A Family Affair
Students are often intimidated by what many consider to be Shakespeare's greatest play and the greatest tragedy in Western literature. They may also wonder what a 400-year-old story about the crisis of an aging monarch can possibly have to do with their own lives. Yet, once students figure out that King Lear is all about family drama, they quickly realize that Lear's problems with his daughters aren't so different from the kinds of parent-child conflicts everyone, during any era, experiences in adolescence.
Like Cordelia, who falls out of her father's favor when she fails to pass his love test, most high school students have been in a position where they were expected to tell their parents exactly what they wanted to hear. Students with siblings can also identify with the kinds of conflicts between Lear's daughters and Gloucester's sons – most siblings experience jealousy and a sense of rivalry, even if they don't end up poisoning each other. Depending on students' lives at home, some may relate to the reversal of parent-child roles in the play, especially when it becomes evident that King Lear's retirement plans are dependent upon his daughter's "kind nursery."