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"Regan is no less a sympathetic character than Cordelia" In light of this view, analyse this comment taking into account dramatic effect.

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Introduction

´╗┐Regan is no less a sympathetic character than Cordelia. Despite the immediate clearness of the plot of King Lear, it would be untrue to classify Regan and Cordelia as two characters two dimensional or singularly driven; categorizing Cordelia ?benevolent? and Regan as ?malevolent? is an interpretation too simple for characters so complex. Indeed, although Cordelia is portrayed as the restorational character and Regan as a destructive one, the proper characteristics, aims and nature of the characters must be explored in order to properly evaluate the degree to which they appear sympathetic. Arguably, although responsible for the actions that they carry out, it would perhaps be most accurate to say that they are victims of their own father, and that their doings and fate throughout the play are potentially unavoidable products of the circumstances they find themselves in due to their treatment by Lear. It is in the opening scene of the play that the characters of Regan and Cordelia are defined. Upon Lear?s arbitrary, egotistical and wholly unnecessary ?love test?, Regan produces a speech of artificial eloquence and superficiality- ?I am alone felicitate in your dear highnesses? love?. Amongst the deceitfulness of Regan, there is however an underlying reason as to why she must feel the need for the expression of such superficiality. ...read more.

Middle

Indeed, the reticence of Cordelia is an embodiment of the prototypical ?Shakespearean woman?: absent, silent, or dead. A pamphlet in the year 1558 entitled First Blast of the Trumpet against The Monstrous Regiment of Women argued that giving women any sort of authority was the ?subversion of good order?. Cordelia?s decision to break the mould of the dominated, abiding and meek Victorian woman can thus place her in a negative light, and as feminist critic Kathleen McLuskie states, audience sympathy is manipulated to evoke compassion for Lear. Shakespearean gender relations and familial circumstances are not the sole reason for the creation of familial discord of the play. Cordelia?s stand against hypocrisy and the egotism of Lear can be seen as commendable; however perhaps an inherent flaw is present in the character of Cordelia that contributes to family conflict in the play. Her stubborn, principled nature can by non-feminist critics be seen as a key contributor to disharmony in the play. Indeed, it is during the love-test that a number of contradictions about the character of Cordelia arise. She insists that she cannot express herself adequately- or ?heave her heart into her mouth?, yet later in the play she is able to speak against her sisters with perfect eloquence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that, from this equivalent social position, they take different choices and paths is a reflection not of the social situation that they find themselves in, but of their individual disposition. It is from these choices of ?free-will? that the audience categorizes the two daughters- Cordelia as restorative and Regan as shockingly maleficent. It is undeniable that, given her status as ?evil? in the play, Regan at first appears less sympathetic than Cordelia. However, the portrayal of Regan and Cordelia runs deeper than mere appearance and status in the restoration of Lear?s authority. It is, in fact, the simple classification of characters as ?good? or ?bad? in relation to their position to Lear this is central to how the personalities of Regan and Cordelia are evaluated. As McLuskie notes, the play is patriarchal, and focuses centrally and explicitly on the power and fate of Lear. Due to this concentration of the plot on Lear, the audience inevitably feel compassion for him, and thus make a clear differentiation between the ?bad-? and ?goodness? of Regan and Cordelia. For, when viewing the play not from the perspective of a monarch but from a woman enduring social and parental oppression and favouritism, whilst not validating the actions and nature of Regan, a sense of understanding and sympathy is certainly allowed for. Thomas Smith ...read more.

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