King Lear Introduction
by William Shakespeare

King Lear book cover
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So you’re going to teach King Lear. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into King Lear’s drama of political intrigue and the familial tragedy surrounding Lear’s abdication from power, his daughters’ competition for the throne, and his quest to understand himself in a complex and cruel world. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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  • Facts at a Glance 
  • Publication Date: 1606 
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level: 12 
  • Approximate Word Count: 26, 150 
  • Author: William Shakespeare 
  • Country of Origin: England 
  • Genre: Tragedy 
  • Literary Period: English Renaissance 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Supernatural, Person vs. Self 
  • Setting: 8th Century BCE 
  • Structure: Five-Act Stage Drama 
  • Mood: Dramatic, Suspenseful, Cruel

Texts That Go Well With King Lear

“The Absent Mother in King Lear,” a 1986 essay by Coppélia Kahn, provides a detailed, modern, feminist reading of King Lear. In addition to providing an extensive close reading of the text, Kahn argues that Lear’s, and his society’s, tragic flaw is their pervasive patriarchal worldview. 

The Dresser, a 1980 play by Ronald Harwood, revisions Lear as an aging actor whose mental illness threatens the production of King Lear in which he has been cast. The play was made into a 2015 film starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins. 

Fool, a 2009 novel by Christopher Moore, retells the story of King Lear from the perspective of the Fool. Moore names the Fool “Pocket,” and grants him his own set of motivations, namely the affections of Cordelia. Moore employs a blend of archaic Elizabethan diction and modern British slang, all in a comic style aimed at American readers. 

Hamlet , by William Shakespeare. Penned between 1599 and 1602, this tragedy echoes many of the...

(The entire section is 531 words.)