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Activity Overview

King Lear is full of important literary elements for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, King Lear is the tragic hero as his foolish decision leads himself and many others to their ruin and deaths.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard above, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make King Lear a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall King Lear’s pride and love of flattery leads him to bestow his wealth and power to his daughters based solely on how well they could flatter him with words.
HubrisExcessive Pride As a result of King Lear’s foolish game, Goneril and Regan receive equal shares in the kingdom. Angered by Cordelia’s refusal to participate, King Lear disinherits her, leaving her no other option than to marry the King of France and leave England in the hands of her power-hungry sisters.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Goneril and Regan are allied in their quest to wrench full power from their father. They treat him terribly, remove the knights from his entourage, and lock up his servant in the stocks.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery After Kent is locked in the stocks, King Lear seems to realize his grave mistake and rides off into a terrible storm. He is wild with grief and begins to lose his sanity.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided While Lear realizes his wrongs, and he does eventually reconcile with Cordelia, Albany and Edmund’s forces are already too strong. They readily defeat Lear and Cordelia, and Edmund takes them prisoner.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall While Edgar is able to expose Edmund’s lies for what he really is, it is too late: Edmund has already sent a guard to kill Cordelia and King Lear. King Lear kills the guard, but it isn’t in time to save Cordelia’s life. Heartbroken, King Lear dies while holding her body in his arms. The audience feels pity that Lear realized his mistakes, but won’t be given a chance to rectify them.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 4 (Difficult / Complex)

Type of Assignment Individual or Group

Type of Activity: Tragic Hero

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/4] Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/5] Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how King Lear can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of King Lear that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates King Lear as a tragic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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