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Role of Women in King Lear

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Introduction

English-King Lear What role do women play in King Lear? King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. This play consists of three main female characters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, the daughters of King Lear. In the beginning of the play, Lear decides to divide his power and kingdom amongst his three daughters based on their love for him. While Goneril and Regan flattered their father in elaborate terms, Cordelia, the youngest daughter, was honest and straight-forward. She believed that her love for her father was limitless and that she did not need to flatter him in public. Her silence angered Lear, and Cordelia was thus banished from the kingdom. Although Cordelia did not feature much in the play, she is one of the major characters. Her refusal to flatter her father instigated the entire tragedy. She was Lear's youngest daughter and his favorite as he says "I loved her most, and thought to set my rest on her kind nursery" (I, i, 122). ...read more.

Middle

This can be seen as she calls off the French attack on England as readily as she instigated it. Cordelia was thus the ideal women in the play, respectful and dignified but still powerful. Cordelia's honesty and integrity contrast with her sisters' hypocrisy. Goneril and Regan were the two elder daughters of King Lear. After the banishment of Cordelia, Lear divides his kingdom between both these women. Throughout the play, they misused their power and continuously devised malevolent plans against their father. Shakespearean women were considered to be quiet, shy and submissive, which is the complete opposite of these two women. Their vicious and aggressive nature brings out the male characteristics in them, making them the ideal villains. Goneril was portrayed as the more cunning of the two, but as the play proceeds, Regan becomes just as vicious. Regan even suggested to plucking out Gloucester's eyes towards the end of Act 3. ...read more.

Conclusion

Without any guidance, they still manage to pursue their desires. In a society which is predominately male-dominated, this play focuses on the position and role of women in society. It was often thought that women were incapable of running a kingdom but this tragedy illustrates women to be wise and cunning, and capable of handling power. Although Goneril and Regan misuse their power, they are still portrayed as commanding and overruling. Cordelia, on the other hand, still shows some characteristics of the Shakespearean woman, but yet she is strong and noble. Each of the three women plays a major role in the play King Lear. Cordelia, as the pure and devoted daughter, sparks off the entire tragedy as well as finishes it. Goneril and Regan, the ruthless and malicious daughters, bring out the actual story within the play with their repeated mistreatment their father. The women in the play thus play an important part as they bring out the actual nature of women, as opposed to the Shakespearean stereotype of women. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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