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Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's King Lear

Editor(s): Robert H. Ray

Pages: x & 166 pp.
Published: 1986
ISBN: 9780873524988 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780873524971 (cloth)

"Any dedicated teacher of the play will find the book's variety both thought-provoking and refreshing and will arise from it with a renewed sense of commitment and excitement about the play. This volume makes a significant contribution to the teaching of King Lear."
Christianity and Literature

"If you teach King Lear, you must have this book and you can use most, if not all, of the varied advice these teachers offer."
Bibliothèque d'humanisme et renaissance

Perhaps Shakespeare's greatest play, King Lear is likely the one most often taught at the undergraduate level, but many instructors agree that it may also be the most daunting to teach. A survey conducted for this collection of essays found several common difficulties teachers face in presenting the play: the inability of students to empathize with an old man, bewilderment caused by the pessimistic vision of the play and its ending, difficulty in conveying the universality of the play, and confusion over complex imagery. Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's King Lear suggests ways that teachers can meet these challenges and make King Lear engaging and accessible.

The volume, like others in the MLA's Approaches to Teaching World Literature, is divided into two parts. The first part, "Materials," surveys the editions of King Lear most used by instructors, lists recommended readings for students and teachers, and discusses audiovisual materials available for classroom use. In the second part, "Approaches," sixteen teachers share ideas for teaching King Lear in different settings, from freshman survey courses to seminars devoted entirely to the play. The essays present overviews of the play from a variety of critical perspectives as well as describe specific approaches, such as focusing on theme and character, discussing dramatic and philosophical contexts, and analyzing the roles of the written text and of oral and visual performance.

Table of Contents

Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's King Lear

Robert H. Ray

Complete Editions of Shakespeare
Single Editions

Required and Recommended Student Readings

The Instructor's Library
Reference Works
Background Studies
Source Studies
Theatrical Studies
Textual Studies
Critical and Linguistic Studies

Aids to Teaching



General Overviews

An Eclectic Critical Approach: Sources, Language, Imagery, Character, and Themes
Vincent F. Petronella

Teaching a Plural Work Pluralistically
Kenneth S. Rothwell

Specific Approaches

An Approach through Theme: Marriage and the Family
Lynda E. Boose

An Archetypal Approach
Ann E. Imbrie

King Lear in a Literature Survey Course
Ann Paton

Sight and Perception in King Lear: An Approach through Imagery and Theme
Frances Teague

An Approach through Dramatic Structure
James E. Hirsh

"Mapping" King Lear in a Drama Survey Course: A Guide in an Antiformalist Terrain
Maurice Hunt

Shakespearean Tragedy in a Renaissance Context: King Lear and Hooker's Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
Bruce W. Young

Teaching with a Proper Text
Michael Warren

A Theatrical Approach: King Lear as Performance and Experience
J. L. Styan

A Theatrical Approach: Readers' Theater
John B. Harcourt

An Approach through Visual Stimuli and Student Writing
Jean Klene, CSC

King Lear in a Course on Shakespeare and Film
Hugh M. Richmond

"Is This the Promis'd End?": Teaching the Play's Conclusion
David L. Kranz


A Course Devoted Exclusively to King Lear
J. W. Robinson

Works Cited


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© 2015 Modern Language Association. Last updated 02/24/2015.