Planning the King Lear Eulogy

a website by Greg Smith

Relevant links
Write a eulogy
Paula's eulogy
Shakespeare's eulogies
King Richard III eulogy
Jonson's eulogy of Shakespeare
Pericles' Funeral Oration
Eulogy for Nehru
Earl Spenser's eulogy for Diana:
. . . Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity, a standard-bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a truly British girl who transcended nationality, someone with a natural nobility who was classless, who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.
Today is our chance to say "thank you" for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life. . . .

Cordelia about Lear:

love, pity, regret, not fear or favour, truth will win in the end, point of balance.

Edmund about Edgar:

hatred, ambition, thrill of the hunt, bullying, successful, deceitful.

Gloucester about Edgar:

father for wronged son, seeks forgivenesss, ........

Lear for Cordelia:

father for wronged daughter, regret, seeks forgiveness, .....

Plot Revision

Preparing the Eulogy

1. Choose your character well. Your own mannerisms and temperament could suggest a role to assume. You need to relate emotionally to your choice.

2. What is your objective? What is the simple overall message you bring? What emotions are to be evoked? What emotions would be inappropriate? What vocabulary is appropriate?

3. Structuring your Eulogy
It should be a good mix of exposition and in praise of the character's actions, attitudes and emotions.

4. Devices in your eulogy:

word choice (diction), metaphor, rhetorical questions, repetition for effect, hyperbole.

Include: a measure of his worth, plot our own grief and situation now without him, how he has affected us all, a Tribute to the eulogised, stress key words, move from the general to the personal (inverse pyramid), assess significance of the death to us as a community, significance of his life in history, a farewell Bidding to the deceased.

5. Rehearsing your Eulogy

Further advice
Write in modern prose not Shakespearian.
Avoid merely recounting the events of the play; we have all lived through them too.
Speak mainly in the plural; speak for the assembled Court.
This is not the time for scoring points or justifying your attitudes or actions. This would put the focus on you not the eulogised one. No parting shots.
Beware of inventing stories outside the play. Likely or probable incidents like Cordelia playing hide and seek in the throne room as a little girl in happier days might be recounted briefly by Kent but avoid fantasy: Lear being militaristic and granting higher pay rates for foot soldiers, etc.
Is it mawkish perhaps to speak to the body in the casket on our behalf?.
A possible structure for the Eulogy



In Albany's Royal Court


My friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of ...

Lords and ladies, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of ..

Your relationship to the deceased

As his loving grandson, I have the honour to speak here today on your behalf and on behalf of our family.

As his loyal physician, I am privileged to be asked to deliver this eulogy.

Plot events to his end

Grandad had been sick for a long time; he sensed his own end was near.

Our beloved liege Lord, King Lear, was beset by may travails

Plot the course of our grief

Like you, I too felt helpless when visiting him lying in St. Hugh's . . .

I watched him suffer needlessly at the hands of his rejecting daughters, unbelieving that they could be so ungrateful .....

In praise of the personage

Papa was someone we will never forget. It was his tenderness, his trust and his ready acceptance that endeared him to us all. . . .

For all his faults, Lear will be remembered by us as a great King. Before he passed on, he came to regret his foolish abjurations and banishment of ..

Bidding farewell

So now for the last time we bid you farewell, Papa.

Please join with me in finally bidding our dear Lear farewell. May the gods treat him well and may that essentially goodness, sometimes hidden from us, sustain him in the blessed abodes he goes to. Amen.

© G. Smith 1999.

In summary, these are the steps for writing a eulogy:
I.  Be yourself.
II.  Write your eulogy as clearly and understandably as possible.
III.  Write about the memories you had.
IV.  Write about memories that the audience can remember.
V.  Get the audience involved with what you are saying.
VI.  Speak clearly to your audience.
VII.  Think positively when you write about the person.
VIII.  Insert some humor into the eulogy (jokes, quotes, sayings.)
IX.  Make the eulogy memorable.
X.  Read your eulogy as though you are talking to a friend.

Sample: "Grandma"
When I think of Mary Helen Holland, also known to me as Grandma, I think of learning, laughter and love.
Now all of the felicitous times are just a big barrier of memories surrounding my heart.
I can remember doing puzzles with my Grandma. The table she'd use came up to my chin when I was first interested in the
concept of putting pieces of colorful cardboard together. When we had finished forming all the pieces together, I was in pure fascination of how beautiful the picture was that the pieces had formed.
One time my family bought my Grandma a puzzle containing five thousand pieces. She worked on it (which took a lot of time) but eventually finished it. Grandma even made it into her city's newspaper about her puzzle. It made me feel that
Grandma was famous. After she was done with it, she glued it together and stored it away underneath my Grandpa's bed.
Let me say to you that this puzzle had faces on it of people all over the world. Grandpa really enjoyed having a hundred faces looking at him during the night. "All the world is looking at me," he'd say.
Grandma taught me how to swim; she was a lap swimmer. When I grew up my cousins, my sister and I taught her how to do a bomb into the water. I bet she was the only Grandma in the world to do that.
Grandma once popped one of my rafts by jumping on it. Remember that, Mom? You popped the other one.
Grandma was involved in so many groups, clubs and activities; she was very popular. But it was time for God to take her.
I can see her right now: laughing, talking and probably even doing the Charleston with her new and old friends in heaven.
Grandma now is in charge of watching out over us. And in spirit she joins us today.
Grandma is like a ray sunshine. She helps light the way. She keeps us warm and comfortable. She cradles us with her warm arms.
Grandma gave me so much wisdom; she was the smartest lady I ever knew. She had class and loyalty, courtesy and honor.
Grandma beat me in Monopoly every time--her iron got all the good properties. She taught me how to cross stitch. She let my sister and I have a fashion show using all of her clothes and accessories.
We would model and pretend that we were cover girls. We were covered in all of Grandma's things.
Grandma had everything.
Grandma also dressed up as a lot of things: an Easter Bunny, Mrs. Claus, a witch, even a fairy.
When I was little, I remember getting my toes sprinkled with my Grandma's "magic powder" before each fairy hunt we used to have.
I am so lucky I had this classy lady as a Grandma. She was a gift from God to my family but now she is a gift to God.
Whenever I feel the sun's rays upon my shoulders, I will always know that Grandma is holding me in her own special way, keeping me warm. God, take care of her up there, and Grandma--don't cause too much mischief. I will miss you very much, Grandma. You are a ray of sunshine--the way you've touched everyone's lives. Take care and keep on shining. I love you very much.
Amy C. Stumbo
Warriner, John. Holt High School Handbook. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1995.
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Devised 17 April 1999 by G. Smith Brisbane Australia.Last checked/edited 10 May 2012.