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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
_____ 1. In the opening lines of the play
B. Gloucester acknowledges his son, Edmund
C. we learn why Edgar may decide to flee
B. Lear's blindness
C. Cordelia's vision of the future
II. man's sanctimonious qualities
III. evil in high places
B. I and III only
C. I, II, and III
B. "I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad"
C. "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?"
B. "Come not between the dragon and his wrath"
C. "If you come slack of former service, you shall do well"
B. "She is herself a dowry"
C. "No vicious blot deprived her of favour"
B. they made plans to destroy Cordelia
C. they denied him access to their castles
B. having been rejected by his father
C. his lack of opportunity for advancement
B. moves too rashly against his child
C. is willing to risk his life for what he believes in
11. In Act II, Scene ii, the disguised Kent draws his sword on Oswald and attempts to engage him in a duel. The cowardly Oswald backs off, fearing that he will be murdered. If they had not been interrupted by the party from within the castle, would Kent have slain Oswald? How would he justify it? If not, why?
12. Since Albany is painted in such virtuous colors and behaves so nobly throughout the play, why doesn't he take over the rule of the entire country at the end? Why does he pass it on?
13. The great villains- Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril- die offstage. Only Edmund, their equal in villainy, and Oswald, a "subvillain," are slain in front of the audience. How do you account for this? Why don't we witness all the villains getting their punishment? Does it make any difference?
14. Do you think Edgar would make a good king of England? Why?
15. Was Shakespeare secretly "antimonarchist"?
_____ 1. In his striving for power, possessions, and women, Edmund may best be described as a
B. Machiavellian villain
C. rank Philistine
C. social graces and respectability
II. loyal Kent was banished by Lear
III. Gloucester doesn't see straight until he is blinded
B. I and III only
C. I, II, and III
B. his blunt talk outraged Lear
C. Regan and Cornwall wanted to make an example of him
B. "Pour on. I will endure"
C. "Away! the foul fiend follows me!"
B. he is willing to be shown the error of his ways
C. he allows the Fool to criticize him
B. appeals to her husband
C. asks for forgiveness of Cordelia
B. Goneril poisons Regan
C. Regan endangers Cornwall's life
B. "I pray you, father, being weak, seem so"
C. "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless father"
B. leads to Edgar's insanity as well
C. parallels the storm within Lear
11. What is the position of women as presented in King Lear?
12. Without a vast stage to sweep across, how does Shakespeare show the sense of urgency and forward motion we feel throughout the play?
13. Is it fair to attribute Goneril's and Regan's behavior to greed?
14. Is there a difference between the father-daughter relationships and the father-son relationships in the play? If so, how is it shown?
15. Do Lear's daughters represent separate fragments of his own character and personality?
11. Does the tone of Kent's badgering suggest that he really intends to commit murder? Doesn't the scene have comedic overtones, especially Kent's description of Oswald? Kent has a firm sense of justice. Listen to what he says when he tries to convince Lear that banishment of Cordelia is wrong. Even when he is introduced to the bastard, Edmund, he is the soul of propriety.
On the other hand, Oswald is allied with Goneril, whom Kent has seen taunting and abusing Lear. The handwriting is on the wall. In his defense to Cornwall, Kent certainly talks boldly about doing away with Oswald. Perhaps this would have kept Goneril's message from being delivered and the course of the play would have taken a different turn.
12. Albany has claimed that his fight with France is for the restoration of Lear's rights; it is not a war over property. Would we regard him so highly if he suddenly decided that he now had a right to take over everything? Go back over what Albany has to say at various times and you will see that greed has never been a part of his character. You'll also discover other reasons to support his final position.
Consider, too, Albany as a representative of one faction; that is, the North. Wouldn't the threatened civil war erupt in earnest if he placed himself on the throne?
13. Despite the explicit horror of the blinding scene, Shakespeare was not particularly interested in presenting gory details on stage. People were killed only when their death moved the action of the drama forward.
How would the audience feel if Cornwall died immediately after blinding Gloucester? Wouldn't our desire for revenge be satisfied a bit too soon? And what about the impact of the other deaths occurring in the final scene? Wouldn't they be lessened by an ongoing scene of expirations?
Consider the balance Shakespeare achieved in disposing of his villains. And consider their punishments vis-a-vis their crimes.
14. To evaluate Edgar's qualifications, you have to consider not only his own development but the errors of his predecessor. Review the balance of their behavior and you will find definite signs of character that may be proper or may be problems for Edgar. Within the text of the play there is enough material to develop a projected character sketch for Edgar, which should guide your answer.
15. There are two angles to consider. The first is obviously your view of his attitude toward Lear as king. That he pointed out Lear's failures is certain. But how does he balance them with Lear's redeeming qualities? And are they necessarily the failures of a king, or of a man?
The other view is the more general picture of "rulers" that comes up here and there throughout the play. It is more subtle but still applies to the question. This includes the final decision to leave Edgar in charge. Will he be a worthy successor?
11. It's fairly safe to assume that Shakespeare reflected the views of his time. There's little suggestion of prehistoric England, despite the general setting. But without going to outside references, a picture may be developed from the play itself.
Women are presented as both daughters and wives, and there are only three of them- Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. That in itself tells us that it's essentially a man's world. But women do not lack power. As you review their relationships and their comments, you will develop a broader understanding of women in the "natural order," too, which was one of Shakespeare's concerns.
12. There are references at the start of several scenes that indicate a passage of time. Review them and you will discover the chronological length of time that passes in the course of the action.
Just as important is the image of a journey taken by the focal characters of the main and subplots. The discussion of movement and travel helps sustain the momentum. And, of course, the constant entrances and exits as the only way of beginning and ending scenes should be considered.
13. There are many reasons for their behavior, and greed is certainly one of them. When rumors are reported of differences growing between Albany and Cornwall (III, i), the reason given is the desire to control the entire kingdom. But what we know of Albany makes us suspect that it is Goneril, rather than her husband, who is behind the rumor.
Consider, too, the confrontation scene with Lear. More than a desire to be rid of the burden of accommodating his retinue, isn't the desire for power over him a kind of greed?
And, in their wanting Edmund, doesn't the ultimate greed lead to their final destiny? As you review their moves throughout the play, you'll discover that greed plays an important part.
14. Overall, the point being made is broader than one of gender. But there are differences.
The laws of inheritance come into play here. Lear bequeaths his kingdom specifically to his daughters, but Gloucester's estate would go without question to his firstborn male heir.
For the sake of parallels, however, most of the thematic concern is with children in general. It is more than a matter of verse, which puts the stress where it is in Lear's observation:
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
Consider the comments made by both fathers, as well as others, and a case may be made for both the specific and general views.
15. Lear displays an incredible number of sides in the course of this play. If you extract certain traits, you can see them appear in one daughter or another.
For example, he is obviously stubborn. But in the very first scene, Cordelia is easily his match in holding on to a position once it is taken.
His concern for quantity over quality is shown by the contest he sets up between the three daughters: "How much do you love me?" Goneril and Regan hurl quantity at him in Act II, Scene iv, when they ask why he needs so many knights.
There are many such parallels. You must decide if they add up to a complete personality or are mere chips off the paternal block.
TERM PAPER IDEAS
There are many unfamiliar terms, words, and phrases in King Lear, most of which can be understood from the context in which they appear. Some recur frequently and seem strange only because of usage. Here are a few that have slightly different meanings from our present usage.
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.