How could a 16th-century play, in which the stage directions are minimal, be so unsettling?Paula Marantz Cohen avoided King Lear for years, thinking her college students couldn't handle its bleakness. But once she taught it, she learned a few things. Read more here.
I had a similar experience a decade ago when I taught The Great Gatsby to a class of mostly eighth-graders. They took Gatsby's and Daisy's and others' adultery in stride--they reserved their real disgust for the narrator Nick. To their minds, Nick had a responsibility as a friend to save these people from themselves, and he didn't do it--he just stood back and reported what they were doing, even facilitated it a bit.