Representation of women in King Lear

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Malik Al-Mahrouky 12JRb

Candidate Number: 0001

Centre Number: 34703

Describe the Representation of women through the play, King Lear.

Representation of women in King Lear can be looked at from a variety of perspectives: as a play of patriarchy, of rejection and madness, a feminist interpretation but ultimately, a play of tragedy and despair. Shakespeare's description of women through King Lear imputes the distinct seperation between what should and what shouldn't from perspectives of both a Shakespearean audience and that of a modern audience chiefly through the contribution of Lear's distinguishably individualised daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. All three 'women' devise the representation of what should (Cordelia), what could (Regan), and what wouldn't (Goneril) have been acknowledged as the traditional expectation of a woman essentially established through the three daughters signifying purity, rivalry and callousness.

Primarily from Act One Scene One, Regan establishes herself as a bitter, opportunistic woman through rebounding off her sisters, Goneril's, emotions in order to advantageously depict her 'declaration of love' that " makes breath poor and speech unable" in effectively enabling herself to enhance her own. Theoretically speaking, this represents Regan as a character who imposes on others to get what she wants: a character of selfishness who possess' lack of remorse when doing so. This is reflected when Regan says:

"I am made of that self metal as my sister,

And prize me at her worth"

This represents Regan as an egocentric woman who finds her love "an enemy to all

other joys", which, as a contemporary audience, is rather ironic as she seems to

be her own worst enemy, fighting against her own insecurities which leads, in my opinion, to her odious behaviour through sibling rivalry within the play and the inheritance of wealth and power. However, it also represents Regan as an independent woman of the Shakespearean era (a rarity of course), who is able to justify her own emotions through that of another yet still ENHANCING her own prerogative in order to retain her hubris (pride). This is augmented through the use of the metaphor "metal" representing herself as an impregnable and durable woman reflecting a strong, robust nature: an early preparation of what may later occur.

King Lear's eldest daughter, Goneril, emerges stronger than Regan, which is portrayed through the way she dominates her husband in the early acts of the play. We learn of Goneril saying:

"I will not speak with him; say I am sick:
Join now!

If you come slack of former services,

You shall do well; the fault of it I'll answer"

From this, Oswald merely replies

"well madam"

Goneril's tenacious comments such as "I'll not endure it" and "I will not speak with him" not only represent her as a child-like and stubborn individual emphasized primarily through the use of personal pronouns such as "I" and "I'll", but also female domination within their relationship. Within the Shakespearean era this would have been seen as an absurd rarity. Relationships between men and women were based upon a patriarchal ...

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