365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

Posts Tagged ‘King Lear

364. My top five Shakespeare plays: number 2

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Wow. This is the penultimate entry of 365 Days of Shakespeare! Hard to believe! Let’s not waste any time getting down to it!

NUMBER 2: King Lear

Phew. This is one of the big ones. King Lear is one of those plays that intimidates anyone trying to put on a production, whether actors or directors or technicians. How to do the storm? Is Cordelia really such a naive girl, or is she trying to be strategic too – only her way backfires? Don’t forget about the Fool! So much in this play is monstrous in its scale that it can be hard to find people willing to do it. But when you do, it can often be a thrilling experience. I always think of the production from the third season of Slings and Arrows…that’s pretty much how I think it should be done. It is a difficult, heartbreaking show, but one that can be one of those life-changing plays when it’s done right.


Written by Caroline Mincks

September 30, 2010 at 11:19 AM

334. Top 10 Shakespeare-inspired songs: Number 6

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Perhaps I’m biased because this video was in Ontario and I ❤ Canada. Anyway, number 6 goes to The Tragically Hip with their bizarrely wonderful “Cordelia”.

Written by Caroline Mincks

August 31, 2010 at 11:56 AM

319. Juicing in Shakespeare?

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Here’s one I’ve never heard before: someone wrote an essay linking steroid use in baseball to the Bard. My Milton teacher, always encouraging us to find new and unusual theses, would  be thrilled.

It doesn’t have to do with any of Shakespeare’s characters using steroids (though some of them are pretty quick to anger, so we could probably argue ye olde ‘roid rage), but it is an interesting link to King Lear. Worth a read for sports fans.

Written by Caroline Mincks

August 16, 2010 at 9:57 AM

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268. King Lear – the bare-bones summary

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Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is not an original story. It is based on a legend of a king who divided his kingdom into three parts among his daughters, with devastating results. In Shakespeare’s version of the play, these happenings are downright heartbreaking. The play is an incredibly complex and lengthy piece of work, so it is one that is very difficult to summarize, especially with all of the sub-plots that take place throughout. However, at its heart, the story may be simplified if the plot of Lear is followed exclusively.

King Lear, an aging man, has three daughters whom he loves very much. There is Goneril, Regan, and his youngest and favorite, Cordelia. In order to decide their inheritance, he devises a challenge: they may “win” a part of the kingdom by telling him exactly how much they love him. Goneril and Regan gladly play along, praising their father beyond all reason in order to get their share. Cordelia, however, chooses to tell her father the truth, and criticizes her sisters for claiming they love Lear with their whole hearts while having husbands at the same time. Lear, enraged, banishes Cordelia and strips her of any inheritance and dowry she may have had.

Goneril and Regan seize their opportunities to act out on their greediest desires and end up casting their father away, leaving him utterly destitute and accompanied only by his Fool. They heartlessly allow Lear to literally be left out in the rain, during which he delivers perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most powerful speeches: the “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks” soliloquy. As the brilliant Canadian television program “Slings and Arrows” put it: “Lear IS the storm.” (A side note: watch the third season of “Slings and Arrows” to get a wonderful idea of what Lear is all about and to see some incredible performances of the play.)

Lear’s mind and fortunes deteriorate more and more, and several of his subjects are brought down with him. Kent, whom he had also cast away, has disguised himself as a peasant and joined Lear to continue serving him, and it is Kent who can be considered the moral center of the play. Lear is later arrested, and he is reunited with Cordelia. Though the circumstances are dire, they cannot help but to be happy. It is a scene that often brings audiences to weeping when Lear, even in some madness, realizes that Cordelia is there and that he has made a mistake in casting her away.

As is the true nature of tragedy, the hero is brought to his end. Lear’s spirit and body finally give out when Cordelia is hanged. He mourns over her body before dying himself, with Kent at his side and the body of his beloved daughter nearby.

It is one of Shakespeare’s most mature works, and it is the challenge of a lifetime for actors portraying Lear. For audiences, “King Lear” is usually an experience never to be forgotten.

Written by Caroline Mincks

June 26, 2010 at 8:44 PM

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218. Etsy love…part two

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Today I will show you several gorgeous engravings that I so want but am stopping myself from purchasing so someone else can have a fair crack at the Shakespeare paraphernalia.

From 1877, a stunning steel plate engraving of a scene from Hamlet.

A beautiful scene from King Lear.

This is an interesting one from Coriolanus.

To see the rest, visit the Isabella Blue Studio shop on Etsy.

Written by Caroline Mincks

May 7, 2010 at 8:05 PM

189. Shakespeare essay topics

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Looking for an essay topic for your Shakespeare class? Blatantly steal from mine! These questions appeared on our first exam, and any of them are great topics if you are drawing a blank. If I am able to take one of these and turn it into a five-paragraph essay in twenty minutes, you can easily transform and expand for multiple pages!

  1. Hamlet and King Lear both address what has been called “the problem of evil”: the motivations and effects of immoral actions.  To what degree do these plays send a coherent message about such motivations and effects?  If there is one clear consistent message, what is it and how do these plays build it up?  If the plays seem to send several contrasting messages, what are they and how do they relate to one another?
  2. In both Hamlet and King Lear, madness plays a key role; the title characters of both plays go mad (or seem to), and there is a sense that their worlds have gone mad as well.  Compare and contrast the roles madness plays in these two plays.

Written by Caroline Mincks

April 8, 2010 at 10:15 PM