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Post by Thadeus McNamara on April 13, 2015

@around 7:20, why does lear send a message to gloucester?

King Lear

  • First Things First
    • This lesson will teach you how to read and understand a play by William Shakespeare, one of the greatest playwrights in the history of the English language (and the man who invented quite a lot of it).
    • These videos are not a substitute for reading Shakespeare, listening to Shakespeare, or watching Shakespeare performed.
    • Seriously. Don’t be that guy.
  • Background
    • Written 1603—1606, later revised
    • Taken from the legend of Leir of Britain
    • Shakespeare added the deaths of Cordelia and Lear
    • Published in 1608, 1619, 1623 (revised, “theatrical” version)
  • Setting
    • Ancient Britain
    • Lear is growing old and wants to “retire” from kingship
    • Dividing the kingdom
    • One daughter still unmarried
  • Major Characters
    • Lear—Elderly (and slightly foolish) King of Britain
    • Goneril—Lear’s scheming eldest daughter, married to Duke of Albany
    • Regan—Lear’s second daughter, married to Duke of Cornwall
    • Cordelia—Lear’s faithful youngest daughter, who becomes engaged to the King of France
    • Earl of Kent—Lear’s faithful retainer who disguises himself as the servant Caius
    • Fool—Lear’s jester
    • Dukes of Albany and Cornwall—The elder daughters’ husbands
    • Oswald—Steward of Goneril
    • Earl of Gloucester—One of Lear’s retainers
    • Edgar/Poor Tom—Son of Gloucester
    • Edmund—Illegitimate son of Gloucester, who plots to kill his brother and have his father overthrown
  • Plot
    • Gloucester and his bastard (Edmund’s plot)
    • Lear’s contest; kingdom divided; Cordelia disinherited
    • Lear’s visit and Goneril’s complaints
    • Kent becomes Caius; Goneril makes demands
    • Message to Gloucester; off to Regan’s castle
    • Edmund tricks Gloucester
    • Kent vs. Oswald
    • Edgar’s disguise
    • Lear betrayed
    • The storm
      • Kent’s letters
      • Lear and his Fool
      • Gloucester and Edmund
      • The hovel and “Tom”
      • Gloucester and Lear
    • Edmund rises with Cornwall
    • Kent and Gloucester make plans
    • Gloucester captured and tried
      • The blinding
      • Gloucester turned loose
    • Lear’s madness; the Fool vanishes
    • Gloucester reunited with Edgar
    • Albany splits from Goneril; Cornwall dies
    • Kent arrives in Dover; Lear won’t see Cordelia
    • Regan schemes against Goneril
    • Edgar’s personae and Gloucester’s “miracle”
    • Edgar kills Oswald
    • Mad Lear pardons Gloucester’s sins, flees
    • Cordelia and the partially recovered Lear
    • Edgar gives Albany a letter; Regan and Goneril fight over Edmund; Edmund schemes
    • Battle; Lear and Cordelia captured
    • Edgar saves Gloucester again
    • Lear and Cordelia sent away; Edmund lies
    • Edgar vs. Edmund; Albany reveals Goneril’s treachery
    • Edgar reveals himself; Goneril and Regan die
    • Lear weeps over Cordelia; Edmund dies; Lear dies
    • Kent dying; Edgar ascends
  • Themes
    • Nature and what is “natural”
    • Filial piety (and the lack thereof)
    • Justice
    • Order vs. Chaos
    • Reconciliation
  • Major Passages
    • “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
      My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty
      According to my bond; no more nor less.”

      -Act I, Scene 1, 90-92

    • “Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
      My services are bound….
      … Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”

      -Act I, Scene 2, 1-22

    • “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
      They kill us for their sport.”

      -Act IV, Scene 1, 37-38

    • “Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
      Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
      That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever!
      I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
      She’s dead as earth.”

      -Act V, Scene 3, 256-260

  • Jumping-Off Points
    • How does nature play a role in this play? How do the various characters define what is and is not “natural”? Look in particular at Edmund’s “nature,” a chaotic world in which a bastard can rise to power, and Lear’s “nature”, an orderly one in which children would obey and honor their parents.
    • Several characters begin as either sympathetic or unsympathetic and then change sides. How do our perceptions of Lear, Albany, Gloucester, and Edmund shift throughout the story?
    • Compare the relationship between Cordelia and Lear to the relationship between Edgar and Gloucester. Compare Goneril and Regan to Edmund.
    • What purpose does the Fool serve in the story? Why does he vanish? How does Edgar take on his role, and why does Shakespeare make this shift?
    • This story begins with the specter of old age—Lear is retiring from kingship because he wants to prepare for death. What role does age play in this story? Consider its effects on Lear, Gloucester, and Kent, and look at real age-related conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
    • Examine the dissolution of authority in this play as the story devolves toward the battle.
    • In the original legend, Lear was restored to the throne and Cordelia became queen after him. Why do you think Shakespeare changed the ending? What purpose does it serve?
  • The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare
    • Watch it performed (or on film if you can’t get to a theatrical production). All of Shakespeare makes more sense when it’s spoken by actors who have lived his words and know, bone-deep, what he’s talking about. Never underestimate the power of performance. Remember that this is how Shakespeare meant his work to be seen …

King Lear

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  1. Intro
    • First Things First
      • Lesson Overview
        • Background
          • Setting
            • Major Characters
            • Plot
            • Plot, cont.
            • Plot, cont.
            • Plot, cont.
            • Plot, cont.
            • Themes
            • Jumping-off Points
            • The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare
              • Intro 0:00
              • First Things First 0:08
              • Lesson Overview 0:38
              • Background 1:08
              • Setting 2:26
              • Major Characters 3:04
                • Lear
                • Goneril
                • Regan
                • Cordelia
                • Earl of Kent
                • Fool
                • Dukes of Albany and Cornwall
                • Oswald
                • Earl of Gloucester
                • Edgar/Poor Tom
                • Edmund
              • Plot 4:26
                • Gloucester and his bastard
                • Lear's contest; kingdom divided; Cordelia disinherited
                • Lear's visit and Goneril's complaints
                • Kent becomes Caius
                • Message to Gloucester and off to Regan's castle
              • Plot, cont. 7:36
                • Edmund tricks Gloucester
                • Kent vs. Oswald
                • Edgar's disguise
                • Lear Betrayed
                • The storm
                • Edmund rises with Cornwall
                • Kent and Gloucester make plans
              • Plot, cont. 12:24
                • Gloucester captured and tried
                • Lear's madness and the Fool vanishes
                • Gloucester reunited with Edgar
                • Albany splits from Goneril and Cornwall dies
                • Kent arrives in Dover; Lear won't see Cordelia
              • Plot, cont. 15:28
                • Regan schemes against Goneril
                • Gloucester's “miracle”
                • Edgar kills Oswald
                • Mad Lead pardons Gloucester's sins and flees
                • Edgar gives Albany a letter, theres a fight and more scheming
              • Plot, cont. 17:56
                • Battle; Lear and Cordelia captured
                • Edgar saves Gloucester
                • Lear and Cordelia sent away; Edmund lies
                • Edgar vs. Edmund; treachery revealed
                • Goneril and Regan die
                • Lear weeps over Cordelia; Edmund dies; Lear dies
                • Kent dying; Edgar ascends
              • Themes 20:22
                • Major Passages
                • Act I, scene 2, 1-22
                • Act IV, scene 1, 37-38
                • Act V, scene 3, 256-260
              • Jumping-off Points 25:44
                • What is nature's role in the play?
                • How do your perceptions of the major characters change throughout the play?
                • Relationship between Cordelia and Lear; Edgar and Gloucester; Goneril and Regan and Edmund
                • What purpose does the Fool serve? Why does he vanish?
                • What role does age play in the story?
                • Dissolution of authority
                • Why did Shakespeare change the ending?
              • The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare 29:58