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William Shakespeare and Lear Essay

Discussion Questions
Scene i

1. What is the question Lear asks his daughters before he makes the division of his kingdom final? What does he expect of his daughters?

2. What is Cordelia’s answer to Lear’s question, and why is Lear outraged by her response?

3. How does Kent’s reaction to Lear’s banishment of Cordelia introduce the theme of sight and insight?

4. In this first scene of the play, how does Shakespeare establish the parallels between the stories of Lear and his daughters on the one hand and the story of Gloucester and his sons on the other hand?

5. How does Lear’s “love test” foreshadow the way the plot is going to play out and suggest the primary character motivation for the action of the play?

6. What emotions are at the root of the Edmund/Edgar plot line?

7. How has Lear himself upset the “natural order”?

Scene ii

8. What information is contained in the letter that Edmund pretends to conceal from his father?

9. What do Gloucester and Edmund’s comments about the constellations of the stars reveal about their individual beliefs in the power of the stars or fate?

Scene iii

10. What concerns about Lear’s intentions does Goneril express during her conversations with Oswald?

11. Whom does Goneril decide to contact by letter at the end of the scene, and why?

Scene iv

12. How does Kent’s disguise support the theme of sight and insight?

13. What wisdom does the Fool express about possessions on the one hand and about “nothing” on the other hand?

14. Why is Lear angry at Goneril?

15. What is Lear’s curse on Goneril?

16. What does Lear vow to do in the face of Goneril’s behavior and how realistic are his threats?

17. What does Goneril command Oswald to do at the close of the scene and why?

Scene v

18. Where does Lear send Kent?

19. What does the Fool criticize in his statement to Lear, “though shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise”?

20. What is significant about Lear’s prayer not to go mad? (Two main points)

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