• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents the characters of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia in "King Lear".

Extracts from this document...


Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents the characters of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia in "King Lear". I will be concentrating on the presentation of Goneril and Regan, because Cordelia is more a symbol of purity, innocence and righteousness than a regular character. In Act I scene I Shakespeare present the sisters to the audience through King Lear. First King Lear calls upon Goneril to give him a declaration of her undying love for him. It is then established for the audience that Goneril is the eldest of his daughters for he says, "Goneril, our eldest-born speak first". The fact that she is the oldest might give the audience a false idea of responsibility and honour. The idea is false, because later in the play Goneril has no honour or responsibility. Also presented here is the idea that the younger sisters look up to her for guidance. Goneril gives him an utterly devotional declaration of her undying love for him, thus establishing the idea of honour and love. Then Regan is called forward to give her declaration of undying love for her father. She gives the same devotional declaration of undying love, but she out does her sister saying, " I find she names my very deed of love; only she comes too short." ...read more.


She appears to completely in control and mistress of her household. She commands her servants "Prepare for dinner" and she knows what she will be doing about her dilemma "I'll write to my sister" In Act I scene IV the audience is once again shown that Goneril and Regan are not to be trusted through the fool. The fool berates the old king "since though madest thy daughters thy mothers: for when thou gavest them the rod" This also gives the audience the feeling that Goneril and Regan are in control and that they treat their father like a little child. Goneril speaks to her father with viciousness and scorn. "You strike my people and your disorder'd rabble" This shows that she is vicious and gets what she wants through deceitful ways. King Lear compares Goneril and Cordelia in his speech and sees that Goneril is more evil than Cordelia. "How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show." King Lear curses Goneril with barrenness, but this does not bother Goneril at all "never afflict yourself to know the cause." Any normal woman would be stricken with terror to be cursed with barrenness because their one goal in life was to give birth to a healthy male heir. ...read more.


Goneril is also presented as the dominating character in her household, she "change arms at home, and gives the distaff into my husband's hands." She is the one who gives the orders and goes into battle. Cordelia is presented by Shakespeare as the good and forgiving daughter. She still cares for her father even though he rejected and disowned her. She is gentle and kind and still respectful. Where her sisters call him an "idle old man" she still calls him "royal lord" and "majesty". She still recognises his authority as her father. She also knows of her sister's wrongdoing and wants to rectify it, "let this kiss repair those violent harms that my two sisters have in thy reverence made." In the end Shakespeare, through the reactions of King Lear, presents to the audience which daughter King Lear has always loved. When Cordelia died he was devastated and his last words before he died was of Cordelia, "look at her". The way the three sisters die, just shows the audience their characters. Cordelia went proudly to her death "for thee oppressed king, am I cast down", but Regan is killed by a jealous sister and Goneril the strong and domineering takes the cowardly way, by taking her own life. "and after slew herself" ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level King Lear section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level King Lear essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How effectively does Shakespeare present Lear's loss of power in the play?

    4 star(s)

    allowed them to take all of his power, and fears that he "shall go mad". This foreshadows what is to become of Lear and is effective in building up a sense of further loss for Lear, highlighting his powerlessness. Of course Lear does become mad due to the betrayal of

  2. Marked by a teacher

    The influence Act 1 has on the rest of the play in King Lear

    3 star(s)

    to him, yet what he says are only empty words, and as his speech is placed in Scene IV of Act I, this point is expanded as this is one of the shortest scenes in the book, strongly expressing the rather fast transfer in power between Lear and Goneril.

  1. Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents the characters of Edmund and Edgar in ...

    The audience are shown by Shakespeare how apt Edmund is at this craft not only by what he says but also by how quickly and easily Gloucester is convinced. This eagerness to believe Edmund is done by Shakespeare to show the audience that Edmund is very good at manipulation and deceit and that Gloucester is naive and easy to deceive.

  2. King Lear, Femininity and Female Disorder

    The dark meaning attached to the goddess implies that during the period of Goneril's and Regan's rule, she reigns also making the reign an ominous trinity of chaotic rulers over England. Mahu is a creator goddess who is associated with the sun and the moon.

  1. Explore the presentation of Edmund in 'King Lear'

    Edmund's language is alive, full of questions, playing with the ideas of bastardy/base and 'legitimate'. There is an enormous scorn for anything inactive - 'the plague of custom', the 'dull stale tired bed' and the 'tribe of fops', and the conclusion is full of active verbs - "I grow" "I

  2. How does Shakespeare present Edmund in King Lear?

    Edmund's voracity is highlighted by R. Moore's essay on "Good and Evil Children in King Lear and Henry IV. Moore states that "Edmund, whose aspirations to legitimacy will stop at nothing, especially fratricide". Shakespeare doesn't have to use words to disgrace Edmund as his actions do this for him.

  1. An Examination of the Significance of the Fool in King Lear

    but there is a good deal of sense in what he says. The Fool provides repeated reminders to Lear of his imbecility. The Fool continues to harp on Lear's folly in having given away all his power and authority to two of his daughters, and in having kept nothing for himself.

  2. The Nature of Redemption and the Limits of Pessimism in King Lear

    As we have seen, Bradley had argued that beauty cannot emerge from suffering by itself, and therefore concluded the world of King Lear is essentially good. However, with the introduction of the thesis of redemption, Bradley radically qualifies these previous two claims.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work