Final Exam Essay on King Lear
Directions for Final Exam Essay on King Lear:
I am going to ask you to write a literary criticism essay. A literary criticism is a “critique” of work of literature. In this case, you will choose one of the topics listed below. These topics are quite broad, so I think you can tweek or take them in many different directions of your choosing. I have provided you with
one source already for each topic. These sources can only be accessed within the database they come from.
You may in some cases be able to place the title of the article into a search engine and gain access that
way. You will need to locate a minimum of TWO more sources to quote in your paper. These sources should
be considered scholarly, which means they come from a literary database. You may login into the Lonestar
library database to search for sources if you have a Lonestar I.D. card. My favorites include the EBSCO
database, Project Muse and JSTOR to name a few. If you use any sources outside of a database please make
sure they are valid scholarly sources. (You may also access databases from your home campus if you do not
attend Lonestar regularly) A Wikipedia page is NOT a valid source. All of these sources should be listed
in a works cited page and when you quote the source make sure to cite correctly using parenthetical
citation. The expectations for his paper are as follows:
Minimum of 1000 words
Written in M.L.A. format including heading, title, page numbers and works cited
Minimum of 3 sources used
The text of King Lear itself should be quoted to support your thesis and ideas
You have until August 17, 2018 to submit this paper to the Dropbox. I have not asked you create an account
through Turnitin.com but I do still utilize the Turnitin software to check for plagiarism so please adhere
to the Academic Honesty policy outlined in the course syllabus. As always, please let me know if you have
any questions. I look forward to reading your papers!
Possible Topics for Final Essay on King Lear
A) Insanity—real or obfuscated—is integral to the fiber of many of Shakespearean plays. Apart from
reflecting the political turmoil, madness adds to the atmosphere of pathos, misfortune and self-
destruction of the protagonists in his plays. A pathological condition, widely prevalent in the
Elizabethan times, lunacy manifested itself in multifarious forms—paranoia, hallucinations, delusions,
suspicion, secrecy, confinement and isolation in the society. The Bard faithfully reproduces this
symptomatic malady in his tragedies. Explore the mechanics of madness in King Lear, whether real of
feigned. How does Lear’s madness ultimately bring about his own downfall?
Bali, Shweta. “Mechanics Of Madness In Hamlet, Macbeth And King Lear.” IUP Journal Of English Studies 9.4
(2014): 81-92. Literary Reference Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
B) Much of what happens in King Lear can be attributed to Lear’s relationship with his daughters. This
relationship is based upon the fact that their mother is absent from the situation. How does the absence
of a female role model influence each daughter differently? How might this explain the behavior of
Cordelia and of Lear himself? Explore the idea of the absent mother.
Kahn, Coppélia. “The Absent Mother In King Lear.” Critical Insights: King Lear (2011): 239- 262.
Literary Reference Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015
C) What is the cultural and historical relevance of the play King Lear? The play is a dramatic
entertainment which contains themes of family discord and disloyalty. How might this have effected
Elizabethans who saw the play and why? What was going on in England during this time period which could
have led to some of their reactions and criticisms of the play?
Bevington, David. “King Lear In Cultural And Historical Context.” Critical Insights: King Lear (2011):
31-44. Literary Reference Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
D) There are some scholars which suggest that King Lear by Shakespeare is actually a retelling of an
ancient myth. There are similar stories of Kings and their daughters from China, Ireland, India and other
parts of the world. Research the validity of this argument and choose a position where you either agree or
disagree that Shakespeare most likely based his version on older ones.
Rosenberg, Marvin. “The Lear Myth.”Critical Insights: King Lear (2011): 122-131. Literary Reference
Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
E) “Topics discussed include the use of the concepts of trespass and forgiveness in the play, the
relationship between Lear and his daughters in the play, and the legal aspects of sovereignty that are
present in the play.” The article cited below explores the relationship between trespass and forgiveness
in the play. Using this article develop your own theories on these themes.
Lopez, Alan. “Trespass And Forgiveness In William Shakespeare’S King Lear.” Anq 27.3 (2014): 121-124.
Literary Reference Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
F) The author of this article describes the representation of the pattern of imagery in William
Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear on the characters of the play. Sight…or the lack thereof is a major
transformative force in the play. Explore this element and how Shakespeare uses imagery to convey issues
Heilman, Robert Bechtold. “I Stumbled When I Saw: The Sight Pattern.” Critical Insights: King Lear
(2011): 169-192. Literary Reference Center.Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
G) Examine the role of the fool in King Lear. How does he contribute to the outcome? Do we hold him
responsible for Lear’s downfall? This article looks at several fools in William Shakespeare’s plays. A
fool might be a court jester dressed in the colors of those they served. The Fool in King Lear,
accompanies his master into the storm but speaks hard truths along the way, while Trinculo in “The
Tempest,” is more clown than fool and is drunk most of the time.
Riley, Dick, and Pam McAllister. “Wise Enough To Play The Fool.” Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion
To Shakespeare (2001): 265-267. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.