King Lear


Discussion Questions

Study Questions

1. The play opens with King Lear’s decision to divide his kingdom and parcel it out to his daughters. Within the first scene of the play, what evidence can you find that Lear’s decision is a bad one? (Cite examples from only Act I, Scene i).

2. The structure of King Lear is based upon a primary plot and a subplot. Specifically, how does the plot of King Lear parallel the subplot involving the Earl of Gloucester?

3. King Lear contains several clearly villainous characters. Who are they? Of all the play’s villains, which one has the most fully developed character? Support your answer with examples.

Essay Topics

1. King Lear’s banishment of Cordelia at the beginning of the play tends to strike the audience as very sudden, and is sometimes interpreted as an early sign of Lear’s madness. Other interpretations suggest that Lear is so accustomed to flattery that he simply cannot see the value in Cordelia’s simple, honest speech. Choose one of these interpretations, or suggest an alternative interpretation of your own, and defend it with examples from the text.

2. Throughout the play, blunt speech is associated with honesty and loyalty, while flattering, flowery speech is associated with deception and betrayal. Write an essay that highlights three to five specific examples of this.

3. By the end of King Lear, nearly all of the main characters are dead, including several sympathetic characters as well as the villains. In your opinion, does the resolution of the play offer any form of justice, or is it all senseless tragedy? Choose a point of view and defend it with examples from the text.

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Essays About King Lear