Wednesday, April 02, 2008

King Lear Homework

http://english340.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/writing-assignment-three/

I stumbled across this blog the "English 340" class is using to organize their assignments.  It is from the University of Kentucky, thankfully - for a minute I was afraid these were high school questions:

Choose one for a short paper of 2-3 typed, double-spaced pages:

1.  Lear declares that he is “more sinned against than sinning.”  Consider his remark and write a brief discussion of whether you think it is accurate.  What “sins” have occurred in the play?

2.  Just as manliness is a live issue in Macbeth, characters in King Lear return repeatedly to the idea of what is “natural.”  Choose one character and discuss his or her relationship to nature and the natural in the play.

I am honestly not sure how to answer either question meaningfully.  I don't know if I've just been out of school too long, or if I don't understand the play well enough, or I'm just offended by the oversimplification implicit in the questions.  I hope this question comes after the students have demonstrated a clear understanding of the overall plot, character development, that sort of thing - that they actually get the story, first and foremost.  Then we can talk about all this meta nonsense not about what the character of Lear meant, but what Shakespeare was really trying to say.  Because as we all know, whenever we in real life say something particularly poignant, it was because we were making a statement on the whole of humanity.

Having said that, I really want to take a stab at answering the questions, but I don't really have the time to do 2-3 typed double-spaced pages :).  I think I would have picked #1.  "Sin" is more character-driven than "nature".

4 comments:

PrimroseRoad said...

Plus questions like these lend themselves entirely too well to "essay mill" (pay a fee and copy and paste off the internet) essays.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Let me help you answer:

http://www.newi.ac.uk/englishresources/workunits/alevel/shakes/kinglear/learessay.html

Easy these essay questions aren't they!

By the way the question here is for 16/17/18 year olds in England (now, why do 14 year old girls hate Shakespeare?).

Gedaly said...

I would have chosen the second. The teacher probably had Edmund in mind when asking about a character's relationship to nature: "Thou, Nature, art my goddess..."

The "natural" order of things is a big topic in the play. For example parent/child relationships are a big deal in this play, but they take an unnatural course of action.

Even if I had time to tackle one of these, and 2-3 pages isn't huge, I don't want to. I don't like writing essays. Although writing one about something that interests me is always better than any alternative.

Duane said...

Aw man I am so tempted to post that link on the E340 site, Alan :). "If your teacher uses canned questions you should get to use canned answers."