Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit    

Lesson 1: King Lear

Performer: Librivox - Sibella Denton

King Lear was old and tired. He was aweary of the business of his kingdom, and wished only to end his days quietly near his three daughters. Two of his daughters were married to the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall; and the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France were both suitors for the hand of Cordelia, his youngest daughter.

Lear called his three daughters together, and told them that he proposed to divide his kingdom between them. "But first," said he, "I should like to know much you love me."

Goneril, who was really a very wicked woman, and did not love her father at all, said she loved him more than words could say; she loved him dearer than eyesight, space or liberty, more than life, grace, health, beauty, and honor.

"I love you as much as my sister and more," professed Regan, "since I care for nothing but my father's love."

Lear was very much pleased with Regan's professions, and turned to his youngest daughter, Cordelia. "Now, our joy, though last not least," he said, "the best part of my kingdom have I kept for you. What can you say?"

"Nothing, my lord," answered Cordelia.

"Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again," said the King.

And Cordelia answered, "I love your Majesty according to my duty--no more, no less."

And this she said, because she was disgusted with the way in which her sisters professed love, when really they had not even a right sense of duty to their old father.

"I am your daughter," she went on, "and you have brought me up and loved me, and I return you those duties back as are right and fit, obey you, love you, and most honor you."

Lear, who loved Cordelia best, had wished her to make more extravagant professions of love than her sisters. "Go," he said, "be forever a stranger to my heart and me."
King Lear and the Fool in the Storm

The Earl of Kent, one of Lear's favorite courtiers and captains, tried to say a word for Cordelia's sake, but Lear would not listen. He divided the kingdom between Goneril and Regan, and told them that he should only keep a hundred knights at arms, and would live with his daughters by turns.

When the Duke of Burgundy knew that Cordelia would have no share of the kingdom, he gave up his courtship of her. But the King of France was wiser, and said, "Thy dowerless daughter, King, is Queen of us--of ours, and our fair France."

"Take her, take her," said the King; "for I will never see that face of hers again."

So Cordelia became Queen of France, and the Earl of Kent, for having ventured to take her part, was banished from the kingdom. The King now went to stay with his daughter Goneril, who had got everything from her father that he had to give, and now began to grudge even the hundred knights that he had reserved for himself. She was harsh and undutiful to him, and her servants either refused to obey his orders or pretended that they did not hear him.

Now the Earl of Kent, when he was banished, made as though he would go into another country, but instead he came back in the disguise of a servingman and took service with the King. The King had now two friends--the Earl of Kent, whom he only knew as his servant, and his Fool, who was faithful to him. Goneril told her father plainly that his knights only served to fill her Court with riot and feasting; and so she begged him only to keep a few old men about him such as himself.

"My train are men who know all parts of duty," said Lear. "Goneril, I will not trouble you further--yet I have left another daughter."

And his horses being saddled, he set out with his followers for the castle of Regan. But she, who had formerly outdone her sister in professions of attachment to the King, now seemed to outdo her in undutiful conduct, saying that fifty knights were too many to wait on him, and Goneril (who had hurried thither to prevent Regan showing any kindness to the old King) said five were too many, since her servants could wait on him.

Then when Lear saw that what they really wanted was to drive him away, he left them. It was a wild and stormy night, and he wandered about the heath half mad with misery, and with no companion but the poor Fool. But presently his servant, the good Earl of Kent, met him, and at last persuaded him to lie down in a wretched little hovel. At daybreak the Earl of Kent removed his royal master to Dover, and hurried to the Court of France to tell Cordelia what had happened.
King Lear and Cordelia

Cordelia's husband gave her an army and with it she landed at Dover. Here she found poor King Lear, wandering about the fields, wearing a crown of nettles and weeds. They brought him back and fed and clothed him, and Cordelia came to him and kissed him.

"You must bear with me," said Lear; "forget and forgive. I am old and foolish."

And now he knew at last which of his children it was that had loved him best, and who was worthy of his love.

Goneril and Regan joined their armies to fight Cordelia's army, and were successful; and Cordelia and her father were thrown into prison. Then Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany, who was a good man, and had not known how wicked his wife was, heard the truth of the whole story; and when Goneril found that her husband knew her for the wicked woman she was, she killed herself, having a little time before given a deadly poison to her sister, Regan, out of a spirit of jealousy.

But they had arranged that Cordelia should be hanged in prison, and though the Duke of Albany sent messengers at once, it was too late. The old King came staggering into the tent of the Duke of Albany, carrying the body of his dear daughter Cordelia, in his arms.

And soon after, with words of love for her upon his lips, he fell with her still in his arms, and died.

    Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit Stories from Shakespeare II by Edith Nesbit    

Lesson 1: King Lear

Performer: Librivox - Sibella Denton


Study the assigned Shakespeare story over the week.

Over the week:

  • Read or listen to the story.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Recite the vocabulary words and their definitions.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


In 'King Lear,' King Lear asks his daughters to describe their love for him so he can decide how to divide his kingdom among them. His elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, emote flowery sentiments of love despite not truly loving him. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, truly loves her father, but feels so disgusted by her sisters' chicanery, she will only say she loves her father according to her duty. Unimpressed by Cordelia's answer, the King divides his kingdom between Goneril and Regan, keeping little for himself and giving nothing to Cordelia. Cordelia marries the King of France, moves away, and becomes a queen. Having extracted his riches, Goneril and Regan treat their father with disdain. Their betrayal drives King Lear half-mad, and he winds up wandering about the heath. Cordelia learns of her father's predicament and rescues him. Father and daughter might have lived happily ever after, however 'King Lear' is a tragedy, and a happy ending is not in store for our characters. Goneril and Regan's armies attack and defeat Cordelia's army, and the evil sisters throw Cordelia and King Lear into prison. Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany, realizes his wife is wicked. Goneril kills Regan and then herself. Cordelia is hung in prison, and the old King dies of a broken heart.


Suitor: One who pursues a woman for marriage.
Earl: A British or Irish nobleman next in rank above a viscount and below a marquess; equivalent to a European count.
Duke: A high title of nobility; the male holder of a dukedom.
Banished: Sent away and forbidden from returning.
Heath: A tract of level uncultivated land with sandy soil and scrubby vegetation.
Shakespearean Tragedy: A Shakespearean play with an unhappy ending (as opposed to a Shakespearean comedy).
Play: A dramatic work for the stage or to be broadcast.


Activity 1: Recite the Story Information

  • Before and after reading or listening to the story, recite aloud the title and author of the play.

Activity 2: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: See the Playwright and Poet William Shakespeare

  • Study the controversial 'Cobbe portrait' below, which may be a real-life portrait of Shakespeare.
  • The portrait contains the Latin phrase 'Principum amicitias!' which means 'The alliances of princes!'

Activity 4: Map the Play

The tragic play, 'King Lear,' takes place somewhere in the middle of England (now part of the United Kingdom (UK)).

  • Find England (UK - Southern Part of Larger Island) on the map of Europe.
  • Zoom in to find the capital city of London.
  • Point to the location of the UK on the map of the world.

Activity 5: Can You Find It?

During the week, zoom in to study the painting, 'Cordelia's Portion,' by Ford Madox Brown. Note how Goneril and Regan and their husbands all grab at King Lear's crown, and find the following:

  • King Lear (on throne)
  • Goneril and Regan
  • Cordelia (in yellow)
  • Scepter
  • Orb (on table)
  • Censer (on table - container for incense)
  • King of France (holds Cordelia's hand)
  • Duke of Burgundy (biting his finger)
  • Mistletoe (above the King's head)
  • Map
  • 3 Swords

Activity 6: Create Your Own Reusable Theater to Study and Stage Shakespearian Plays   

Instructor Note: If you created and saved your theater, props, characters, etc. from the third grade Shakespeare course, you may reuse them for the fourth grade course.


  • 1 large, sturdy, and solid-colored foam board
  • Laminating pouches
  • Self-adhesive Velcro tape, squares, or dots


  • The foam board will serve as a theater for putting on Shakespeare's plays.
  • You will build sets for your theater, populate it with characters, and use it to act out scenes.
  • Attaching Velcro to the foam board, set pieces, and characters will enable creating multiple configurations of sets and characters.


  • Fasten approximately 30 one-inch strips or dots of evenly spaced Velcro to the front of each foam board.
  • Color, cut out, laminate, cut out, and attach Velcro to the backs of the theater decorations on page 3 of 'Fourth Grade Shakespeare Theater Pages.'
  • See an example of a full laminated sheet of characters, set items, and labels before the final cut out.
  • Decorate your theater as you see fit.

Activity 7: Cast the Characters   

  • Serve as the casting director and audition actors and actresses for parts in your play.
  • Color, cut out, laminate, and attach Velcro to the backs of the labels on page 4 of 'Fourth Grade Shakespeare Theater Pages.'
  • Color, cut out, laminate, and attach Velcro to the backs of the actors and actresses trying out for the roles (make sure to keep the boxes attached to the characters) on pages 5-11.
  • You will have more characters than roles.
  • Attach an additional piece of Velcro to the box under each of the actors and actresses.
  • Using what you know from reading the story, cast each character by Velcroing a label to the box under the actor or actress you feel is best suited for the role.

Activity 8: Create a Character Map   

  • Cut out the relationship connectors on page 12 of 'Fourth Grade Shakespeare Theater Pages.'
  • Using what you know from reading the story, place the relationship connectors between the characters to show their relationships.


  1. 'William Shakespeare.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Cobbe portrait.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  3. 'Cordelia's Portion,' by Ford Madox Brown {1866, PD-US}. Wikipedia.'s_Portion.jpg. n.p.