Teaching Students About Cordelia in the play ‘King Lear’

Cordelia, the youngest daughter of King Lear, plays a significant role in William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, “King Lear.” She is an essential character to discuss when teaching students about the play as she embodies both loyalty and virtue amidst the chaos and deception that surrounds her. This article aims to provide educators with strategies to teach students about Cordelia effectively.

1. Start with Background Information:

Before delving into Cordelia’s character analysis, give your students some background information on “King Lear.” Discuss the context in which it was written and introduce the main plot points and characters. Once they have a grasp of the narrative, they will be better prepared to explore Cordelia’s role in the story.

2. Analyze Cordelia’s Character:

As you begin discussing Cordelia’s character, emphasize her unique qualities and how they contrast with those of her sisters, Goneril and Regan.

– Highlight her honesty, despite the consequences she faces for speaking truthfully.

– Show how she remains loyal to Lear even after he disowns her.

– Illustrate how Cordelia serves as a symbol of goodness in a world filled with treachery.

Encourage students to cite specific lines or scenes from the play that reveal these qualities. This will not only deepen their understanding but also aid in developing their analytical skills.

3. Acknowledge Cordelia’s Mistakes:

Although it is essential to recognize her virtues, remind your students that like any Shakespearian character, Cordelia has flaws that contribute to the tragedy of “King Lear.”

– Discuss how her stoic nature prevents her from displaying affection towards her father openly.

– Explore how this impacts Lear’s decision-making and contributes to his downfall.

By acknowledging these shortcomings, students will gain a more well-rounded understanding of Cordelia as a character.

4. Connect to Historical Context:

Educate your students about the Elizabethan Era and how concepts like loyalty, family dynamics, and virtues were crucial during this time. This will allow them to appreciate the significance of Cordelia’s actions and decisions within that context.

5. Discuss the Theme of Redemption:

Using Cordelia’s character, facilitate a conversation on redemption in “King Lear,” particularly focusing on her father’s journey. Despite her banishment, Cordelia remains loyal, ultimately playing a critical role in Lear’s redemption arc. This theme is a vital aspect to consider when teaching Shakespeare’s tragedy to high school students as it encourages empathy and understanding.

6. Encourage Creative Responses:

Allow students to explore Cordelia’s character through creative projects such as writing monologues or poems from her perspective, creating visual art inspired by her character, or performing key scenes from the play. This will encourage deeper engagement with the text and facilitate personal connections with Cordelia’s experiences.


Teaching students about Cordelia is an opportunity to explore loyalty, honesty, and virtue against a backdrop of betrayal and greed. By providing context, examining her character traits, acknowledging her flaws, and encouraging creativity, educators can help students develop a multifaceted understanding of this complex character in “King Lear.”

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