Tag Archives: King Lear

Shakespeare’s Globe


Welcome to the site! Allow me to introduce its purpose, themes, and format.

I created this site for an undergraduate Shakespeare class at Emory University. The class, ENG 210W: Shakespeare’s Globe, explored a handful of Shakespearean plays and performances, with an emphasis on how they inform contemporary issues, particularly environmental concerns. This site, then, serves as a record of my own inquiries into how these enduring and esoteric plays survive to illuminate current issues like climate change.

For the purposes of this site, Shakespeare becomes a kind of ecology—a living, breathing subject that responds to shifts in culture and academia. These plays, while historically significant, offer much more than their historical interpretations might suggest. They reflect on the very psychology and sensibility that comprise the human condition. In particular, Shakespeare frequently comments on humanity’s relationship with nature. In what ways do these considerations of nature and human influence shine light on today’s environmental concerns? That question, along with some other considerations, become the subject and purpose of this website.

Unfortunately, Shakespeare does not offer a definitive interpretation of nature. For Gonzalo and his sailors in The Tempest, nature offers a potential for innocence and abundance. For Prospero and King Lear, however, nature becomes subjugated for their own advantage and ambition. In Titus Andronicus, nature provides an asylum for Chiron and Demetrius’s dark desires to play out, causing other characters to contemplate whether our planet’s natural order promotes life and prosperity, or chaos and violence. Ultimately, Shakespeare’s conflicting portrayals of nature parallel humanity’s own complicated relationship with the environment, which is precisely why Shakespeare studies can inform contemporary environmental issues.

Along the way, other assignments spurred me to consider other topics, like language, violence, and power. I explored these topics through a variety of mediums. The class emphasized “multimodal research techniques” to overcome a common handicap in conventional Shakespeare studies—the impulse toward historicist interpretations. While historical contexts certainly prove vital in understanding the plays, the concepts and themes benefit from their consideration not only in relation to contemporary issues, but also through contemporary means.

It is my hope that this site demonstrates Shakespeare’s capacity to contribute meaningfully to current conversations about climate change and other environmental issues. Furthermore, I hope that this site illustrates the benefit in addressing Shakespeare through unconventional, alternative methods by transcending, but not ignoring, traditional interpretations and presentations.

As I mentioned, this site tackles Shakespeare through a variety of analytical styles. Although the site exists more or less as a blog in terms of format, most entries reflect greater consideration than a casual blog post. The entries include a paper, an infographic, a presentation, a digital edition that includes a glossed text, and a handful of blog posts.

This variety of techniques challenged me to step out of the conventional rhetorical frame that most English classes operate within. I saw how analysis could occur and develop without thesis statements or even words, at all. The most compelling explorations of Shakespeare leverage not only their content, but also their presentation.

The first short paper, covering The Tempest, provided an opportunity to gain footing not only with writing about Shakespeare, but also with working through the diversity of interpretive modes within Shakespeare studies. In the paper, I examined an essay by Ingo Berensmeyer that advocates for “media ecology,” or the potential for a work like The Tempest to function across many mediums and generations due to its emphasis on fundamental, unchanging human drives and concerns. The essay, a familiar format, offered a chance to grapple with new ideas surrounding Shakespeare studies within a comfortable medium.

The next assignment tugged at my fledgling artistic sensibilities. Using Piktochart, I created an infographic that examined Shakespeare’s use of insults and, more broadly, the uniquely volatile character of vernacular language. The assignment developed my eye for design. I was challenged to consider what my viewers would think, where they would look first, in what sequence they would read through the graphic. Unlike in writing a paper, I thought acutely about how my work would be interpreted rather than merely developing an argument.

This newfound awareness of the reader carried over to my “Digital Edition,” an assignment that argued for the parallel between the ingratitude that King Lear’s daughters show toward their father in his final years, and the ingratitude that humans show toward our “mother” earth. I examine the strange phenomenon of caring for one’s original caretaker, or parent, as they grow older, and how this relates to the current need to care for the Earth. Again, I sidestepped the conventional frame of analysis and looked at both critical responses to King Lear and contemporary stagings of the play. It concludes with a close reading and glossed text of a passage from the First Quarto of the play.

My last assignment, a presentation of violence and power in Titus Andronicus, leveraged the power of images to convey the significance of violence. Although I kept it PG-13, the images nevertheless helped illustrate concepts like the commodification of human flesh, and the relationship between Saturninus and the Saturn of Roman mythology. This unconventional medium provided further evidence for the idea that Shakespearean analysis benefits from contemporary modes of presentation.

Going forward, I aim to apply the skills I’ve learned in this course when thinking through other contemporary problems. Climate change is not merely an isolated, recent issue; it is the manifestation of a hubris that began long ago, and that Shakespeare comments on frequently. I intend to explore how other classic texts and celebrated authors dealt with the human-nature dynamic, and how that can further inform today’s conversations.

Furthermore, this class has developed my research and presentation skills, which I will confidently carry over to law school one year from now. The diversity of both content and presentation that this course encouraged will help me to think through concepts and understand how older documents, like Supreme Court cases, can inform today’s issues. Law school frequently demands robust personal consideration of past attitudes and legal decisions. I am confident that this course has taught me to not only respect historical interpretations, but also formulate my own ideas within my position in contemporary society.

I have a newfound appreciation for mediums like visual renderings and slideshow presentations to convey ideas that are typically confined to an essay. Certain concepts, like violence, benefit from audiovisual enhancement. In the future, I will actively consider how new forms of media can supplant or complement conventional methods. This site mainly examines Shakespeare’s relation to contemporary environmental concerns—which is, after all, just one example of how the past can inform the present.

Image source.

Blog Post 4- King Lear


            King Lear, when all of its layers are stripped away, is, at its core, a play about human interactions and all of its complexities. One interpretation of these interactions is the sexual baseness the characters experience and incorporate into their lives, starting from the very beginning of the play, such as when Lear asks his daughters to express their love for him: “Tell me, my daughters/which of you shall we say doth love us most” (1.44-45). The mix between human sexuality and other crude behavior juxtaposes the dynamic political and social developments that occupy the human civilization the characters create. Both men, such as Edmund, and women, such as Regan, experience sexual desires, and openly express these desires in different manners, whether it is through thinly veiled comments or obvious behaviors, such as when Gonril states “this kiss, if it durst speak/would stretch thy spirits up into the air” (16.22-23), and kisses Edmund. This sexuality also takes a darker turn, with King Lear discussing topics such as rape, incest, and abuse that haunt the characters. The main characters carry their own secret, inappropriate cravings that influence their behaviors and actions during interactions with others; these desires describe the human condition of having hidden secrets and needs.

It can be argued that King Lear stands as a representation of a larger spanse of human thoughts and actions dealing with sexual needs and their influence on both personal and cultural beliefs and behaviors. Whether this sexuality is within the traditional norms or outside the scope of customary requests, all the characters in King Lear deal with how their own- and others’- sexuality impacts them within personal and larger, group relationships. This relates to the audiences’ own experiences, as everyone must incorporate sexuality within the confines of their own worlds, and can help hold their attention. King Lear can also help guide audience members in thinking of their own relationship with sexuality and sexual baseness, as well as how it guides everyday associations with others, such as the comment “Thou [Lear] hast one daughter/who redeems nature from the general gurse/which twain hath brought her to” (20.194- 196). The text also makes readers analyze the delicate balance that one must hold between the intensity that sexual needs and the ability to make rational decisions based on other content.

Post. Oct 19.



Last Thursday we watched the “Storm” sequence in Peter Brook’s & Paul Scofield’s King Lear (1971).

Storm: Afterwards we talked about ways directors and readers can imagine the storm. Brook’s storm is both literal and figurative (if not entirely realistic owing to technological constraints). We compared the storm outside to all the weeping in the play (Lear 7.434-37; Edgar 13.54-55; Eye Gouging in Scene 14; Cordelia’s tears in the First Gentleman’s report 17.14-16; and Lear, “Why, this would make a man of salt/To use his eyes for garden water-pots,/Ay, and laying autumn’s dust” (20.184-86); and, of course the tears the audience sheds). I asked, what does the storm convey that words cannot? And, is the storm magical, unnatural, or manmade?

Edgar (Natural Man): What sorts of stories does he tell about himself and why (Scenes 11 & 15); and Lear’s famous phrase,”Unaccomodated man” (11.96) and the question of nakedness as pertains to ways to distinguish man from nonhuman things.

Q1 v. F1: near the end of class I mention several scenes/passage we read for Thursday and today occur only in Q1 (1608) and not in the “revised” Folio (1623). The following are some Q1 only passages/scenes:

  • The arraignment sequence in the hovel: 12.15-49
  • Edgar’s final speech that begins, “When we our betters bearing our woes” (12.91-105
  • Gloucester’s two servants planning to help him after he looses his eyes (14.95-110)
  • Albany’s part in Scene 16 is reduced by 50 or so lines
  • Scene 17 where Kent meets with the [First Gentleman] and he gives his report of Cordelia’s response to Lear’s transformation; and the Folio version cuts another exchange between Kent and the [First] Gentleman, 21.77-95.
  • In Q1, Albany gets the last lines of the play and in F1 Edgar speaks them, “The weight of this sad time we must obey,/Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say./The oldest hath borne most. We that are young/Shall never see so much, nor live so long” (24.298-301).

Digital Edition: I made a model of both a first draft and a second draft.


Part I. Group Activity

Get into the groups listed below; introduce yourselves; and then respond to prompt. Be prepared to cite specific examples from the text during discussion.


  • 1. Kelsey, Madison, Patrick, Hannah P, & June
  • 2. Beau, Ainee, Hannah M., Caroline, & Sun
  • 3. Robert, Kira, Sarah, Nicholas, & Jeffrey
  • 4. Isabelle, Shamala, Thomas, Danny, & Tony
  • 5. Angeline, Chan, Alexandra, & Bailey


There sure are a lot of letters in King Lear. Complete the following to explain why:

Trace some of the letters sent throughout the play, compare their content, and use your findings to draft a claim about the function of the almost hyperbolic exchange of letters in King Lear.




Part II. Discussion: King Lear and Contemporary Environmental Crisis

What sorts of connections did you make between the play and current natural events/crisis? What sorts of language is used to describe contemporary events? How does that succeed and/or fail? What themes, images, and/or relationships does the play provide to help us figure nature in the modern world and redress natural problems?

RQ: King Lear, Scenes 16-24



Keep the following questions in mind as you read King Lear Scenes 9-15. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

How does Oswald’s reply to Gonoril mark a turn in the plot and/or in Lear’s fortunes (16.4-11)?

Why does Edmund have to “Decline” his head to Gonoril (16.21)?

What accounts for Albany’s change in perspective? Was he already more on Lear’s side than his wife’s?

How does Albany express his disdain for Gonoril’s life choices? What sorts of metaphors does he use?

According to Albany, what sorts of things make humanity monstrous?

How does Gonoril respond to Albany’s critique of her sovereignty? Which character makes the more persuasive argument and why?

What happens to Cornwall?

How does Cordelia respond to Kent’s letters?

Why does the King of France return home?

Who/what controls human fate according to Kent? How does his POV accord with his own life trajectory?

Why won’t Lear agree to see Cordelia?

How does Cordelia describe her father?

What sorts of treatments does the Doctor prescribe for Lear?

What request does Regan make of Oswald, why? And how does Oswald respond?

How does Edgar trick Gloucester? Why does he “trifle” with his father’s “despair” (20.31)? Is he successful?

What does Edgar’s description of the vista at the Dover cliffs (20.11-23) reveal about his perspective? What does the speech reveal about perspective in general?

How is Scene 20 a miniature version of the whole play?

How does Edgar describe his father’s fall? What imagery does he use to figure the fall?

Why does Edgar change character again?

When Lear reenters at 20.80, we haven’t seen him since the end of Scene 13. How has changed? What sorts of linguistic markers suggest his transformation?

In what does Lear suggest that Gloucester might, “behold the great image of authority” (20.152)?

Where does Lear think the [First] Gentleman is taking him and how does he react?

Why does Edgar lie to his dad for a second time about who he is and where he comes from? In other words, why doesn’t Edgar reveal his real identity to Gloucester?

How does Oswald react to Gloucester when he meets he and Edgar on the road? How does Edgar react?

What requests does Oswald make of Edgar just before he dies?

What does Gonoril request Edmund do in the letter that Edgar intercepts?

How does Edgar respond? How does does Gloucester?

Why doesn’t Ken change out of his disguise in Scene 21 even though Cordelia knows who he is?

How do you respond to Cordelia’s questions 21.38-34?

How do the doctor and Cordelia attempt to cure Lear? Are they successful, why/why not?

How does Lear respond to his reunion with Cordelia? Does it break your heart?

How does Edmund deal with his two girlfriends problem?

Compare the processions with which Scene 23 opens to the procession in Scene 1, and compare the two sets of Father/Child in the opening to Scene 23.

What’s Lear’s plan for life in prison with Cordelia (24.7-19)?




Blog Post 3- King Lear

OverpopulationThe first thing that usually comes to mind when reading Shakspeare’ s King Lear is not the topic of the environment; instead most people gravitate towards analyzing the social dynamics between characters like Lear, Cordelia, and Goneril. By overlooking the environmental factors that arise in King Lear, readers miss out on important commentary of Shakespeare’s world in which he lived, as well as the opportunity to connect his issues to present day environmental concerns, such as pollution and climate change. While it may seem that the gap between Lear’s history and today’s present might be difficult to connect, the bridge between the time periods is bridged far easier than thought, as ideas and opinions about nature that were held during Shakespeare’s era are still seen today.

Take, for example, the issue of overpopulation in today’s society. Does King Lear have anything in particular to say about overpopulation? No, not at all. But there are pieces of text that explain the problems humans have when dealing with nature that can fully apply to, and describe, the issue of overpopulation in present times.
Overpopulation, according to different sources, “is among the most pressing environmental issues” (everythingconnects.org) facing our generation and the world today. Although many believe other issues, such as global warming and animal extinction, to be more important than overpopulation, these problems may not be as demanding as the issue of human overpopulation. This isn’t to say that global warming and other environmental issues aren’t important, but these claims tend to forget that overpopulation is actually the cause of many other environmental troubles. A straightforward explanation is that an increase in population creates a strain for new technology (in order to increase quality of life, space to live, needed resources, etc.). This new technology creates ways for the new population to thrive, but many times disregards the environment in favor of helping humanity. Examples of this disregard could include tearing down forests to create new housing and agriculture, or utilizing finite resources in high quantities. Therefore, much of the problems surrounding the environmental disaster occurring now can be traced back to overpopulation, making it one of the most important and necessary issues to manage.

Many of the lines in Shakespeare’s Lear can help to understand the issue of overpopulation by creating a bridge between human thoughts and actions. For example, in scene nine, Lear speaks directly to nature as he stands outside in the midst of a storm.

Rumble thy bellyful; spit, fire; spout, rain.
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters.
I task you not, you elements, with unkindness.
I never gave you kingdom, called you children.
You owe me no subscription. Why then, let fall
Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man,
But yet I call you servile ministers (9.14-9.21)

This quote serves as a clear message as to what Lear thinks of nature. Here, he asks nature to put an end to the ravaging storm, telling it [nature] that he has not treated it like children or subjects in his kingdom. With this logic, Lear believes he has not asked nature for anything, and thus has been fair; he wants to have nature respect him for his “kindness”. He feels like a slave to the elements’ unkindness and wants to change this. In the end, he still calls the elements his servants, because that is what he hopes will reoccur.

The passage can tell readers many things about how Lear-and through his character, people of Shakespeare’s time- must have viewed nature. Lear believes he is fair to nature for not subjugating it or asking it for anything. These beliefs are skewed for two reasons; one, because readers know that in fact, Lear does ask nature to acquiesce to his will- he builds on land and splits it for his daughters, he tills the land and grows food for his own use- and two, because the idea that not subjugating nature equates to being kind to nature is not valid. Just because he believes he does not ‘tie nature down’ or use it for his own needs does not mean he actively gives back to nature, nurturing it in the way that is needed. Instead, he still wants to dominate nature, seen in his comment about being a slave and wanting the reverse. Lear is scared to be controlled by something out of his control and, as much as he says he is kind to nature, wants to take that control back. He even calls nature a servant in the end, because that is what he hopes he can achieve.

This text from King Lear can help readers think through the confusion and teetering imbalance that is humans dealing with nature. Many cultures (namely Europeans) historically viewed nature as something to be controlled, and this value is still seen today, even though, in many cases, nature overtakes humans (Pattberg). Although the view of human control is changing due to the acknowledgement of human causation on environmental problems, the past views that created the problems in the first place cannot be erased. Some still believe nature should bend to human whim constantly, and this view carries its effects to the present day. Humans never want to feel out of control, so they shape nature to their needs, seen in the idea of overpopulation and molding nature to allow for more people than there should be. If humans didn’t create technology to overcome the forces of nature, overpopulation to this extreme would not have been able to occur. Natural resources couldn’t be over-extracted, and many other human-caused environmental disasters may not have happened. The manipulation of nature as servants has created problems beyond repair.
Right now, it seems humans are in the place similar to where Lear is in this section of the text; people are servants to the whims of nature as it lashes back from the damage civilization has caused. Humanity must sit while animals die, the ocean acidifies, and the climate gets warmer. But this quote also hints at the possibility of a positive future through the inter-connection of humans and nature; we can become ‘owners’ of nature by calming it to a state of ‘servile ministers’ through working with the elements to create solutions to present environmental problems, including human overpopulation. Without this, humans will be out of control and the storm will continue to rage.

Works Cited
“Effects of Human Population.” Everything Connects- Why Nature Matters. George Tsiattalos, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Philipp, Pattberg. “Conquest, Domination and Control: Europe’s Mastery of Nature in Historic Perspective.” Journal of Political Ecology 14 (n.d.): n. pag. Journal of Politcal Ecology. The University of Arizona, 2007. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
Shakespeare, William, and Barbara Hodgdon. The Taming of the Shrew. 3rd ed. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2010. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Stanley Wells. The History of King Lear. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

Natured Doesn’t Need People

“I have feed species greater than you,

I have starved species greater than you,”

Once a central theme, and in many circles still is, of environmental conservation was championing or saving mother nature. We are starting to learn now that our environment doesn’t need our help or protection, we need its. Over-consumption, pollution, environmental degradation, are destroying the environments our species and many others have come to depend. But life will go on. Earth has survived my world wide extinction events; gigantic environmental changes that caused the extinction of more than 90% of species and yet each time nature was ‘reborn’. Our actions and decisions won’t decide if the Earth and nature will continue live.  It will determine if we are.

Like Gloucester pined in King Lear we are “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport,” (Act 4 Scene 1, 37-38). If in the grand timeline of life on Earth humans are almost insignificant, made special by only by our unprecedented ability to radically change and manipulate our environment to our benefit. Therefore nature is often viewed as pastoral, peaceful. Something that we can harvest, sell, tame, conquer, and divide among our kin. It once and is common thinking that nature will always be providing to our needs. And that line of thought is somewhat easy to see. We our environment thrives, the species that depend on it thrive. But when we change our environment so much so that it can no longer support us, than it is inhospitable.

King Lear made his home inhospitable the minute he banished Cordelia and Kent, the two people who truly supported. Cordelia loved her father ‘according to their bond’ like any child or citizen would love their father and king (Act 1 Scene 1, 90). It is what allowed their relationship to thrive. The banishment was a decision that became an irrevocably change that couldn’t allow Lear to thrive and eventually led to him and other’s demise. Like Lear corporations and humans as a whole are irrecoverably changing our only home so that may one day ultimately lead to our demise.

Our environment ‘loves’ us only so much. It cannot heave its heart into its mouth. It supports, feeds, and nurtures only to an extent. And like Lear and the tumultuous storm, we are constantly reminded of our smallness and mortality in the many recorded natural disasters, many of these our own doing. Hurricanes. The current mega drought that entrenches the eastern United States. Earthquakes. The flooding in North Carolina.  Our bond with our environment is one that only recently gain, and our actions threaten to destroy it and our future longevity.

Judgement. 15 Oct.



Nature in the abstract:
The open ended discussion of what nature means was especially productive last week. You all provided some very interesting & useful definitions that include, but are not limited to, the following paraphrases: people convert (manufacture) nature into culture; nature both precedes and exceeds culture; nature is a word that denotes rocks, plants, animals, humans, and the universe; human nature is a synonym for a force that drives people from the inside despite their best efforts; humans classify nature into hierarchies; nature represents the limits of human thought (i.e. dumb as a box of rocks); nature is insensible to human classification; and nature functions as a benchmark for determining value and/or has inherent value.

Nature in King Lear
  • Edmund’s soliloquy (2.1-21): He gives us nature as an abstract noun (anthropomorphism); state of nature that precedes (&exceeds?) culture, and as such can be made to function as an arbiter of value (i.e. bastards are better than legitimate babies); “natural ties of human feeling” (ft. nt. 1 p.116); natural, denoting “related to blood.”
  • “Book of Nature” and/or Omens: “An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of the stars!” (1.2.119-20).
  • Edgar’s transformation (7.166-85): Does Edgar decide to turn from culture to nature? Is his transformation inevitable, or does he choose to put on a disguise or costume? Also, & according to the play, can humans ever be naked? Is nature something a man can perform?
  • Nature as vitality: Lear telling Gloucester and Kent, “We are not ourselves/When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind/To suffer with the body” (7.268-70).
  • Unnatural: Lear’s criticisms of his daughters: “O, Regan she hath tied/Sharp-toothed unkindness like a vulture here” (7.294-5) & “Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue/Most serpent-like upon the very heart” (7.317-18), to name just a two of many, many instances.

Part I. Judgement and Peter Brook’s & Paul Scofield King Lear (1971)

Keep the following in mind while we watch the heath scene from Brook’s Lear:
  • What interpretive choices does Brook make? Are they successful? Why or why not? 
  • What difference does it make to any of the action that follows that the decision at the center of the play is ambiguous? Also, after Lear who gets to choose?

Part II. Rhetorical Analysis of the Introduction

Take ten minutes to respond to the following and be prepared to cite specifics from Stanley Well’s introduction. Pay specific attention to pages 1-3 & pages
What sorts of arguments does Stanley Wells make in his Introduction? Could you read the play differently? 
What sorts of subheadings and information does the Introduction contain?
What’s unusual about the Wells edition of King Lear? How does he solve textual problems and why?
How do the Introduction and the footnotes in the text work together to produce a theory of the play?

Assignment Overview

Digital Edition

RO: King Lear, Scenes 9-15



Keep the following questions in mind as you read King Lear Scenes 9-15. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Does the play in performance give audiences on stage and/or in the theater enough time to understand what the Fool says and sings? Why or why not?

Why don’t Cornwall and Regan allow Lear and his train into Gloucester’s castle? Is there decision justified? What sorts of mistakes do they make?

Does Lear cause the storm, or vice versa? What is the relationship between the storm and Lear’s “woman’s weapons” (7.435)?

Why does Shakespeare give audiences a report of Lear in the storm before we see him out on the heath?

What secret does Kent tell the First Gentleman in Scene 8? What surety of his story does Kent offer the First Gentleman?

If you were staging Lear, how would you portrait the “Storm” in Scene 9? Why?

Whom does Lear address in the opening lines of Scene 9? How does Lear’s address compare to the Boatswain’s first few lines in The Tempest?

Is the storm magical or sentient? How is it possible, in Lear’s assessment, for the storm to “Find out their enemies now” (9.51)? Compare the power Lear attributes to the storm in 9.50-60, i.e. the storm can discover who all the villains are even if they are wearing disguises, to 11.25-33. Does the storm transform Lear, from a seemingly unsympathetic man to a deeply sympathetic one, OR, does is he another counterfeit exposed? Could you even, ever tell the difference between the two? If not, so what?

Is Lear, “More sinned against than sinning” (9.60)?

What ideas or emotions does the storm convey to stage and theater audience, as well as readers, that words cannot (11.6-20)?

What motivates Lear’s pity for Tom? Is Lear sincere? How can you tell and so what? Also, does it matter that Tom is really Edgar, disguised nobleman?

When Edgar describes Tom’s life before the hovel, is he telling the truth? If yes, assess his character. For instance, are you surprised he chose to take on the costume of a beggar?

If you were directing this play, would you have Lear take off all his clothes at “Unaccomodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come on, be true” (11.96-99)? Why or why not? AND, can an actor really ever be naked on stage? Also, did Derrida’s cat really see him naked? Is nakedness a feature of man that separates us from animals?

Where, or even how, do you think Edgar learned to curse?

What does Poor Tom eat? For what does his diet qualify him?

What, as Lear asks, is the “cause of the thunder” (11.139)?

Why can’t Gloucester recognize his own son?

Contemporary environmental discourse is often carried on by people who don’t live and work with animals or complex ecosystems. Is Edgar part of this tradition? OR, what might an actual wandering, wildman have to contribute to conversations about environmental justice?

Does Lear’s maddness come from inside or outside?

Where are they in Scene 13?

Why do you think that several key lines and actions in Scenes 13 & 14 are missing from F1? (13.15-45; 13.91-105; & 14.96-106). What difference does it make to what comes before or what comes after if these scenes/lines are cut?

Is Lear’s condemnation of his daughters in the mock trial justified? What does he see when he anatomizes Regan?

Why does Tom/Edgar taxonomize the all those dogs even as he disperses them?

Are Regan and Cornwall’s “revenges” (14.5) against Gloucester justified, why or why not?

How does Regan and Cornwall’s interrogation of Gloucester compare with the ‘mock trial’ scene that precedes it? What happens to the rest of the play if the mock trial scene is left out?

What does Gloucester see after he looses his eyes?

Where does he ask Edgar to lead him? White_Cliffs_of_Dover_4_(Piotr_Kuczynski)



Crisis. Oct 8.



On Tuesday we discussed the infographics; wrapped up Shrew; talked briefly about literary genre; and made an initial assault on Lear. I want to know why Lear divides his kingdoms, and/or if the kingdoms are divided prior to the line: “Meantime we will express our darker purposes” (1.36).

Was the decision made in advance?
YES: Gloucester seems to know the king plans to divide the kingdoms (1.3-5); Gonoril and Regan seem to have prepared their speeches in advance (1.49-55 & 1.63-69); and Burgundy seems to have some prior knowledge “of what your highness has offered” (1.184).

Was the decision made in the moment?
YES: The outcome of the ‘love pledge contest’ Lear declares is serious, especially when we consider the ambiguity of lines like: “Tell me, my daughters,/Which of you shall we say doth love us most,/that we our largest bounty may extend/Where merit doth most challenge it” (1.44-47); Cordilia is not prepared for the contest (1.70-73); Lear ultimately splits the kingdom in half because Cordlia’s speech does not flatter him; and both Cordilia and Kent attempt to persuade Lear to recant what they think is a bad, or perhaps rash, decision (1.140-43)

Types of Choices

Choices Descriptions
Incentive Moment “Aristotle explains that a peripeteia occurs when a character produces an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce, while an anagnorisis ‘is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune.’ He argues that the best plots combine these two as part of their cause-and-effect chain (i.e., the peripeteia leads directly to the anagnorisis); this in turns creates the catastrophe, leading to the final ‘scene of suffering'” (Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy)
Rash Boon A blind promise that often spurns the action in Romances or fairy tales (EX: Knight in Wife of Bath’s Tale); when a character vows to grant a wish and then is bound to follow through on the vow, despite not knowing the terms of the contract or what is expected of him in advance
Suspension “’To suspend: ‘To debar temporarily’…’To hold in an undecided state, to keep from falling off sinking’… “Suspension may denote a pause in action, but this pause could be considered akin to the precautionary principle, in which we recognize that the world’s intra-active material agencies often make it prudent to await ‘further information’” (Alaimo 476 & 477)
Decision (worthy of the name) “Because every decision (by its essence a decision is exceptional and sovereign) must escape the order of the possible, of what is already possible and programable for the supposed subject of the decision, because every decision worthy of the name must be this exceptional scandal of a passive decision” (Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 2nd Session 33)

For Your Consideration:
So what? What difference does it make to any of the action that follows that the decision at the center of the play is ambiguous? Also, after Lear who gets to choose?



Part I. Freewrite

I. Write a response to the following question for three straight minutes:
What is Nature?
II. Write a response to the following question for five straight minutes:
What is Nature according to King Lear?



Part II. Group Activity

Get into the groups listed below; introduce yourselves; and then respond to questions. Be prepared to cite specific examples from the text during discussion.


  • 1. Kelsey, Madison, Patrick, Hannah P, & June
  • 2. Beau, Ainee, Hannah M., Caroline, & Sun
  • 3. Robert, Kira, Sarah, Nicholas, & Jeffrey
  • 4. Isabelle, Shamala, Thomas, Danny, & Tony
  • 5. Angeline, Chan, Alexandra, & Bailey


According to Stacy Alaimo, what allows humans to decide “to ignore the current crisis of ocean conservation” (480)? What strategies does she propose humans deploy to pay attention to the ocean crisis? What are some instances in King Lear, similar to some of the instances that Alaimo analyzes in her paper, that help bridge the (figurative and/or literal) gap between human and alien habitats?

Blog Post 3


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