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Defying Gender Roles in King Lear

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Alina Popova

on 24 April 2015

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Transcript of Defying Gender Roles in King Lear

"Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus?" III.VII.83
"I am ashamed that thou hast power to shake my manhood thus; That these hot tears, which break from me perforce Should make thee worth them." I.IV.301-303
"France spreads his banners in our noiseless land, With plumed helm thy state begins to threat, Whilst thou, a moral fool, sits still and cries," IV.II.57-59
King Lear
"No seconds? All myself? Why, this would make a man of salt, To use his eyes for garden waterpots, Ay, and laying autumns dust." IV.VI.211-214

In this quote, Lear is saying that being alone would reduce him to tears, making him look weak. He says that this would make any man cry, which is contradictory to the gender norm back then, where it wasn't accepted for men to express emotions, let alone, have something like solitude bring them to tears. Here, Lear reveals a feminine side to men.
Gender Roles in Shakespeare's Time
-Just like today, males were dominant in their society; were the ones who owned land, got jobs, and made the decisions for the family
-Since men were dominant in society, women were taken less seriously
-Women not allowed to get an education, unless you were rich, and were all expected to get married, raise children, and take care of the house.
-As Heather Sharnette said society was patriarchal and women were seen as inferior, both physically and emotionally; women always had to be looked after by a male figure, whether it was a father or husband
Defying Gender Roles in King Lear
By: Alina Popova, Jimmy Dao, Kevin Truong, Peter Ngegwe
"I must change names at home, and give distaff Into my husbands hands." IV.II.18-19
King Lear, as a man, feels threatened that Goneril, a woman, has the power to take away his male dominance
This shows Goneril challenging gender roles because during that time, women stereotypically wouldn't have the power to be in a significant position of authority
Due to Albany's incompetence, Goneril decides to rise to the occasion of being the man of the house
Having felt that she is able to take Albany's place as the Duke, she gave him her 'distaff', a traditional sowing machine of the time, symbolizing she is handing off her womanhood to him.

Cordelia Cont.

Works Cited
Roles of Men and Women in the Elizabethan Era
. YouTube, 2014. Film.
-Sharnette, Heather. "Elizabethan Women."
. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/women/>.
-Shakespeare, William.
King Lear
. Academic Canada, 1964. Print.
-Pettit, Leann. "A Look at Male Gender Roles in Shakespeare’s Renaissance."
Cedar Crest
. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/shrew/lpettit.htm>.
-"The Life and Roles of Elizabethan Era Women."
Elizabethan England Life
. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://www.elizabethanenglandlife.com/the-life-and-roles-of-elizabethan-era-women.html>.
Cox, Catherine. ""An Excellent Thing in Woman": Virgo and Viragos in "King Lear"" <i>Modern Philology</i> 96.2 (1998): 143-57. <i>JSTOR</i>. Web. &lt;www.jstor.org.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca/action/doBasicSearch?Query=virgo woman&acc=on&wc=on&fc=off&group=none&gt;.
Goneril cont.

“You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I Return those duties back as are right fit, Obey you, love you, and most honor you. Why have my sisters husbands if they say They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed, That lord whose hand must take plight shall carry Half my love with him, half my care and duty. Sure I shall never marry like my sisters, To love my father all.” I.I.96-103
-Cordelia is steering away from what’s traditionally expected of women, to be fully committed to men and show their utmost devotion to them. She is honest and brave when she stands up to her father, telling him that she doesn’t ‘love’ him as much as her sisters do. She was exiled to France and no longer recognized by one of the most influential men in her life.
“It seemed she was a queen O’er her passion, who, most rebel-like, Sought to be king o’er her.” IV.III.14-16

-Stereotypically, it isn’t accepted for men to express emotion and, in the quote, Cordelia is trying her best to hide her emotions. Being surrounded by men, there’s a pressure on Cordelia to ‘think with her head and not her emotions’; she’s trying to bring out her ‘inner king’ and be composed.
Regan, a woman takes physical matters into her own hands.
This shows Regan, challenging gender roles as Woman were not known for engaging into any acts of combat during the Elizabethan Era.
France is invading Britain. Albany, a Duke should be taking on his role as a man and a king to defend his country against France, instead all he does is whine, complain and cry.
Albany has failed to play the male role as he is not stepping up to the plate to defend his country, but instead, acts very feminine being more emotional than physical about the situation.
Presenters will describe two people
Your task is to either sit down if you believe the described person is a male and stand up if you believe the person is a female
"Marry, your manhood! Mew!" IV.II.69
Goneril is in an argument with Albany and she insults Albany's manhood
Goneril insulting Albany's manhood suggests that he is not acting like a man.
This shows that Goneril is assigning Albany as the "man" of the relationship.
"Goneril and Regan are obviously either inter-changeable nor redundant; each manifests "unnatural" gender in her own way, and each perpetrates evil in relation to her character's exhibition of gender status" Catherine S. Cox
Goneril and Regan embody 'unnatural gender', meaning they don't fit into their typical gender roles, not acting 'lady-like'.
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