FEMALE CHARACTERS IN KING LEAR

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FEMALE CHARACTERS IN KING LEAR

(UNSYMPATHETIC PORTRAYAL OF G+R, LACK OF FEMALE CONTROL, FEMALES ARE DEHUMANISED) 

Shakespeare's portrayal of Goneril and Regan at the beggining of the play is arguably unsympathetic as they oppose Lear's expectations.

  1. Transformation from flattery to prose
  •  "eyesight, space and liberty""valued, rich or rare" (G)- triple list structure is a rhetorical device to bring attention to her insincerity, and "I am alone felicitate in your dear highness' love!" (R)
  • hyperbolic speeches/mini-soliloquies, semantic field of worth - "prize""worth""possesses" 
  • CONTRASTING to prose, differing from language of the court (e.g. rhyming couplets), showing that their prev. utterances were staged 
  • "tis the infirmity of his age, yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself" (R)
  • "we must do something, and i'th'heat" (G)
  • A04: challenging the chain of being and the King would have been seen as shocking to a jacobean audience
  • expectation that "the disruption of gender roles results in chaos"
  • BUT their plans of deceit may be seen as reasonable due to Lear's hubristic manner "Which of you shall we say doth love us most" - his daughters are like pieces in his game, but does this justify their future actions?
  • A04: relates to how inheritance issues were a matter of national concern for Shakespeare's audience in the late 16th/early 17th century, which may provoke sympathy/support for their lies and trickery.
  • OEDIPUS: female characters are presented as loyal and subordinate to male characters
  • "I will do nothing other than you wish" (J) - contrasts to G+R bad intentions and potential control over Lear
  • "Your intentions are honourable" (O to J) - links back to (R) "We shall further think of it." 
  • This illuminates the sisters mischief and the unsympathetic presentation of female characters in Lear.

However, the patriarchal treatment of female characters heightens their lack of control, evoking sympathy from the audience.

  1. Cordelia is presented as Lear's property, shown by his lack of compassion towards his own daughter.
  • "property of blood"
  • "I disclaim all paternal care"
  • A04: Jacobean audience would have been shocked, as conserving tradition was fundamental in the elizabethan era, so the breaking of natural bonds would have been disturbing
  • "mend

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