Tag Archives: Sea

Presentations Day Two. 5 Nov.


Presentation 1 Recap

Student Topic 
Patrick In his presentation, Patrick directed our attention to the contest over truth that the play stages. First he defined truth through a nice explication of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave: humans in general, like the few people chained in the cave, take mistake the shadows (phenomena) for the thing-in-itself (noumena). To show how the play engages with questions of truth & perception, he drew our attention to the exchange between Gaunt and Bolingbroke in 1.3. Gaunt advises Bolingbroke to “Suppose the singing birds musicians” (1.3.288). Bolingbroke replies, “O, who can hold a fire in his hand/By thinking on the frosty Caucauses?” (1.3.293-4). We’ve seen this contest in every play we’ve read so far this semester. It’s safe to say that Shakespeare was preoccupied with the question: where does truth come from or how is truth determined? Is the world outside of people what people say it is (or what authority says it is), or do I use my senses to observe and deduce the stuff outside? Response to this question determines eco/environmental work.
Hannah M. Hannah directed our attention to the fact that the play is written entirely in verse, which has a weird effect on characterization. For instance, how does the verse form inflect the exchange between the Gardener and the Servant in lines such as “Go thou and like an executioner/Cut off the heads of too-fast-growing sprays/that look to lofty in the commonwealth” (3.4.33-35). If truth is what I say it is does how I say it matter? Hannah argues that the elevated language allows the characters to say more, but also obfuscate their private intentions. When Richard is finally alone in 5.5.41-65, Hannah argues he “uses verse to keep time; hears his failure in the discord; left with only speech and no action; and he figures himself as a clock (which is a weird instance of blazon, like we saw in Taming of the Shrew, b/c he anatomizes/allegorizes himself.
Beau Beau talked about foreshadowing/omens: Gaunt’s speech that begins, “Methinks I am prophet new inspired” (2.1.31-69); sacral kingship, “The sacred king, the human embodiment of the dying and reviving vegetation god, was supposed to have originally been an individual chosen to rule for a time, but whose fate was to suffer as a sacrifice, to be offered back to the earth so that a new king could rule for a time in his stead” (“Sacred King” Wiki); and images of decay: Garden 3.4, ex: “wasteful King” (3.4.55). What sort of proof would confirm for the audience (that Shakespeare has set up as a jury) that Richard is magic and that, by extension, divine right of kings is a real thing?
Jeffrey Jeffrey drew out attention to ways the Richard II performs loyalty. He argued one of the fault lines in the play separates try loyalists from traitors. He drew our attention to the oaths of loyalty the characters express God through the king in 1.2 & that to disobey the king is to disobey God. He wondered, give the structures of obedience, why Richard is all but abandoned by the end of act 2. I wonder, how does the same power that authorizes Richard, or divine kingship in general, also undermine it? For instance, when Richard takes Bolingbroke’s inheritance, how does he negate the same processes that ensure his right to rule. Or as York explains, “Take Hereford’s rights away and take from time/His charters and his customary rights,/Let not tomorrow then ensue today,/Be not thyself–for how art though a king/But by fair sequence and succession?” (2.1.195-99)  

Presentation 2: Sun, Caroline, & Danny

Audience, prepare yourselves for the Q&A


Richard II, Act 4: The Deposition of the King

As we watch the deposition of Richard, please keep the following prompt in mind and be prepared to discuss your responses afterward:
If in Richard II Shakespeare puts absolute sovereignty on trial to be adjudicated by the audience that he has transformed into a jury, what sorts of appeals does the play make for and against sovereignty? Which position is more compelling and why? What is your final assessment?



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)?




RQ: Alaimo (476-85) & Lear 6-8



Keep the following questions in mind as you read Stacy Alaimo’s “States of Suspension: Trans-corporeality at Sea,” and King Lear scenes 6-8. 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.

Alaimo, “States of Suspension: Transcorporeality at Sea”

What does Alaimo mean by the following terms: suspension, transcorporeality, new materialism, posthumanism, and environmental justice?

Why does she suggest critics and environmentalists should trace the “substantial interchanges [that] render the human permeable” (477)?

What characteristics of the ocean make it particularly difficult to grasp?

What are some connections between humans and the sea? OR, how are terrestrial humans and marine creatures linked?

How do our environmental commitments shift if we accept that “transcorporeal subjects are always themselves part of global networks of responsibility,” (477)?

What does Alaimo mean by “buoyancy” (478)?

What does she mean when she says, “Most new materialists, would, I think, be skeptical of origin stories. As heretical descendants of postmodernism and poststructuralism, they maintain a critical stance toward foundations and essentialisms” (478)?

What happens when we take the statement “‘My mother is a fish,’ as a literal description of human ancestry” (478)?

Why is Lear (and/or people in general) “disturbed by the idea that their own bodies bear traces of their evolutionary origins in other creatures” (479)?

“Darwin, in a letter, cheerfully proclaimed, ‘Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull, and undoubtedly was a hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy of mankind’ (qtd. Zimmer)” (479).

Does “physical relatedness provoke a rich kinship” (480)?

What allows humans “to ignore the current crisis of ocean conservation” (480)?

Is recognition of kinship enough to motivate a ethics of care or an environmental activism that locates humans as part of a cluster and not at the center?

What, according to Alaimo, does Rachel Carson’s personification of the sea accomplish? Does the personification of the sea, air, wind, rain, etc. in King Lear accomplish similar goals? Why or why not?

What does Alaimo value in the book Your Inner Fish? What does she critique

King Lear, Scenes 6-8