King Lear



Exercise: Quiz

Have students read the Background section of this study guide and respond to the following statements by circling True or False:

True/False    A treaty was considered to be an informal agreement between two parties. 

True/False    The Crown viewed a treaty as a negotiated settlement, open to renegotiation, whereas the First Nations viewed
                        a treaty as a covenant or sacred promise.

True/False    The most relevant aspects of discussions leading to a treaty focused on the issue of land and who owned it.  

True/False     First Nations Knowledge Keepers had a responsibility to remember and pass down the details of the treaty-
                         making as part of their oral history. 

True/False     Written treaties were considered by First Nations to be more binding than oral accounts of what was

True/False     To accept wampum after a negotiation was concluded was to agree to what was decided.       

True/False     There have been no treaties made between the Federal Government and any  First Nation since Confederation.

True/False     Two Row Wampum and the Silver Covenant Chain are both recognized as treaties by the Haudenosaunee
                         (Iroquois Confederacy ) but not by international law.  

True/False     The reserve system was established in 1850 under Crown representative William Benjamin Robinson.

True/False     First Nations peoples entered into treaties with the Crown largely because non-Aboriginal new-comers were
                         taking control of their traditional lands whether a treaty was in place or not. A treaty assured some measure of participation in the new reality.


Answers to Quiz: 1) F, 2) T, 3) T, 4) T, 5) F, 6) T, 7) F, 8) F, 9) T, 10) T


Exercise: Iambic Pentameter

Iambic Pentameter is a form of metre used in verse/poetry. Verse is anything written with a rhythm that depends on metre. Metre occurs when syllables are arranged in a rhythmic manner.

The following line is a good example of iambic pentameter – the poetic metre in which Shakespeare writes his verse (sometimes referred to as blank verse, because it’s usually – but not always - unrhymed). Iambic pentameter consists of five units (feet) per line, and each foot has two stresses – the first weak, the second strong. Each line has ten stresses (five feet). Remember that “penta” means “five.”

“The younger rises when the old doth fall."  

Edmund says the above after he has been tricked and betrayed his father, Gloucester, and joins forces with Lear’s daughters.  It’s a forceful line and balanced like a see-saw.

The young-er ris-es when the old doth fall.*

Have students try saying the following lines aloud:

My name is Marcus; I’m a dancing fool.

Louise has always craved her own trapeze.

My house is not too big and not too small.

Take Edmund’s line* above, or find another from King Lear that can be used as a jumping off point for a speech, rap or rant in iambic pentameter.


There are many plays that, like King Lear, take their plot from a common family situation: a parent dies or sometimes simply downsizes and passes something of value on to the children.  The children must decide how to divide the inheritance, and sometimes, especially in the case of an asset that isn’t cash, the decision spins-off into unforeseen dissension.

In groups of three to five, create your own scene called “The Inheritance.”  Here are the given circumstances:

Things to consider: how will students decide which sibling gets to pick first? Do any of the assets hold special significance to one of the siblings? Why? What is the backstory of some of the items? (i.e. Why would one particular piece of jewelry have sentimental value?)

Present your scene to the class.


Write a monologue as one of the siblings revealing what effect the family scene had on you.  Did it open up old wounds, create new ones or reveal a family secret never before known?

Present your monologue to the class.



King Lear and The Storm: Nature is Watching

Warm Up

“Lear is confronted by a violent storm which represents the natural world and its profound Teachings – applicable to indigenous spirituality and traditions.” Suzanne Keeptwo.

a) Students should read or review Act 3, Scene 4 (The Storm) and discuss what is happening in the natural world, and how this affects/changes Lear.

b) Discuss who or what comprises this natural world that Lear confronts. Elements could include: 

Storm (could be divided into Wind, Rain, Thunder, Lightning);

Heath (the ground upon which Lear walks)




Rock (upon which Lear may sit to rest)

Fire (caused by lightning striking trees, or carried as a torch to light the way)


Lear and the Fool

c)  have students embody one or more elements, experimenting with movement, voice, size, volume. Depending upon the group, all could play with the same element or make an individual choice. Extend the exploration to include contact with other elements looking for affinities or conflicts.

Culminating Activity

In groups of two or more, have students write a scene from the point of view of an element or elements of Nature observing or influencing Lear during the storm. Students should have time to both write the scene and rehearse it, then present to the class.

Things for students to consider:

a)  Each element has both power and point of view. Lear is changed by the storm, so power is important, and needs to be embodied in language and movement. Point of view is interesting because each element may feel differently about the situation – maybe delighting in bringing down a king, maybe feeling sorry for him, maybe feeling that a lesson needs to be taught.

b) Language could reflect the particular element. Think of the long vowel sounds in the sound the wind makes, or the short, sharp consonants when rain pelts down.

c) Conflict will make the scene more interesting. Lear is in conflict with the storm, but are there other possible conflicts among the elements?

d) Development of plot – things happen in drama through cause and effect. Allow the individual character’s story to change as a result of the storm, or conflicts with other characters, or emotional reactions to Lear’s situation.