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King Lear Learning Guide


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King Lear Learning Guide

  2. 2. King Lear LETTER FROM THE REP Dear Educators, Welcome to the Rep! We are thrilled to be presenting King Lear, our first Shake- CONTENTS: speare production in five seasons. We are also proud to be presenting it in coopera- tion with the University of Kansas City Department of Theatre. It is, sadly, rare that LETTER FROM students have opportunities to see fully and professionally produced productions by 2 THE REP the world’s greatest playwright. The themes of this classical tragedy are enormous. They include such significant topics as justice, power, madness, abdication, redemp-PLOT SUMMARY tion, family responsibility, material possessions and wealth (bling!) and the true na- 3-5BY LAURA MUIR ture and expression of love. Although we are not an elderly and wealthy king in WILLIAM Britain during the Celtic era in the 8th century, these are themes that are a part of 6 our modern lives. And although they are themes of depth and magnificence in a SHAKESPEARE royal kingdom, they reflect the dynamics of questions with which we continue to SHAKESPEARE wrestle and dance in our own lives today. 7 TIME LINE KING LEAR When actors, directors and designers begin work on a play by William Shakespeare,PLOT SOURCES they must first immerse themselves in the words of the play or the text. A rich un- 8-10BY DR. THOMAS derstanding of the way he used words to create the most complex of human relation- CANFIELD ships is integral to interpreting them on the stage today. In Shakespeare’s time, his KING LEAR plays were not published and so the audience’s appreciation of them depended en- 10 tirely on performance. In the period during which these plays were performed, there CHARACTERS were no computers, TV’s, DVD players or iPods. There would have been no elec- KING LEAR 11 tricity or high technology to bring to life the sound and lights of the raging storm for FAMILY TREE their afternoon performances. So the words played a much more meaningful role in CLASSROOM storytelling than they do in our highly visual world. For those of us who want to 12-21 ACTIVITIES make sure that the art of bringing the written word to life onstage survives and is CREATE YOUR shared with future artists and audience members, Shakespeare is heaven-sent. OWN FAMILY 12-13 COAT OF ARMS Young audience members possess the ideal openness and imagination to embrace AS I WRITE IT 14-15 the size of Shakespeare’s stories and unforgettable characters. The first Shake- speare production I saw as a youngster was Much Ado About Nothing here at the KING LEAR’S Rep. I have never forgotten those colorful men and women, the vibrancy of their 15 TALK SHOW passions or the wonder of their words. That early exposure to the richness ofSHAKESPEARE’S Shakespeare’s world sent me on a continually joyous adventure of discovery. WORDS ARE 16 OUR WORDS There is an abundance of research and information available to us when we study Shakespeare. Included here you will find just the tip of the iceberg. His charactersPHOTO CAPTION 17 are so uniquely expressive with words which is a skill I know you’d love for your THEMES, students to cultivate. We love opening up the world of theatrical language and lit- LANGUAGE AND 18-19 erature to students. If you would like us to help you do that, please be in touch any- DISCUSSION time. Enjoy the play! SCENE ANALYSIS 20-21 We relish your responses and opinions.INCITING MOMENTINTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR LARRY 22 Melinda McCrary CARPENTER Director of Education and Community Programs 8/235.5708 RESOURCES 23 -2-
  3. 3. King Lear KING LEAR PLOT SUMMARY It is the night of a lunar eclipse in Celtic Britain delia exit.and the aging King Lear has decided to relinquish his Later that night, as the eclipseroyal throne and divide his kingdom between his three wanes, Edmund, bastard son of the Earldaughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. His surprise of Gloucester, vows to himself to secure the land hisstipulation is that each daughter must prove her love to father has given to his legitimate son Edgar. Hishim by public declaration in order to receive her third of scheme involves a clumsy attempt to hide a letterhis land and power. from Gloucester that was supposedly written by his Goneril, the oldest, speaks first, declaring that she half-brother Edgar. Falling into Edmund’s trap,loves Lear “dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty…No Gloucester demands to see the letter. Edmund’s for-less than life.” Regan continues the flattery, adding, “I gery of his brother’s hand states that Edgar believesam alone felicitate in your dear highness’ love.” Lear their aging father should turn over his fortune to histhen asks Cordelia, the youngest and his favorite, “what sons and let them manage his affairs. Gloucester iscan you say to win a third more opulent than your sisters? enraged, but Edmund calms him. Later, EdmundSpeak.” Cordelia, indignant at having to prove her love warns Edgar that he is in trouble with their father,and refusing to flatter her father, proclaims “I love your “Bethink yourself wherein you may have offendedMajesty according to my bond, no more nor less.” Her him.” After Edgar’s departure, the wily Edmund re-father fervently urges her to mend her speech “lest you flects on his situation which he believes is soon tomar your fortunes” but she says she cannot. change in his favor: “Let me, if not by birth, have Unjustly enraged, Lear lands by wit.”withdraws his offer to give Corde- At Goneril’s house onlia her share of his land. His long- a subsequent day, the mistresstime ally the Earl of Kent implores accuses her father of disruptivehis king to reconsider, but Lear is behavior and instructs hersteadfast. He calls forth the Dukes steward, Oswald, to act coldlyof Albany and Cornwall, husbands towards Lear and his knights.of Goneril and Regan, and passes Meanwhile, the banished Kenthis coronet to them, investing them arrives, disguised as a servant,jointly with his power, and says intending to continue to be ofthat he will alternate living in their service to Lear, behind thehouseholds. Kent again urges Lear scenes. “Now, banished Kent,to reconsider but his loyalty and if thou canst serve where thousound advice are ignored; Lear (l to r) Naomi Peter (Cordelia), Larry Paulsen (Fool), John dost stand condemned so mayconsiders Kent’s advice treasonous Rensenhouse (Albany), Kandis Chappell (Goneril), Gary Neal it come, my master, whom Johnson (Gloucester), and Denis Arndt (Lear)and banishes him on threat of death. Photo by: Don Ipock Photography though lov’st shall find thee Lear has called for the King full of labours.”of France and the Duke of Burgundy, both long-time suit- Lear demands to see Goneril, but she in-ors of the now impoverished Cordelia. He offers Cordelia structs Oswald to say she is ill; Lear’s Fool jeers himfirst to Burgundy but, without the dowry of land, as previ- for giving his lands to his unappreciative daughters.ously agreed; the duke declines. Acknowledging Corde- Finally, Goneril enters and begins arguing with herlia’s discredit, Lear then beseeches France to “direct your father about an outbreak of quarrelling and rioting inliking a more worthier way than on a wretch whom Na- his retinue of 100 men, accusing him of protecting theture is ashamed almost to acknowledge hers.” France, miscreants and being too old to keep his knights inhowever, is impressed by Cordelias steadfastness and order. Furious, Lear leaves, proclaiming to Albany,says that he considers Lear’s youngest daughter “herself a Goneril’s husband, “How sharper than a serpent’sdowry.” He takes her as Queen of France, explaining, tooth it is to have a thankless child!”“Thy dowerless daughter, King, thrown to my chance, is Lear vows to take refuge at Regan’s, declar-Queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.” Lear’s court ing “I have another daughter, who, I am sure, is kindexits, leaving behind Regan, Goneril, France, and Corde- and comfortable,” unaware that Goneril is at that mo-lia who entreats her sisters to “Love well our father: to ment writing to her sister.your professed bosoms I commit him.” France and Cor- (Continued on page 4) -3-
  4. 4. King Lear That night, at Gloucesters cas- you all…made you my guardians…” Lear, in a rage, tle, Edmund convinces Edgar that he is leaves Gloucester’s castle and sets out into the storm. in danger and urges him to flee. Ed- Gloucester is concerned for his safety, but Cornwall urges mund then wounds himself to make it him to “Shut up your doors my Lord; ‘tis a wild night…look as if Edgar has attacked him. Gloucester, mis- come out o’th’storm.”guidedly thankful for Edmunds support, vows to cap- Gloucester complains to Edmund that Lear’sture Edgar and reward Edmund. daughters and their husbands have commandeered his Meanwhile Regan and Cornwall arrive to home for their own use and “charged me, on pain of per-discuss their ensuing war against Lear, using petual displeasure, neither to speak of him [Lear], entreatGloucester’s dispute with his son as fuel. Edgar is from him, or any way sustain him.” But Gloucester vowsaccused of being a companion of Lear’s riotous to search for his old master even if it costs him his life.knights. Regan vows that if Lear “come to sojourn at On the Heath, Lear and the Fool are buffeted bymy house, I’ll not be there.” the raging storm when Kent arrives, still in disguise. He In the predawn hours, Kent arrives at finds shelter for the King, whose sanity is faltering – “MyGloucesters with a message from Lear and meets wits begin to turn.” Lear refuses to enter. Unexpectedly,Oswald (whom Kent dislikes and mistrusts) who is Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom, a madman, comes out ofcarrying a message from Goneril. Kent attacks the hovel. Recognizing the King and his Fool, Poor TomOswald, but Cornwall and Regan break up the fight engages the men but Lear sees only references to hisand Cornwall puts Kent in the stocks. Gloucester daughters in Tom’s rages and begins tearing off histries to intervene, “Pray, do not, Sir.” replies Kent. clothes. Gloucester arriveds, and entreats the half nakedMeanwhile, Edgar decides he must flee and disguise Lear to enter the hut explaining, “My duty cannot obeyhimself as a beggar, for his own safety. your daughters’ hard commands to bar my doors…I have ventured to come seek you out and bring you where both fire and food is ready.” Back at Gloucester’s, Cornwall tells Edmund that he will seek revenge against Gloucester for his sympathy for Lear. Cornwall urges Edmund to betray his father, claiming, “though shalt find a dearer father in my love.” During the night, Gloucester has brought Lear, Edgar (as Poor Tom) and the Fool to an isolated farm- house. Lear, half mad, continues his rant against his daughters, prosecuting them in a mock trial. Kent cau- tions Lear to show patience with his daughters, and Ed- gar, in an aside, takes pity on the old king. Gloucester encourages Kent to immediately take Lear to Dover, where protection awaits him. “If though should’st dally half an hour, his life…stand[s] in assured loss.” Together, they leave for Dover. Meanwhile, the storm is blowing itself out and Cornwall, Regan, Goneril and Edmund return to Glouces- Gary Holcombe (Kent) and knights ter’s house with their servants. Cornwall tells Goneril that Photo by: Don Ipock Photography an army from France has landed at Dover, and tells his Lear now arrives, and finds Kent in the knights to seek out the traitor Gloucester. Goneril says tostocks. At first, Regan and Cornwall refuse to see her pluck out his eyes. Cornwall takes his leave and tells Ed-father claiming fatigue from the night’s travels. Fi- mund, who is now calling himself Earl of Gloucester, tonally, they agree to see Lear, and Regan chides him, stay behind. “The revenges we are bound to take upontelling him that he “should be ruled and led” and en- your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding.”couraging him to return to Goneril’s. Soon, Goneril Gloucester, now a prisoner, is returned to hisarrives and together the sisters admonish Lear for his home where he is interrogated about his alleged treasonbehavior, accusing him of weakness; they push Lear and his loyalty to “the lunatic king.” Cornwall savagelyto the brink of sanity to which he comments, “I gave (Continued on page 5) -4-
  5. 5. King Learplucks out Gloucester’s eyes. Blinded, Gloucester calls At the French camp near Do-out to his son Edmund for mercy but Regan exclaims, ver, Kent, who has continued to serve“Thou call’st on him that hates thee; it was he that made as Lear’s protector, and Cordelia dis-the overture of thy treasons to us.” Gloucester is turned cuss Lear’s condition with a doctor.out of his home, but is followed by two servants who plan When Lear awakes, he seems saner than before andto help him. recognizes his formerly favorite daughter. Lear ques- On the Heath the following morning, Goneril’s tions whether or not Cordelia has plans to poison him,servant leads Gloucester to the farmhouse and comes “I know you do not love me; for your sisters have, asupon Poor Tom (Edgar). Gloucester sends the servant I do remember, done me wrong: You have someaway and asks Tom to lead him to the edge of the high cause, they have not.”cliffs at Dover. That night Regan interrogates Edmund about That afternoon, Edmund his possible love for her sis-pledges his loyalty and love to ter. “Dear my lord, be notGoneril. When her husband Al- familiar with her.” Gonerilbany learns that the daughters and Albany enter. Albanyhave mistreated their father he tells them that Lear is withlashes out at Goneril, “You are Cordelia. Goneril says thenot worth the dust which the sisters and their forces mustrude wind blows in your face.” A band together to battle Cor-messenger brings news that delia and the French troops.Cornwall is dead from a fatal jab Still disguised, Edgar pullshe received from a protesting Albany aside and present aknight during his savage attack letter that he believes willon Gloucester. Albany, feeling change the course of action.sorry for Gloucester and learning Denis Arndt (Lear) and Naomi Peter (Cordelia) Edmund enters, soliloquizing Photo by: Don Ipock Photographyof Edmunds treachery with his to himself about havingwife, vows revenge. pledged his love to both sisters. If Albany is killed in At a French camp near Dover, Cordelia sends out battle, both sisters will be widows. Edmund vows toa sentry to find her father. That night, at Regan’s nearby show no mercy to Lear and Cordelia.encampment, Regan shares her concerns with Oswald Lear and Cordelia are captured in battle by(who has delivered a letter to the encampment) that her Edmund who orders them taken to jail and instructs asister might be in love with Edmund, whom Regan (now a Captain to kill them. Albany, Goneril and Regan ar-widow) would like to marry. “My Lord is dead; Edmund rive and argue about the battle. Regan complains ofand I have talk’d and more convenient is he for my hand stomach pains and is taken to her tent.than for your Lady’s.” Edgar, the rightful heir of his father to the In the countryside near Dover, Edgar describes title of Earl of Gloucester, arrives and challenges Ed-the perilous drop off the cliff to the blind Gloucester who mund’s claim to the title. They fight and Edmund isjumps, thinking he will die. In fact, he falls but a short injured. Goneril cries out to save Edmund but Albanydistance. Realizing he is alive, Gloucester cries out, intervenes and reveals Goneril’s letter; Goneril hastily“Alack, I have no eyes. Is wretchedness deprived that leaves. Edmund and Edgar continue to argue andbenefit to endself by death?” Now telling Gloucester he Edgar admits to protecting Lear. A knight rushes inis a beggar, Edgar helps his father up. Lear, now fully carrying a bloody knife. Goneril has poisoned Reganmad, approaches and speaks to them. Gloucester recog- and then stabbed herself. Both sisters are dead. Ed-nizes Lear’s voice. A French knight and some comrades mund reveals that he has ordered his Captain to hangapproach and, finding Lear, try to convince him to go to Cordelia and kill Lear. Edmund dies of his wounds.Cordelia, but Lear runs away. Lear emerges, carrying the body of Cordelia Oswald comes across Edgar and Gloucester and in his arms, and cries out “A plague upon you, mur-threatens to kill them. Edgar, though, kills Oswald in a derers, traitors all.” Grief stricken, he dies. The fu-fight; he then discovers a letter that proves that Goneril ture of his kingdom rests in the hands of Albany, theplans to murder Albany and marry Edmund. Edgar takes aging Kent, and Edgar.Gloucester’s hand and leads him away. -5-
  6. 6. King Lear WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616) Only a small collection of documents 1606). The first performances of Antony and Cleopatra, about the life of William Shakespeare Coriolanus, and Timon of Athens most likely occurredhas come down through the centuries to us, but during 1607 and 1608. Late in his life, Shakespeare pro-available materials state that he was born in 1564 duced a series of plays—including Cymbeline (circaand grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, a prosperous 1609), The Winter’s Tale (circa 1610), and The TempestEnglish market town in the county of Warwickshire (1612)—to which scholars have attached different la-northwest of London. His father, John Shakespeare, bels; sometimes these have been referred to aswas a glove maker and a prominent citizen of Strat- “tragicomedies,” but in recent years they have most usu-ford who eventually held the ally been described asposition of mayor. No known “romances.”surviving formal records of In 1613, the Globe Theatrethe playwright’s life exist dat- caught fire and burned to theing from the time between his ground. About this time,christening in 1564 at Strat- Shakespeare returned to Strat-ford’s Holy Trinity Church ford, where his wife and chil-and his marriage in 1582 to dren still lived. (Like the play-Anne Hathaway, a woman wright’s early years, this moveeight years his senior. The has long been the subject ofcouple’s daughter Susannah extensive scholarly conjec-was born six months after ture.) Made financially pros-their wedding, and twins, perous by his years in the thea-Hamnet and Judith, were born tre, he died a wealthy Stratfordin 1585. How Shakespeare landowner at age 52, in 1616,supported himself in his early and is buried in the same Strat-adulthood and when or why ford church where he had beenhe left Stratford for the Lon- christened.don theatrical world have Although many of Shake-been the subject of much speare’s plays were extremelyscholarly speculation. popular in England during theBy 1592, Shakespeare had playwright’s lifetime, it wasachieved some prominence in not until the 18th century—London both as an actor and more than 100 years after hisas an author, especially of death—that his work began tohistory plays; he also had pub- exert a major influence interna-lished a long narrative poem, tionally. His plays now are The title page of the First Folio ofThe Rape of Lucrece. The William Shakespeares plays. produced worldwide more thanTaming of the Shrew (circa those of any other dramatist.1593) gained him further rec- Since the mid-19th century, itognition. By about this time he also had become a has occasionally been argued that someone else of no-member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre bler lineage and greater education must have written hiscompany (renamed the King’s Men during the reign works, because some have found it inconceivable that aof James I which began in 1603) of which he was a man of modest family background and only a grammarprincipal actor, playwright and shareholder for the school education could have written the 37 masterpiecesnext 20 years. In 1598, Shakespeare’s company was credited to Shakespeare. Nevertheless, the literary canonevicted from its playhouse and then built the Globe which every season is celebrated by theatrical compa-Theatre in South London near the Thames River. It nies worldwide continues to bear his name, as do Shake-was at the Globe that Shakespeare produced his speare festivals all around the English-speaking parts ofmost famous tragedies: Hamlet (1600), Othello the globe.(circa 1604), Macbeth (1606), and King Lear (circa -6-
  7. 7. King Lear SHAKESPEARE TIMELINE This is an overview of what is believed to be the timeline of William Shakespeare’s work:1564. William Shakespeare is born in Stratford upon Avon to local tanner John and Mary Shakespeare. His actualbirthday is unknown but assumed and celebrated today on April the 23rd, just three days before his baptism was recorded in the Parishregister of the Holy Trinity Church on April the 26th.1582. At age 18, he marries the considerably older Anne Hathaway (26 years old) from Shottery on November the 27th.1583. Susanna, William and Anne Shakespeare’s first child who lives a full 66 years, is born just five months after Shakespeare andAnne Hathaway’s wedding (May 26th).1585-1592. Shakespeare is believed to have left his family in Stratford to join a company of actors as both playwright and performer,starting his career in theatre.1585. Shakespeare’s twins, Judith and Hamnet are born, (February 2) Hamnet living only eleven years whilst Judith lived 77.1589-1590. Shakespeare is believed by most academics to have written his very first play, Henry VI, Part One in this year.1590-91. Shakespeare is again believed to have written Henry VI, Part Two and Henry VI, Part III.1592. Shakespeare begins to be noticed as a force within London theatre; Robert Greene’s Groatworth of Wit famously calls Shake-speare an "upstart crow". He attacks Shakespeare as lacking originality since he borrows ideas from other sources for his own plays.Academics see this criticism as proof that Shakespeare was in London at this time. Theatres in London close because of the plague.1592-93. It is believed that Shakespeare wrote the poem Venus and Adonis and the plays Richard III and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.1592-94. The Comedy of Errors written in this time.1593. Shakespeare begins to compose the first of what will amount to a 154 sonnet collection. His narrative poem Venus and Adonis ishis first ever published.1593-94. The Rape of Lucrece, Titus Andronicus and The Taming of the Shrew are thought to have been penned by Shakespeare.1594. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre troupe including distinguished actor Richard Burbage and comic Will Kemp performswith Shakespeare in their group.1594-1595. Shakespeare pen’s Love Labour’s Lost.1594-1596. King John is assumed to have been written.1595. A busy year for Shakespeare as he is thought to have composed Richard II performed that very same year, A Midsummer Night’sDream, thought to be composed for a wedding and the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet.1596-1597. The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV, Part One are thought to have been written.1598. William is thought to have written the play Henry IV, Part Two and Shakespeare’s reputation as an actor is confirmed his per-formance in Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humor which clearly lists his name as a principal actor in the London play.1598-99. William writes the play Much Ado About Nothing in this year.1600-1601. Shakespeare is thought to have composed arguably his greatest play, Hamlet at this time.1601. The narrative poem, The Phoenix and the Turtle is thought to have been written.1601-1602. Twelfth Night or What You Will, Alls Well That Ends Well and Troilus and Cressida are probably composed.1604. Measure for Measure is believed to have been written in this year. It is later performed at King James I Court. Othello is alsopenned, being performed on November the 1st at Whitehall.1605. The Merchant of Venice is performed twice at King James’ Court earning a commendation from the King. King Lear is believedto have been composed in this year and as is Macbeth, the play’s Scottish background and kind portrayal of ancestor Malcolm beingintended as a celebration and honoring of King James Scottish ancestry.1606. Antony And Cleopatra is believed to have been composed.1607-1608. Timon of Athens, Pericles and Coriolanus are composed .1608. The King’s Men take on a twenty-one year lease of London’s first permanently enclosed theatre, the Blackfriars Theatre in thisyear. The return of the plague forces a closure of all playhouses and theatres from the spring of 1608 through to early 1610.1609-1610. Cymbeline is thought to have been composed.1610-1611. The Winter’s Tale is written.1611. The Tempest was written.1612-1613. The King’s men perform Othello and Julius Caesar amongst others in this year. Shakespeare is thought to have writtenCardenio, his only lost play during this period and with John Fletcher as a likely contributor, composes Henry VIII.1613. The Globe Theatre burns to the ground. The Two Noble Kinsmen is penned. A 1634 entry within the Stationer’s Registry confirmsthat both William Shakespeare and John Fletcher composed this play.1614. The Globe Theatre reopens.1616. William dies on April 23rd, his burial being recorded in the Stratford Holy Church Register two days later.1619. Hamlet is performed as part of Christmas celebrations at court.1623. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway dies, the same year, and fellow actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell gather togetherand publish for the first time, 36 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in a collection known as The First Folio.Source: -7-
  8. 8. King Lear SHAKESPEARE’S SOURCES FOR KING LEAR by Dr. Thomas Canfield Popular commentators and academic ex- to their relative professions of affection. The youngest daugh- perts around the world have celebrated ter, when she refuses to flatter her father, is disinherited andShakespeare’s genius for 400 years. Yet theatre audiences afterwards marries the king of the Franks. No English transla-do not often realize that the most esteemed playwright in tion of this work was available in Shakespeare’s day, but heworld history, whom they adore for his great dramatic plots might have read it in its original Latin or, just as likely, re-and poetic language, was in fact a very liberal borrower ceived the story as it was retold by numerous later writers whofrom a variety of sources. A significant portion of Shake- borrowed from the Historia. For example, Geoffrey’s workspeare’s true greatness does not exist in the originality of forms the basis of two verse romance chronicles which retellhis stories, which he typically derived and reconstructed, the Lear story: the Anglo-Norman Roman de Brut (1155) bybut rather is due to his artistic transformation–through lan- Wace–translated into English by William Caxton before Shake-guage and character development–of materials by earlier speare’s time–and Brut by Layamon, one of the first major textsauthors masterfully conscripted for his own use. The Trag- written in Middle English.edy of King Lear is a perfect example Three centuries later, the Learof Shakespeare’s inspired adaptation story was again briefly retold by Johnof sources, and also typifies his skill in Hardyng in his Chronicles (1436), but itemploying older elements to create was a renewed interest in the story by theworks of dramatic art which com- Tudor chroniclers and versifiers of thepletely overshadow their originals in next century that gave the tale truly wide-craftsmanship and brilliance. spread circulation. Obviously, such more Numerous early versions of contemporary sources have greater prob-the basic Lear story existed hundreds ability of having been familiar to Shake-of years before Shakespeare’s play speare. For example, the story of Lear waswas written in the early seventeenth recounted by Robert Fabyan in his Newcentury, and this has caused frustration Chronicles of England and Francefor scholars seeking to answer the (1516), and it appears as well in Polydoresphinx-like riddle of exactly which Vergil’s Anglicae Historiae (1534), asources Shakespeare had on hand work which introduces Cordilla’s argu-when composing his work. In King ment for transferring her primary devotionLear, for example, the general theme from her father to her husband after mar-of filial ingratitude and the contrast Denis Arndt (Lear) riage–a detail which also appears inbetween the treatment of their aged Photo by: Don Ipock Photography Shakespeare’s version. Later, elementsparents by good and selfish children from both Hardyng and Fabyan were ap-are common features found in ancient tales from Asian propriated by John Stow in his Summarie of Englyshe Chroni-tradition. The motif of a love test as a basis for the division cles (1563) and Annales (1592).of a parent’s property comes from European folklore, sev- In the 1574 edition of A Mirror for Magistrates, aeral variants developing a tale in which a daughter first verse biography of various figures from English history, Johntells her father that she loves him as much as salt, and then Higgins reiterated the tale of Leire as part of a collection ofdissipates his anger by demonstrating that this means he is early legends of Britain. In Higgins’s version, which drawsessential to her life. Scholars have also recognized in upon Geoffrey of Monmouth as a primary source and containsLear’s motif of three sisters, two of whom are evil and one many similar details, the dead Cordilla provides a first-personwho is good, superficial affinities between the play and the narrative account–in the form of a verse complaint–of her disin-fairy tale of Cinderella. The name “Lear” itself appears to heritance and the subsequent disgrace inflicted on her father atoriginate in Celtic tradition, with characters called Ler, Leir the hands of her sisters. Eventually, Leire comes to France andor Lyr. requests his estranged daughter’s assistance. Once reconciled, The earliest extant written down version of the Cordilla aids him in reestablishing his rule for three years and,Lear story–one that Shakespeare could have known–is the after Leire dies, she rules the country for five additional years–Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Brit- until the sons of Gonerell and Ragan imprison her in a dungeon,ain), a work composed in Latin by Geoffrey of Monmouth eventually leading her to commit suicide in despair.(c. 1100-c. 1155), a twelfth-century monk and historian. In Other possible sources for the play are William War-this text, a pseudo-historical figure called Leir, eleventh ner’s Albion’s England (1586), a long verse chronicle contain-king of the Britons and legendary founder of the city of ing a version of the Lear story, as well as the 1587 second edi-Leicester, plans to divide his kingdom among his three tion of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland,daughters–Gonorilla, Regau and Cordeilla–who are put to a and Wales, a work which Shakespeare clearly used as a stapleverbal test and given rule over their father’s land according (Continued on page 9) -8-
  9. 9. King Learsource not only for King Lear, but also for Macbeth, Cymbeline fiends by whom Edgar . . . claims to beand several of his English history plays. It was not until 1590, possessed” as well as “some of the lan-with the publication of two of the most famous English Renais- guage of madness, several of the attributessance poems–Edmund Spenser’s The Fairie Queene and Sir of hell and a number of colorful adjec-Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia–that plau- tives.”sible antecedents for Shakespeare’s play represent literary and In the same year that Harsnett’s work was pub-artistic modes rather than historical writing. This is also where lished, two other possible sources for Shakespeare’s playit becomes possible that Shakespeare becomes the source for also emerged, namely John Florio’s translation of Michelsubsequent works dealing with the story, in the view of some de Montaigne’s Essais and an account of the highly pub-scholars. licized court case in October involving Sir Brian An- Book II of Spenser’s unfinished epic allegory cele- nesley. Scholars have noted that more than one hundredbrates the virtue of Temperance in the character of a knight words from Florio’s translation do not appear anywherenamed Sir Guyon. In Canto X, Sir Guyon reads a “chronicle of in Shakespeare’s writing before King Lear, and that twoBriton kings” while sojourning at the House of Alma. This of Montaignes famous essays, “Of Solitariness” and “Anseven-stanza section of the lengthy epic is notable especially for Apology for Raymond Sebonde,” apparently refer tothe mode of Cordelia’s death; it is in Spenser that, for the first themes similar to those which Shakespeares deals withtime known, the manner of her death is specified as being in Lear. In the lawsuit involving Annesley, an ex-servantthrough hanging, by her own hand. Sidney’s work is also nota- of Queen Elizabeth I who owned a valuable estate inble for being a primary source for the secondary Gloucester plot Kent, the eldest of his three daughters, Lady Gracein King Lear. One episode in Book II is set in “a certain hollow Wildgoose, attempted to have her father certified as in-rocke” where the two main characters are compelled to take competent so that she and her husband could take overshelter from the hail and wind of a “tempests furie.” There, they the management of his affairs. Although the role playedencounter a king who has been alienated from his legitimate by Annesley’s second daughter in the affair is unknown,son by the false accusation of his bastard son–who has usurped his youngest daughter, Cordell, opposed the malevolenthis father’s title and blinded him. Subsequently, the rightful designs of her elder sisters by appealing to Sir Robertson, described as “poorely arayed” and “extreamely weather- Cecil.beaten,” rescues his father and prevents him from committing The Annesley case, moreover, does not standsuicide by leaping from a cliff. alone as a possible legal history source of themes ex- The single most important and immediate source for pressed by Shakespeare’s play. Another case involvedthe main plot of Shakespeare’s tragedy, however, is The True Sir William Allen, Lord Mayor of London from 1571-72.Chronicle Historie of King Leir and his Three Daughters: Growing old and frail, Allen decided to divide his estatesGonorill, Ragan, and Cordella, a chronicle play (author un- and wealth between his three married daughters, arrang-known) published in 1605 (although there is evidence that it ing to stay with each in turn. The trio eventually resentedwas performed by the Queen’s Men before 1594). Because this the charge of his upkeep and argued that Allen was rudeplay draws upon many of the same historical sources that to their servants. After cursing his daughters for theirShakespeare may have used independently for his own work, mistreatment of him, Allen died in misery.the problem of scholarly attribution is tangled. There is no Yet one more literary and dramatic source fordoubt that Shakespeare freely adapted some language and plot King Lear may be the work of John Marston (1576-details of the earlier play to his own ends, making it superior. 1634), the English poet, playwright and satirist. SomeHowever, unlike Shakespeare’s play, King Leir features a scholars have identified the mad speeches of Lear asprevalent Christian emphasis. Another major difference is the being influenced by Marston’s book of satires, Thefact that the king and Cordella do not die Lear but survive and Scourge of Villanie (1598), but more importantly theylive happily. The king goes off with his companions at the con- (Continued on page 10)clusion, leaving Cordella to reign in his place. Her two sisters–called Gonorill and Ragan–also do not die, but instead becomefugitives. Two important features in Shakespeare’s play, theparallel plot of Gloucester and the character of the Fool, do not Did you know???appear in Leir. There are some scholars who speculate that the For the mad verbiage Edgar employs when disguised roles of Cordelia and The Fool may have beenas Poor Tom O’Bedlam, Shakespeare may have been indebted originally played by the same a work published in 1603 by Samuel Harsnett (1561-1631). How could this work? One of the mostHarsnett was Chaplain to the Bishop of London and later be- obvious ways is that the two characters nevercame Archdeacon of Essex and subsequently Archbishop ofYork. His tract A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures appear onstage a detailed account of several heretical exorcisms conducted What could this doubling of rolesby Roman Catholic priests in England during 1585-86. In accomplish for both the theatre and for theShakespearean Negotiations, Stephen Greenblatt notes that significance in character’s relationships?Shakespeare appropriated from Harsnett “the names of the foul -9-
  10. 10. King Lear have seen his play The Malcontent (1604) as a source for the saturnine personality and CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY psychology of Edmund. The malcontent, a character type which frequently appears in King Lear, King of Britain, “a very foolish, fond old man, Renaissance drama, stands apart from the fourscore and upward,” who is headstrong and “full ofsociety surrounding him, usually having separated himself changes,” yet “every inch a king,” and “more sinned againstby choice. A discontented observer, the malcontent is than sinning.”often a melancholic anti-hero with a dark, sarcastic viewof life. In Edmund’s case, it should be noted in fairness, Goneril and Regan, Lear’s two older daughters, “the shame ofthis separation is not only by nature but also due to ille- ladies,” “she-foxes,” “gilded serpents,” “tigers, not daughters.”gitimate birth. While the quest to unearth Shakespeare’s sources Cordelia, Lears youngest daughter, the “unpriz’d preciousprovides much interesting material for study and research, maid,” who lacks “that glib and oily art to speak and purposeit is often a difficult and inconclusive endeavor resulting not.” “Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low; an excellentin more questions than solutions. The same evidence can thing in a woman.”point to opposing interpretations. King Lear is by nomeans an exception to the typical problem of identifying Earl of Gloucester, like Lear, a gullible, rash old man.the originals of Shakespeare’s work, and is perhaps anindication of the playwright’s genius by showing how he Edgar, Gloucester’s elder legitimate son, “whose nature is socombined elements from a wide variety of previous au- far from doing harms that he suspects none.”thors. Ultimately, for the true lover of dramatic art, theproducts of Shakespeare’s craft usually soar above any of Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, “a most toad-spottedhis historical or literary sources, and their excellence far traitor,” “rough and lecherous.”surpasses the quality of the raw materials the playwrightexploited for their composition. Duke of Albany, Gonerils “mild husband,”; “a man of milky gentleness.” BibliographyBullough, Geoffrey, ed. Narrative and Dramatic Sources Duke of Cornwall, wicked husband of Regan, a man “whose of Shakespeare. Vol. 7. London: Routledge and disposition...will not be rubb’d nor stopped.” Keagan Paul, 1973.Collington, Philip D. “Self-Discovery in Montaigne’s ‘Of The Duke of Burgundy and The King of France, rival suitors Solitariness’ and King Lear.” Comparative for the hand of Cordelia. Drama 35 (2001): 248-69.Greenblatt, Stephen. Shakespearean Negotiations. Berke Earl of Kent, a “noble and true-hearted” courtier, whose plain ley: U of California P, 1988. honest speech, like Cordelia’s, sometimes results in evil for theHalio, Jay L. King Lear: A Guide to the Play. Greenwood old King to whom he is devoted. “He cannot flatter, he; an Guides to Shakespeare. Westport, CT: Green honest mind and plain, he most speak truth.” wood P, 2001.Kermode, Frank. “King Lear.” The Riverside Shake The Fool, “a pretty knave,” Lear’s “bitter, all licensed” jester, speare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.R. also devoted to Lear and Cordelia, but one whose words are “a Tobin. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. pestilent gall” to the old King.“King Lear.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Oswald, Gonerils steward, “a serviceable villain,” whose W.W. Norton, 2000. 1106-1109. “easy-borrowed pride dwells in the fickle grace of her he fol-“King Lear.” The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Ed. lows.” Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. 244-248. An old tenant of Gloucester’sThe True Chronicle History of King Leir. Ed. Sir Sidney Lee. London: Oxford UP, 1900. A DoctorWells, Stanley. Introduction. The History of King Lear. The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford: Clarendon, Knights, Captains, Heralds, Soldiers, Pages and Attendants 2000. 1-80. Dr. Canfield has a Ph.D. in Renaissance Drama from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He currently teaches Bibliography English at Grantham University and is Dramaturge for the Watt, Homer. “Outlines of Shakespeare’s Plays. New York: Kansas City Repertory Theatre production of King Lear. Barnes & Noble, 1958. -10-
  11. 11. King Lear THE LEAR FAMILY TREE THE FOOL (EARL OF) KENT A court jester who is devoted to Faithful to Lear, he is banished after Lear and Cordelia. he speaks out about the treatment of Cordelia. He disguises himself to help serve Lear after he has given up his kingdom. KING LEAR The ruler of Britain. Upon the knowledge of his impeding retirement, he request his daughters to tell them how much they love him. His reaction to this act becomes his downfall. GONERIL REGAN CORDELIA Lear’s middle daughter. She Lear’s youngest daughter. HerLear’s eldest daughter. She name means (“heart of a lion”).chooses to turn her back on too turns her back on her father (after inheriting half Is disowned by her father yet her father (after inheriting remains loyal to him. Uses her half his kingdom) and his kingdom). husbands power to try to help betrays her husband. her father after he is banished by her sisters. (DUKE OF) ALBANY (DUKE OF) CORNWALL Goneril’s husband. Regan’s husband. KING OF FRANCE A powerful nobleman in Another powerful nobleman Chooses to marry Cordelia Britain. He sees the brutality of in Britain. He leaves Lear even after she has been what he and his wife have done. out in the storm and gouges disowned by her father. Gloucester’s eyes out. Helps Cordelia storm Britain in an attempt to take back the country for Lear. EDMUND EDGAR Gloucester’s illegitimate son. Gloucester’s son. His Turns his father against his illegitimate brother brother. Uses Goneril and forces him to leave the Regan to further his ambitions. kingdom and disguises Forms a romantic triangle with himself as the two sisters. “Tom of Bedlam”. (EARL OF) GLOUCESTER Loyal to Lear. A nobleman in Britain. The father of Edgar and his illegiti- mate son, Edmund. Tries to help Lear and pays for it with his eyesight. - 11 -
  12. 12. King Lear CLASSROOM ACTIVITES COAT OF ARMS Create Your Own Family Coat of Arms On the opposite page, create your own Coat of Arms use Symbols and Colors from below for inspiration. Write a paragraph about your Family Coat of Arms. What specific attributes did you use for your Coat of Arms? Why? ANIMALS OBJECTSBear Strength, cunning, ferocity in the protection of ones Candle Light, life, and spirituality children Compass DirectionBee Efficient industryCat Liberty, vigilance, forecast, and courage Fire ZealousnessDeer One who will not fight unless provoked; peace and Flowers Hope and joy harmony Globe Worldliness; world travelDog Courage, vigilance, and loyalty Loving constancy and peace; the Holy Spirit; with an Hand Pledge of faith, sincerity, and justice;Dove olive branch in its bill, it signifies a harbinger of good two right hands conjoined represent union and tidings alliance Ivy Leaves Strong and lasting friendshipDuck Person of many resourcesElephant Great strength, wit, longevity, happiness, royalty, Inkhorn or Art of writing and educated employment good luck, and ambition Inkwell Moon Serene power over mundane actionsFish A true, generous mind; virtuous for himself, not be- cause of his heritage; also unity with Christ, spiritual Pears Felicity and peace nourishmentFox One who will use all that he/she may possess of wis- Rainbow Good times after bad dom and wit in his/her own defense Star Celestial goodness; noble personLion Dauntless courageMermaid Eloquence Sun Glory and splendor; fountain of lifeOwl One who is vigilant and of acute wit Tree Life and the mystical connection of the earth with heaven and the underworldPanther Fierce, but tender and loving to children and will de- Wings Swiftness and protection fend her children with her lifePeacock Beauty, power, and knowledgeTortoise Invulnerability to attackSnake Wisdom COLORSSwan Poetic harmony and learning, or lover thereof; light, Gold Generosity and elevation of the mind love, grace, sincerity, perfection Silver or White Peace and sincerityUnicorn Extreme courage; virtue and strength Red Warrior; Military strength Blue Truth and loyalty Green Hope, joy, and loyalty in love Black Constancy or grief Purple Royal majesty, sovereignty, and justice Orange Worthy ambition Maroon Patient in battle, and yet victorious -12-
  13. 13. King LearCREATE YOUR OWN FAMILY COAT OF ARMS (CONT…)For More Information Regarding Coat of Arms: -13-
  14. 14. King Lear AS I WRITE IT Writing and Comprehension Classroom Exercise Shakespeare’s King LearObjective: To enhance comprehension of individual words and the overall meaning of the text and howthe very specific words and images of Shakespeare bring the characters’ thoughts, feelings and goals tolife. To help the students learn to listen carefully to why particular language is chosen to tell a story.Resources: Paper/pencil or computer. Dictionary or annotated script of King Lear. A great referencebook for Shakespeare’s words is A Shakespeare Glossary by C. T. Onions.Suggested Scenes to Use: Edmund’s soliloquy – Act 1, Scene 2 Act 1, Scene 4 - It’s a long scene and can be divided up among the class. Act 4, Scene 6 - Kent, Cordelia, Lear, Gentleman Sequence of Activity:1.) Pick a scene or a soliloquy or monologue from King Lear. Discuss it’s meaning and how it movesthe plot of the play forward. Discuss each character’s motivations and their feelings about the other char-acters in the scene.2.) Write the scene or monologue out on notebook paper leaving a blank line between each ofShakespeare’s lines.• Ask each student to use their own words and language and re-write the script of the scene.• It is acceptable to use contemporary slang because Shakespeare certainly did.• If you are using a scene, you may want half of the class to do this with the lines of a major speaking character and the other half to do the lines of another major speaking character.• An objective is to write specifically to the sense of what Shakespeare is saying and not to write too much more.• Be sure to include all indications in the language about entrances and exits. Shakespeare wrote very few stage directions. Instead, he put that information and those clues in the words.3.) Make sure each student reviews their work and makes certain that their punctuation is how they wantit to be. Punctuation is very important for actors as they make decisions about pauses and rhythm as theydeliver their character’s lines. A period can mean something different than a comma.4.) Have each student read their work aloud, pairing students if you are using a scene. It is important tothe understanding of the language for it to be read aloud. He never meant for his plays to be read quietlyat home. You may want to have the students trade scripts and express the work of others.5.) Discuss each scene to evaluate whether or not the student captured the sense of the scene as Shake-speare meant it to play.6.) After discussion, let the students edit and re-write their work based on the feedback. -14-
  15. 15. King LearAS I WRITE IT (CONT…) Questions for Discussion:Did the scene have the same meaning and emotional level as Shakespeare’s? What words or phrases didhe use to communicate that emotional level?As you wrote, was there a particular character whose motivations and feelings you identified with morethan others? Did that make that character’s lines easier to put into your own words?Did the students use more words than Shakespeare to achieve the meaning of the scene? Why?Did the students use fewer words than Shakespeare to achieve the meaning of the scene? Why? KING LEAR TALK SHOW Active Classroom Exercise Shakespeare’s King LearObjective: To encourage students to move beyond the language in expressing their understanding ofShakespeares play. To bring the motivations of the characters and the sequence of the play to life for thestudents in order to enhance their comprehension of the plot and characters.Resources: The play, paper, a pen or pencil, 2 chairs. Sequence of Activity:1.) Ask the students to help name the talk show using the language and themes of King Lear.2.) Have the students write down one question they’d like to ask a major character in the play. Give themseveral characters from whom to choose.3.) Have one character play the talk show host and give them the questions for each character.4.) Have other students portray the major characters who are the guests of the talk show. They can appearon the show one at a time or as a panel. Questions for Discussion:Was your question answered?Do you have a greater understanding of why some of the characters behaved as they did in the play?If you portrayed a character on the talk show panel, do you have a greater understanding of that characternow that you have been asked to speak on their behalf?Does this exercise make you think of more questions you’d like to ask the characters? -15-
  16. 16. King Lear SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS ARE OUR WORDS Classroom Poetry Exercise for Shakespeare’s King LearObjectives: To solidify comprehension of words in the play, to break down Shakespeare’s poetry and liter-ary devices and use them again in an original way. To reinforce comprehension of literary devices such asimagery, tone, alliteration, assonance, metaphor, simile. To find the emotional meaning behind words anda new way to begin to write a play.Resources: Paper, pencil or computer. Scissors. Envelopes. King Lear script (or any Shakespeare play)and dictionary. A great reference book is A Shakespeare Glossary by C. T. Onions. Sequence of Activity:1.) Choose a passage from the play that is particularly rich in language and literary devices. (It’s not a hardassignment!)Suggested Scenes to Use: Edmund’s soliloquy Act 1, Scene 2 Lear and the Fool Act 1, Scene 5 Edgar’s soliloquy Act 2, Scene 3 Lear’s monologue at the end of Act 2, Scene 4 Lear’s monologue at the beginning of Act 3, Scene 2 Edgar’s monologue at the end of Act 3, Scene 4 Cordelia’s lines in Act 4, Scene 6 - “ O my dear father…….Speak to him.”2.) Read the passage out loud and discuss the meaning of your selection and why those particular words,images and sounds are effective in expressing that moment in the life of the character. Make certain thatyou have researched the definition of each word.3.) Type or write out your text selection in a large font for each student.4.) Have the students cut the text up into random words and phrases. It might be fun for them to cut outsome of the punctuation as if it were a word and include it. Put the cut up words into an envelope and havethe students pass their envelope onto another student.5.) They are then to take the words, now disembodied from their original meaning, and piece them togetherinto a new speech or poem which can be structured in any way the student designs. Copy this poem out.It will provide the kernels of a new character in a new story.6.) Read the new poems aloud and read Shakespeare’s passage again. Questions for Discussion:Did the words, phrases and imagery change in meaning or tone in their new form? How?What story, character or scene comes to mind as you read your new poem? -16-
  17. 17. King Lear PHOTO CAPTION Visual Art Classroom Exercise for Shakespeare’s King LearObjective: To connect the physical activity of the actors to an understanding of the plot line and script.To paraphrase for meaning and comprehension Shakespeare’s lines.Resources: King Lear Learning Guide, illustrated versions of the play or photos online from other pro-ductions at other regional theatres. Sequence of Activity:1.) We have included several photos of our production of King Lear throughout this guide and below. Pick, study and discuss a photo.2.) Decide at which point in the plot the photo was taken.3.) Give the photo a caption from the words in the script at that point in the plot. Which lines might bebeing spoken by the characters as that moment of action is taking place?4.) Give the photo a caption in your words that expresses what the characters are thinking or saying as themoment of action is taking place.If you are interested in drawing, you could also draw your favorite scene from the play or cut out imagesfrom a magazine that call to mind the actions and atmosphere of the play’s themes and characters. Thenuse the script to put captions with your artwork. Denis Arndt (Lear) and knights Larry Paulsen (Fool) and Denis Arndt (Lear) David DeSantos (Edmund) Photos by Don Ipock Photography -17-
  18. 18. King Lear THEMES, LANGUAGE AND DISCUSSION The themes that arise in the plot of King Lear are common in Shakespeare’s tragedies and in all classi- cal tragedies. The story follows two primary characters, King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester. As wewitness each of their families unravel, we find many themes of their individual stories are parallel and interwoven.We identify some of those themes as justice, madness, abdication, redemption, power, fate vs. free will, familyresponsibility and inheritance, blindness vs. vision, material possessions and wealth and the true nature oflove. Any of these are worthy as discussion topics of this fast-moving and passionate masterpiece. You will mostlikely come up with more ideas of themes explored by the plot and characters of King Lear as you discuss the play.THEME: RENUNCIATION Larry Carpenter, the director of our production was very struck by the theme ofrenunciation in the play. renounce 1 : to give up, MR. CARPENTER HAD THESE QUESTIONS AS HE EXPLORED THE PLAY: refuse, or resign usually by formal declaration <renounce When and why does someone renounce their work, their family, his errors> or their life choices? 2 : to refuse to follow, obey, When we give up or renounce something in our lives, or recognize any further : are we looking to become someone else? repudiate <renounce the We might ask, as well, are there times when renouncing authority of the church or saying farewell to a particular part of life or a person Synonyms :ABDICATE, is a productive choice? What is an example? ABJURE When might it be a mistake to renounce a part of our lives (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary) or a person we love?OTHER QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE THEMES OF THE PLAY:Who acted justly or fairly in this play? Who acted unfairly?What were the consequences to those who treated someone unfairly?What were the consequences to those who treated someone fairly?King Lear becomes mad in the play – what caused his madness? Was it inevitable?How could it have been prevented?Was it his doing? Does the responsibility lie with others? Who and Why?THEME: FATE OR FREE WILL?As do most classical tragedies, King Lear explores the extent to which we try to control our lives, the lives of oth-ers and our destiny by making particular choices. It also explores the way we try to control those we love. Do you believe you control your fate or your future by your choices or is it already planned out by some greater being? Considering each of the major characters, how do they justify their choices and actions? Can you put yourself in each of their shoes? Have you had experiences similar to any of their experiences? How do the choices of your parents control your lives? How do your choices control your parent’s lives? -18-
  19. 19. King LearTHEMES, LANGUAGE AND DISCUSSION (CONT…) LANGUAGEAs you read and watch this play, try to listen to the numerous times that Shakespeare uses images from nature. Theyare often words and phrases that describe the sounds, colors and emotional impact of the natural world. There aremany references to animals which use the features of an animal to describe a person. For example, when Edgar ispretending to be Tom of Bedlam, he describes himself as a ‘hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog inmadness, lion in prey.”Shakespeare’s characters are particularly expressive when they are insulting or cursing each other! Listen to the crea-tive ways they let one another know they are angry.The word “nothing” appears numerous times in this play and is spoken by a variety of characters. How does the im-age, meaning and definition of the word “nothing” fit in with the plot and themes of King Lear? LIFE CONNECTION DISCUSSION In today’s world of modern advancements in health care and prevention, we are living much longer than people did in Shakespeare’s time. So many of us are or will be responsible for the care of an aging parent. Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan say they will care for him in their own homes and then do not, claiming his behavior is unacceptable. Keep in mind an interesting historical fact about society during Lear’s reign and during the Elizabethan period when Shakespeare lived. Even though Shakespeare’s queen, Elizabeth I, was one of the most powerful rulers in world history, women could not directly inherit land or money from their fathers or their husbands. The inheritance would go to their husbands. Therefore, when Lear gives part of his kingdom to his daughters, Goneril and Regan, the land will actually pass onto their husbands, Albany and Cornwall. Do parents need to behave a certain way in order to be cared for by their children? How does inheritance of land, property or money influence a parent/child relationship? How do we see this influence each of Lear’s three daughters? How does our relationship with our parents influence our relationships with our brothers and sisters? How do the three sisters in the play deal with each other and their husbands as they discover ways to deal with the decisions of their father? How does your relationship with your siblings influence your relationship with your parents? Gloucester’s sons, Edgar and Edmund, have very different ways of treating their father? What are the reasons for that difference? -19-
  20. 20. King Lear SCENE ANALYSIS—INCITING MOMENT King Lear by William ShakespeareThe following scene is from the beginning of the play Act I Scene 1 and can be called the inciting moment or incident. It is from this conversation between King Lear and his daughters that all of the rest of the events of the play flow.Read it aloud and discuss what each character is saying and why they are saying it. What does each character want? Is it Lear’s question or Cordelia’s answer that sets the rest of the play in motion? Who is controlling the moment? Why does Cordelia answer the way she does? What is she thinking and what does she mean? What are Regan and Goneril saying and why do they answer the way they do? Why does Lear react to Cordelia’s answer the way he does? How do Lear’s words and imagery change as the scene changes? Clue: an ‘aside’ means that the actor speaks the line out loud but either to himself or to the audience. The rest of the characters do not hear it, so it functions as a thought. Since we, the audience hear the thought, it contributes to our understanding of what is happening. Shakespeare, and all playwrights, use repetition of words or images for emotional impact. Find an example of repetition in this scene and how the actors might use it to make their meaning, desires and emotions known.Act 1, Scene 1Lear: Tell me, my daughters, (Since now we will divest us both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state) Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril, Our eldest-born, speak first.Gon: Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty; Beyond what can be valued rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e’er lov’d, or father found; A love that makes breath poor and speech unable; Beyond all manner of so much I love you.Cord: [Aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.Lear: Of all these bounds, even from this line to this, With shadowy forest and with champains rich’d, With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, We make thee lady; to thine and Albany’s issue Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?Reg: I am made of that self-same metal as my sister, And prize me at her worth. In my true heart I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short: that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys Which the most precious square of sense possesses, And find I am alone felicitate In your dear highness’ love. -20-
  21. 21. King LearCord: [Aside] Then poor Cordelia! And yet not so; since I am sure my love’s Often, theatre directors decide to set one of More ponderous than my tongue. Shakespeare’s plays in a different time period orLear: To thee and thine, hereditary ever, Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom, location from when or where he indicates in his No less in space, validity, and pleasure, original script. The universality of his plots and Than that conferred on Goneril. Now, our joy, themes offers theatre artists many opportunities to Although our last and least, for whose young love The vines of France and milk of Burgundy interpret them in a variety of ways. For example, Strive to be interessed, what can you say to win Romeo and Juliet has been set in the Civil War or in A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak. Northern Ireland, using the warring families as aCord: Nothing, my lord.Lear: Nothing? context within which the play can come to life.Cord: Nothing. The words are still Shakespeare’s but the externalLear: Nothing can come of nothing: speak again. world is updated or interpreted by a modernCord: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth: I love your Majesty director and designers. What would be some According to my bond; no more nor less. places and eras in time where you could placeLear: How, how Cordelia? Mend your speech a little King Lear and still have the play make sense to an Lest you may mar your fortunes.Cord: Good my Lord, audience? Remember, the scenery, sound, lights You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I and costumes need to reflect your interpretation. Return those duties back as are right fit: Please see the King Lear Film Adaptatations Obey you, love you, and most honour you. section on Page 23 for some examples. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, That lord whose hand will take my plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty: Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all.Lear: But goes thy heart with this?Cord: Ay, my good LordLear: So young, and so untender?Cord: So young, my Lord, and true.Lear: Let it be so; thy truth then be thy dower: For, by the sacred radiance of the sun, The mysteries of Hecate and the night, By all the operation of the orbs From whom we do exist and cease to be, Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me Hold thee from this for ever. Come not between the Dragon and his wrath. I loved her most, and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight! So be my grave my peace, as here I take Her father’s heart from her! Naomi Peter (Cordelia) and David Graham Jones (King of France) Photo by: Don Ipock Photography -21-
  22. 22. King Lear INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR Esteemed Director Larry Carpenter Returns to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre to Stage Shakespeare’s Poetic and Powerful King LearKansas City Repertory Theatre welcomes back Larry Carpenter nihilism, in the case of this play--he can be devastating. Simply beingto direct King Lear by William Shakespeare. His other projects responsible for getting the scope and magnificence of this play on thehere, Company, Saint Joan, The Front Page and Give ’Em Hell, boards it a great challenge. Its terrifying and exhilarating all at theHarry, have been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. same time. I hope to be able to pass that feeling onto the audience.Carpenter informs his directing with a singular blend of intellectand wit as he takes on a variety of challenging projects from Has the text of the Rep’s production of King Lear been altered inmusicals to comedy to drama. He received a Tony Award any way? If so, how do you determine what to eliminate or changenomination for best director for Starmites and has directed pro- and why?ductions in New York for Roundabout Theatre Company, SohoRepertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizon, the Julliard School, Yes, we have shortened the play. Ive examined many different cuts ofand Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. His the play from many sources. From these sources and from my entrymany directing credits at regional theatres include the Hunting- point on the play, I generated a first draft cut script. Peter Altman andton Theatre Company in Boston, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and I then worked together to generate the rehearsal draft.Pasadena Playhouse. As a side bar, its probably also important to say that I was fortunate enough as a younger man to act in two separate productions of KingThe following interview was conducted by Kansas City Rep’s Lear with the renowned American classical actor Morris Car-director of communications Laura Muir. novsky. Morris was very famous for both his portrayals of Lear and of Shylock. I learned a great deal about the play, about the theatre andThe previous works you have directed for Kansas City Rep about the art of living from Morris. I owe him a great debt. Thats aare very diverse in subject matter and yet each of them very big reason for my interest in this playraises questions about how individuals, be they private citi-zens or religious and political figures, respond to societal Do you consider King Lear to be a play of our time that reflectsissues. Is this subtext something you look for in your direct- contemporary politics and humanity?ing projects? Since 9/11, the world has become progressively unpredictable, unsta-The simple answer is that every play in some way is a reflection ble and chaotic. By renouncing his kingdom, Lear throws his ownof its society. I like to think that Im drawn to plays that wrestle world into a similar chaos. A chaos which permits a perversion ofwith bits and corners of moral and ethical dilemmas that operate established moral and civil codes, cruelty, terrorism, and revolt. Learas fractals of our greater societal problems. Theatre is an arena is very much a cautionary tale for our time.which usually places an individual character center stage as aproxy for the audience member. This character then acts out a Do you have a favorite play by Shakespeare or any other play-ritual of trying to solve a dilemma--whether successfully or not- wright that you would still like to direct?-on behalf of the audience member and its society at large. Shakespeare - Richard II, Stoppard - Arcadia, Shaw - Major Barbara,You are well known for the extensive research you conduct Sondheim - A Little Night Music. These four authors really are myfor your plays How did you prepare to direct King Lear? heroes. Id pretty much direct any of their work anytime. Id also like to take a crack at Aeschylus, Athol Fugard, Chekhov, Brecht, andYes, Im a research maven. I have read a great deal on the Samuel Ive also viewed five or six of the DVD versions that areavailable. In addition, Ive done quite a bit of research on whatwas happening to Shakespeare in 1604-5 London. There is a FAMOUS QUOTES FROM KING LEARfascinating book by James Shapiro titled 1599: A Year in theLife of William Shakespeare. It is a very aggressively re- "How sharper than a serpents tooth it is to have asearched and well-thought-out examination of the year (1599) in thankless child!" (Act I, Scene IV).which Shakespeare wrote Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You LikeIt, and Hamlet. Im in the process with our productions drama- "I am a man more sinned against than sinning."turge of conducting a similar study to understand the social, (Act III, Scene II).political, religious, and theatrical issues that affected Shake-speare at the time he was creating Lear. "My loves more richer than my tongue". (Act I, Scene I).King Lear is such a profound exploration of the complexitiesof the human spirit. What qualities of Shakespeare’s works "Nothing will come of nothing." (Act I, Scene I).stimulate you as a director? "Have more than thou showest, speak less than thouWell, he always engages the big issues, doesnt he? His plots knowest, lend less than thou owest."and his understanding of character are extraordinary. And when (Act I, Scene IV).you add to this his extraordinary use of language--both verseand prose--he always holds me captive. Further, when he uses "The worst is not, So long as we can say, This is theplot, character and language to advance some central theme-- worst ." (Act IV, Scene I). -22-
  23. 23. King Lear KING LEAR FILM ADAPTATIONS1971 - Directed by Peter Brook with Paul Scofield as Lear, Alan Webb as Duke of Gloucester, Irene Worth as Goneril, Susan Engel as Regan, Anne-Lise Gabold as Cordelia, and Jack MacGowran as Fool. (All is bleak in this black and white, existential experience.)1974 - Directed by Edwin Sherin this is a live recording from the New York Shakespeare Festival’s performance in Central Park, with James Earl Jones as Lear.1984 - Directed by Michael Elliott starring Laurence Olivier as Lear, Diana Rigg as Regan, John Hurt as the Fool, Colin Blakely as Kent, Leo McKern as Gloucester, and Robert Lindsay as Edmund. (This made for television film begins and ends at Stonehenge.)1987 - Directed by Jean-Luc Godard with Burgess Meredith as gangster Don Learo and Molly Ringwald as Cordelia. (This version is set in a post-apocalyptic world.)1997 - Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and starring Jason Robards, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Colin Firth. This film is based on Jane Smileys novel A Thousand Acres. (A modern retelling, set on a farm in Iowa. This novel attempted to explain the elder sisters hatred of their father.) *May not be suitable for some audiences1998 - Directed by Richard Eyre and starring Sir Ian Holm. (A film version of Royal National Theatre’s production. Using minimalist sets to help put the focus on the acting.)2002 - Directed by Uli Edel. Starring Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden and David Alan Grier. (A television adaptation “King of Texas”, set in 1840’s Texas frontier.) RESOURCES Shakespeare Resources Online Shakespeare BooksShakespeare Online A Shakespeare Glossary by C.T. Onions Shakespeare; The Essential Reference to His Plays byE-Notes Charles Boyce Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield, Illustrated byWikipedia Michael Foreman(Online Encylopedia) King Lear Text OnlineThe Literature Network The Complete Text of Shakespeare’s King Lear with Quarto and Folio Variations (Annotations, and Commentary, by Dr. Larry A. Brown, professorShakespeare Resource Center of theater, Nashville, TN) Works University of Pennsylvania Library; Schoenberg Center for(Has the Complete Works available to download free on-line) Electronic Text and Imaging (The 1608 Quarto edition) Oxford English Dictionary index.cfm?TextID=lear_q2&PagePosition=1(subscription fee required) Center for Electronic Text and Image (The1619 2nd Quarto edition) Online Study Guides for King Lear Online Literature GuidesThe Goodman Theatre (The 1623 Folio edition, Shake Sphere) Shakespeare Library For information regarding the acting company and design team please reference theCenter Stage King Lear program or visit: -23-