cordelia’s reaction to Kent’s letters about her father?
4. What reason does Kent give for the differences in Lear’s daughters?
5. Why does Lear refuse to see his daughter Cordelia?
6. Who will watch over the King in Kent’s absence?
7. Is Kent aware that Cornwall has died?
8. What does the “holy water” represent in this scene?
9. Who are the “dog-hearted daughters” whom Kent refers to?
10. Where is Lear in this scene?
1. The King of France has gone back to France to take care of business that could, in his absence, prove dangerous to the state.
2. Kent asks the Gentleman about the letters written to Cordelia containing news of her father’s suffering.
3. Cordelia reacts with sorrow and love for her father.
4. Kent thinks the answer is given in the stars that “govern our conditions.”
5. Lear is filled with guilt and shame for what he has done to her, and, therefore, refuses to see her.
6. The Gentleman will watch Lear while Kent is gone.
7. Kent speaks of Albany and Cornwall’s powers so we can assume he thinks Cornwall is still alive.
8. The “holy water” is a metaphor for Cordelia’s tears....
(The entire section is 234 words.)
Act IV, Scene 4: Questions and Answers
1. As Cordelia enters, what has she heard regarding the King?
2. What does Cordelia instruct her officer to do?
3. Who does Cordelia depend on to heal her ailing father?
4. What will the doctor use in his treatment of the King?
5. What kind of treatment does the doctor prescribe?
6. In what way will Cordelia’s tears aid the King’s treatment?
7. Why is Cordelia anxious to find her father very soon?
8. Why does Cordelia’s army invade Britain?
9. What is this scene’s main function?
10. What was the King wearing when Cordelia last saw him?
1. Cordelia has heard that the King is singing loudly and wears a crown of weeds on his head.
2. Cordelia instructs her officer to search for the King until he finds him.
3. Cordelia depends on the Doctor to heal her father.
4. The Doctor will use medicinal herbs to treat the King.
5. The Doctor prescribes sedated rest for the King.
6. Cordelia’s tears will water the rare herbs that will remediate her father’s distress.
7. She is afraid he will die if he goes on much longer.
8. Cordelia says the French army is there to defend her “ag’d father’s right.”
9. This scene functions to give us background on the King’s condition before he reappears.
(The entire section is 226 words.)
Act IV, Scene 5: Questions and Answers
1. Has Albany raised an army to fight France?
2. Who is a better soldier than Albany? Why?
3. What does Regan think Edmund has set out to do?
4. Why does Regan want Gloucester out of the way?
5. Who sent Oswald with a letter for Edmund?
6. Why does Regan want to read Goneril’s letter to Edmund?
7. Does Oswald know what the letter contains?
8. According to Regan, what are the obvious signs of Goneril’s love for Edmund?
9. What does Regan ask Oswald to do to Gloucester?
10. How does Oswald feel about his instructions to kill Gloucester?
1. Albany has raised an army, but only with much persuasion.
2. Goneril, Albany’s wife, is a better soldier than he because she has ambition for her own power.
3. Regan thinks Edmund plans to murder his father.
4. Regan wants Gloucester killed because sympathy for his blindness will turn people against her.
5. Goneril sent Oswald with a letter for Edmund.
6. Regan wants to read Goneril’s letter because she sees her sister as her rival for Edmund’s attentions.
7. Oswald probably does not know the contents of the letter.
8. Goneril has been gazing amorously at Edmund.
9. Regan wants Gloucester to be killed.
10. Oswald will do anything as long as he can get...
(The entire section is 212 words.)
Act IV, Scene 6: Questions and Answers
1. How is Edgar dressed in this scene?
2. Where is Gloucester standing when Edgar tells him he is at the edge of the cliff?
3. Who does Gloucester think has saved him when he supposedly jumped off the cliff?
4. What does Edgar call Gloucester after he has jumped?
5. How does Gloucester say that he can see without eyes?
6. What is the “great stage of fools”?
7. Who is Oswald’s “proclaimed prize”?
8. Who kills Oswald to protect Gloucester?
9. What are Goneril and Edmund plotting against Albany?
10. What is the Gentleman’s news to Edgar about the war with France?
1. Edgar is dressed as a peasant in this scene.
2. Gloucester is standing on flat ground far from the roaring sea.
3. Gloucester thinks that the gods have saved his life.
4. Edgar calls Gloucester father for the first time since his escape from Gloucester’s castle when he fled for his life.
5. Gloucester says that he sees “feelingly.”
6. The “great stage of fools” is the world that all of us come to when we are born.
7. Oswald sees the blind Gloucester as a prize since Regan has put a price on his head.
8. Edgar kills Oswald to protect Gloucester from being killed.
9. Goneril and Edmund are plotting Albany’s death.
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Act IV, Scene 7: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Kent prefer not to reveal his true identity to anyone except Cordelia?
2. In what way has the King’s attire been changed?
3. Why is the King able to sleep so well?
4. How long has it been since Cordelia has seen her father?
5. When Lear awakens, where does he think he has been?
6. Is Lear angry at Cordelia in this scene?
7. How does Cordelia feel when her father finally recognizes her as his daughter?
8. Why does the doctor want Cordelia and the others to leave the King alone after they have spoken with him for a while?
9. What news does the Gentleman tell the disguised Kent about Edgar and Kent?
10. Who has taken the former Duke of Cornwall’s place as the leader of the people?
1. Kent is not ready to reveal his identity because at this point in the play his purpose for the disguise has not been completely fulfilled.
2. The King’s clothes have been changed from the ragged attire that he wore in the storm to “fresh garments.”
3. The King has been given a drug to help him sleep.
4. Cordelia has not seen her father since she was banished in the first scene of the play.
5. Lear thinks he has been taken him out of the grave.
6. Lear is not angry at Cordelia but tells her she has cause to hate him.
7. Cordelia is...
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Act V, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers
1. Why is Albany concerned about the battle with France?
2. How does Albany finally resolve his dilemma about fighting the French?
3. To which sister has Edmund sworn his love?
4. Who joins Albany in the tent to talk about the upcoming battle with France?
5. Who delivers Goneril’s letter to Albany?
6. What information does the letter contain?
7. Why is Goneril the better choice of mate for Edmund?
8. How does Edmund plan to treat Lear and Cordelia if Britain wins the battle with France?
9. Where does Edgar place his father during the battle?
10. What does Edgar tell his father when he does not want to flee to safety after the battle?
1. Albany is concerned about fighting his own father-in-law, the King.
2. Albany decides that the war with France is a separate issue from the domestic quarrels with Lear and Cordelia.
3. Edmund has sworn his love to both Goneril and Regan.
4. Edmund and the oldest and most experienced officers join Albany in his tent.
5. Edgar delivers Goneril’s letter to Albany.
6. The letter, intended for Edmund, contains a plot to kill Goneril’s husband, Albany.
7. Goneril plans to kill Albany, which would put Edmund in the top position in the kingdom if he married Goneril.
8. Edmund plans to...
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Act V, Scene 3: Questions and Answers
1. Who has taken Lear and Cordelia captive after the French have lost the battle?
2. Who delivers Goneril’s letter, intended for Edmund, to Albany?
3. Who answers the Herald’s third trumpet sound?
4. How does Gloucester die?
5. How do Goneril and Regan die?
6. How does Edmund react to being stabbed by Edgar?
7. What have Goneril and Edmund planned to do to Albany?
8. How does Lear feel about going to prison with Cordelia?
9. What becomes of Cordelia in prison?
10. Who is left to rule the kingdom at the end of the play?
1. Lear and Cordelia have been taken captive by Edmund.
2. Edgar delivers Goneril’s letter to Albany.
3. Edgar appears on the call of the third trumpet to expose his half-brother Edmund as a villainous traitor.
4. His heart bursts when Edgar reveals himself as his true son.
5. Goneril poisons Regan and then kills herself with a knife.
6. Edmund forgives Edgar for killing him as long as he proves to be noble.
7. Goneril and Edmund have planned to kill Albany.
8. Lear is happy to be in prison with his long-lost daughter. In prison, they will sing and discuss the matters of the court.
9. Edmund has ordered that she be hanged. The order is rescinded by Edmund, but it is too late....
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Commentary on the double plot or subplot in King Lear frequently combines discussion of its function in the play with critiques of Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund. Historically, critics have pointed out the many parallels between the two plots, as well as the verbal echoes and cross-references from one story to the other. But more recently the differences between them have been highlighted by critics who demonstrate the discrepancies m circumstances and themes in the separate tragedies of Lear and Gloucester. In the judgment of most modern critics, the subplot Is much more than a repetition of the principal story. They see it as intensifying or heightening the central themes of the play, including the ingratitude of children, disorder in the family, human fallibility, the concept of individual identity, and the notion of spiritual development and rebirth.
Two scenes in the secondary plot have received the most attention: the blinding of Gloucester and his attempt to kill himself. Earlier critics found the blinding scene so vicious that they felt it ought to have taken place offstage. Modern critics, however, generally insist that audiences must experience its full horror to appreciate its implications: the evil that Lear and Gloucester struggle against is nothing short of monstrous. Commentators agree that Gloucester's physical blindness corresponds to Lear's moral blindness. The scene in which Edgar first deludes his...
(The entire section is 1659 words.)
Modern audiences of King Lear often observe the recurrence of images and references not only the eyes but things associated with the eyes, like crying, looking, and seeing. The numerous references to the eyes and their associated functions contribute to a thematic development which is almost certainly more than accidental to Shakespeare's purpose. We can look at several specific references to elaborate further the significance of this theme of "eyelessness" or ''blindness" in the play.
First, and most obvious is Gloucester's "I stumbled when I saw" (IV.i.19). He comes to believe that when he had full use of his eyes, he still had not been able to see the truth in the situation between his two sons (Edgar and Edmund) and realizes that there is an internal sense more keen in determining the truth than eyesight, which is considered our primary sense.
While initially Lear fails to recognize the truth about his daughters' love for him, he soon realizes that Goneril and Regan, having subsumed the power that was once his, have turned against him. He asks the gods ''If it be you that stirs these daughters' hearts / Against their father" (II.iv.274-75). Lear's primary problem, it might be argued then, is not that he, like Gloucester, fails to see the truth about his offspring. Perhaps Lear's ultimate failure is that he cannot see through his tears. He is often moved to cry but feels that the tears he sheds are not becoming to either his gender...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Booth, Stephen. “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” Indefinition, and Tragedy. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983. In part 1, “On the Greatness of King Lear,” much of the discussion focuses on the repeated false endings of the play. Booth also has an important appendix on the doubling of roles in Shakespeare’s plays, especially in King Lear.
Halio, Jay L. Critical Essays on “King Lear.” New York: Twayne, 1995. Contains a selection of the best essays on King Lear, including several on the “two-text hypothesis,” the play in performance, and interpretation. The introduction surveys recent trends in criticism.
Leggatt, Alexander. King Lear. Harvester New Critical Introductions. Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England: Harvester-Wheatsheaf, 1988. Includes a brief discussion of the stage history and critical reception, as well as a thorough discussion of the play’s dramatic idiom and characters.
Mack, Maynard. “King Lear” in Our Time. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965. Surveys the play’s historical background, sources, and aspects of its staging. Also provides many perceptive critical comments on the action and its significance.
Rosenberg, Marvin. The Masks of King Lear. 1972. Reprint. Newark: University of...
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Bibliography and Further Reading
*If available, books are linked to Amazon.com
Adelman, Janet. ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of King Lear. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978.
Booth, Stephen. King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.
Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy, New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1992.
Bradley, Andrew Cecil. Shakespearean Tragedy.. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing, 1903/1964.
Danby, John F. Shakespeare’s Doctrine of Nature. London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1951.
Ericson, Peter. Patriarchal Structure in Shakespeare's Drama. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1985.
Fraser, Russell A. Shakespeare's Poetics in Relation to King Lear. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962.
Gupta, S.C. Sen Aspects of Shakespearian Tragedy. Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Collins’ Clear-type Press, 1956.
James, Max H. "Our House Is Hell": Shakespeare's Troubled Families. New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.
Kermode, Frank. "King Lear," The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1974, pp.1249-1254.
Kermode, Frank, ed. Shakespeare: King Lear. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1992. An invaluable source for seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century commentary and criticism on King Lear, and for twentieth-century studies.
Kernan, Alvin B., ed. Modern Shakespearean Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1970.
Knights, L. C. Some Shakespearean Themes. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1960.
Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1950.
Martin, William F. The Indissoluble Knot: King Lear as Ironic Drama. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.
(The entire section is 323 words.)