Family Dynamics

This task encourages students to think critically about the family dynamics within King Lear and how they influence the events of the play. In this task, students come up with a contemporary scenario that might be analogous to King Lear and consider whether the events of the play would be the same in a modern context. Through this task, students are encouraged to question whether the events of the play are specific to a particular time period or set of people, or whether they might occur in any context. They also explore one of the core themes of the play: family and family relationships.

The first scene of King Lear draws attention to the mechanics of a dysfunctional family.

Individual Task:

A. In small groups, choose ONE of the following scenarios:

  • A parent has two children from two different relationships, and favours one child over the other;
  • A parent decides to leave most of their inheritance to one of their children, and not share equally amongst all their children;
  • A parent retires from the family business and leaves it to their children. However, the parent continues to interfere with the running of the company;
  • A parent has clear expectations of their child's life and career, but their child wants to make their own life decisions; or
  • A parent expects gratitude and respect from their child, but the child refuses to give this to their parent. 

Group Task:

B. In your group, flesh the scenario out and give the story more details. Think of a specific, modern-day situation where this dynamic might occur. If you were writing a play, novel, or TV series based on this scenario, where would it be set? Who would the characters be? Think about what happens next. How do each of the family members respond? What are the consequences?

In your group, make a decision on your form and story, and how your idea plays out.

C. Pitch your idea! Present your concept and story to the class, as if pitching the idea. For example, if your idea is a TV series, imagine you are pitching to a streaming service or production company. You may wish to create imagery or a poster, cast your characters with real-life actors, etc.

Class discussion:

As a class, discuss these creative scenarios and compare them with Shakespeare’s play. Are the events of King Lear inevitable? Is there a world where one of these similar scenarios ends well? What are the common factors between each contemporary scenario and Shakespeare’s play? Which idea would you like to see, and would you 'greenlight' (ie. give approval to)