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King Lear

Level: Intermediate & above. Teenagers.

Timing: Approx. 1 hour & 40 minutes.

Mats: X copies of Act III, Scene 7 of King Lear to be found at

Aim: To prove to your students that in fact Shakespeare is far from boring & just basically to have some fun.

Notes: This is not really intended as a "serious" lesson. It's a fun thing to do with a class if you have the time for such things. I wrote it at my first summer school when one of the kids made the sweeping & ludicrous assertion that "Shakespeare was boring". After some initial moans & groans when I first announced what we were going to do the class went on to have a great time. If you've ever had the pleasure to see fifteen 14-16 year olds buzzing off what you're doing with them then you'll know what being high is really all about.

As for the play you don't need to know much about King Lear to do the lesson. I didn't when I wrote it & taught it. But if you have time it's a good idea to at least read it through the once. You can find the whole play by going to the great Shakespeare site at

Stage 1

T: Elicit any lines from Shakespeare or words associated with Shakespeare. Also you could ask why they think Shakespeare is boring if you've previously had that response. Put everything on the board but leave some space for your synopsis.

Stage 2

Breathing Exercise:  - (derived from Schuster and Gritton, 1986) Instruct Ss how to do the following exercise:

Breathe for 10 in/out cycles of nose breathing. Close your eyes while doing so & think only of your breathing. Let all other thoughts float out of your mind. Let your breathing happen naturally without forcing it to go slow or to go quick. Just let it be. After ten cycles come back to the classroom. (a cycle is 1 breathe in & 1 breathe out). 

T: Set the scene: King Lear is the old King of England. He has three daughters. He asks them to tell him how much they love him. Goneril & Regan go to great lengths to say just how much they love him but Cordelia simply says that such a love cannot be expressed in words. So Lear banishes Cordelia for what he sees as her lack of love & divides his kingdom between Goneril & Regan. The two sisters now conspire to take complete control of the kingdom while Cordelia, from France, prepares an invasion force. 

Gloucester takes the side of Cordelia & Lear. Regan & her husband Cornwall imprison him in his own home & that takes you up to the scene.

Instruct Ss to read the text. Ignore any words they don't know. To relax and go for an understanding of the whole scene rather than individual words (at this stage). You will look at the words later.

Stage 3

Ss: In groups of 4 max do a minimal analysis of the scene. Draw a 3 picture storyboard of what's happening.

T: Monitor & assist where necessary.

Stage 4

Ss: Volunteers (preferably) enact the scene.

Stage 5



So what did you think? How did it go? Let me & others know at the Efl Alt Message Board!


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