Compare and contrast the writers presentation of conflict and power between men and women In Thomas Hardys The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the DUrbervilles and William Shakespeares King Lear,

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Compare and contrast the writers presentation of conflict and power between men and women

In Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, the writers portray the lives of women and men during their time. One could argue male characters are generally seen to be stronger and powerful than female characters in each of the texts.

In “King Lear”, we are introduced to Lear’s three daughters, “the eldest” Goneril, “dearest” Regan and “more opulent” Cordelia. In the story, Lear is seen to break natural order by dividing the kingdom into three for each of his daughters. He orders them to “say doth love us most”, making Goneril speak first. Our reaction to Goneril’s speech is one of strong dislike, which is caused by her desire for power. The blend of power and femininity demonstrated in this speech from the Jacobean society is one of the main contributing factors to our disdain for Goneril. This is an idea which holds true today. It is interesting that for a male character this trait is not be so offensive. This is due to the gender differences and expectations in society.

Similarly in the novel “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, we clearly see the treatment of women in Victorian society. The novel begins with Henchard auctioning off his wife to the highest bidder at Weydon Fair, “I’d sell mine this minute if anybody would buy her”, showing how in early nineteenth century England country women of this class, were viewed as nothing. They could be disposed of if their ‘owners’, namely their husbands or fathers, wished, “it has been done elsewhere”, illustrating just how common these auctions were. This is similar to “King Lear”, where Lear has the power to order his daughters to speak.

Equally in the novel “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, Hardy portrays the way in which men dominate women, presenting their greater control and power in society. Alec, for example, recognises how morally corrupt he is for seducing Tess for his own brief pleasure. This displays his power over her and his ability to take advantage of it. In reverse, Tess’ parents ask her to work in the D’Urbervilles and she refuses. When her mother asks why she replies, "I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know why". This shows us how aware Tess is of the differences in gender. She tries to use her power, even though it does not do much good.

 “King Lear” is in the form of a play, where speech is a main aspect. Notably the daughters speeches to Lear, particularly those of Goneril and Regan, present authority and greed, “I am made of that self-mettle…” proving to Lear, Regan is “made” of gold or silver, as she begs Lear with her “highness’ love”. Proving to Lear she wants money and wealth, Cordelia on the other hand refuses, “Nothing, my lord.”, as well as mocking her sisters explaining how she loves her father “no  more nor less”, presenting Cordelia to be a fair and reasonable character.

Likewise in “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, Susan has no control over Henchard and his rash decision making, “dropping her eyes again, and saying nothing…”. The word “nothing” here is different to “King Lear”, as the meaning of nothing here means no hope or words to fight back. However in “King Lear”, the word “nothing” is used metaphorically as no money or no love.

The word “nothing” is used in another sense in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, “look here; I won’t walk another inch with you if you say any jokes about him”, confirming Tess’ loyalty towards her father, she proves “nothing” in another meaning. Tess depicts how she will exclude herself from the group if they talk bad about her father, presenting female characters in the novel to be faithful and independent.

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 “King Lear”, as a play, has no direct description of the settings and environment. Although we see the action taking place, we are also guided through the stage directions, “Sennet” meaning a ceremonial entrance as well as “one bearing a coronet”, presenting a formal mood to the act. We are also aware of the “attendants” who are involved in this large event. The female roles in this royal occasion are classified as the King’s daughters, giving them a higher status than other women in the time.

Hardy begins the novel in the “late summer” with the “valleys and woods” and ...

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