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Women in King Lear

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Mafroja Bhuiyan

on 18 July 2014

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Transcript of Women in King Lear

Women in King Lear
In Shakespeare's King Lear he challenges traditional gender roles and suggests that when women are put in a position of power failure is inevitable.
Traditional Gender Roles...
* Gender roles are social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate by a particular society for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship.
- Cordelia is very loyal because unlike her sisters she does not manipulate the
people around her
• However she is not submissive since she disobeys her father by not participating in the “love test”
• She is compassionate due to her ability to forgive her father after banishing her

- Regan and Goneril fight with each other over Edmund
We will be analyzing the female characters in Shakespeare's play King Lear....
1. Female Gender Roles
2. What is Shakespeare telling us to learn from the three women?
4. What connections to Christian values does Shakespeare make with Cordelia? Can she be seen as a religious figure? How?
3. Who is really in love and with whom?
5. What happens in Shakespearean drama when the female is in a position of power? What happens to the male characters around them?
Our Thesis
- Traditionally women are thought to be more passive, submissive, quiet, and pure whereas a man loud, confident, strong, aggressive.
- All of Lear's daughters behave differently... but do they all conform to the traditional female gender role of the Shakespearean time?
- Shakespeare portrays his female characters in both lights, challenging traditional gender roles
- He does not distinguish between his female characters, as all of them fail in the end
What can we learn from These Women?
-When Goneril and Regan were given power, they misused it
• By studying their characters, it is suggested by Shakespeare that women in power are unreliable and manipulate the people around them
•Regan and Goneril are considered evil

-• Since they are women in power, they are represented as heartless women with the desire of power.
•-Women in Shakespeare are always put back in their traditional position at the end of the play, implying that women belong there
Who is really in love and with whom?
- Regan is infatuated with Edmund
•- Goneril wants to be Edmund's mistress because her husband is too weak for her and Edmund is scheming and manipulative??
- Romance is displeasing in Shakespeare’s plays and it is rare to find a functional and ‘normal’ heterosexual relationship in his plays

- Significance of the love triangle shows the lack of true love and loyalty

What connections to Religious Values can be made with Cordelia? Is she a Religious figure?
- “Property deformity shows not in the fiend/ So horrid as in women" (4.2.59-60)
 Albany explains that powerful women take the shape of a women but the mind of a devil. Shakespeare makes it clear that when women are put in power, it often results into chaos.

- “Now, all the plagues that in the pendulous air/Hang fated o'er men's faults light on thy daughters!” (3.4.7)
 King Lear blames his problems on his daughters. Therefore readers are able to empathize with him. However they find it hard to empathize with the daughters.

• -"Neither can be enjoyed/If both remain alive: to take the widow/Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril/And hardly shall I carry out my side/Her husband being alive." (V, i, ll 58-62)
• This shows that Edgar is just manipulating the two sisters and he does not care about them.

•- “No, no, my lord,
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
Than praised for harmful mildness.” (I.iiii.9)
• Goneril is implying that her husband is too sensitive and gentle especially when she says “milky gentleness” where she implies that he is weak for being so soft on Lear

Who survives and who does not? & why?

-He indicates that failure is inevitable when women try to take the "place" of men
- Only two characters survive and prosper at the end, which are Albany and Edgar
-They seem to have the greatest sense of morals ( Albany & Edgar)

-All the women die
-Shakespeare distinguishes between the good and bad in men, but not for women
- All the women dying in the end is signifying restoration of patriarchy
-“unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond; no more nor less.”(Fitzgerald)
Cordelia is only telling the truth to her father, she does not want to profess her love publicly and she loves him as a child should love their father. Because of this Lear is angry and disowns her. Like Christ, she was punished for it by being banished and declined of her inheritance

- We can connect Christian values with Cordelia while looking at her virtues and qualities.
She is forgiving, merciful and pure at heart

- She did not act out selfish motives, her thoughts were pure which is the complete opposite compared to Goneril & Regan
- All throughout the play Cordelia's characteristics stand out above all the other character's.
- Just like Christ, she was punished for her good deeds
- Connections to Virgin Mary can also be made ( Lear carries her dead body) this is a reference to Christ's mother carrying her dead son
- Parental love also plays a large role, between Lear and his daughters and Gloucester and his sons
- Cordelia is a stereotypical woman of the Shakespearean Era while Regan and Goneril withhold unusual characteristics.

- "Nothing, my lord." "Nothing?" "Nothing." ..........."I love you as a child should love her father, neither more not less." (1.1.85-90)
Cordelia declining to flatter her father can be interpreted as an opposition to authority, she does not want to be ruled by patriarchy. Her saying nothing is the only way she could oppose her father, with silence. It is the only proper way any women could object or oppose in that time period. Her response is a passive one, this along with many of her other qualities shows that she conforms to societal expectations of females
- "I must change names at home, and give the distaff/ Into my husband's hands." (4.2.16-17)
Goneril is asserting herself a man here, proving that Shakespeare challenges gender roles with Goneril and Regan
- "Property deformity shows not in the fiend/ So horrid as in women" (4.2.59-60).
Shakespeare also presents powerful women as deformed both in shape and in mind, saying powerful women have the shape of a woman but the mind of a devil.
- In portraying women as evil, Shakespeare is conforming to the stereotypes and by making them all fail, he is referencing their place in society ...less superior to males.
After the examination of Shakespeare's play King Lear, one can tell that this is an anti-feminine play. It degrades women and despite the fact that Shakespeare does challenge traditional gender roles..he resorts back to the failure of females in his play.

Everyone will receive a card with the answer written on it. We will ask questions after every section and whoever feels they have the right answers will read their answer to their class. If their answer is correct they will receive prizes. :)

What happens when women are put in a position of power? What about the males around them?
- Shakespeare makes it evident that when women are put in a position of power, the end result is failure and chaos
- In King Lear, the women's misdeeds results in their deaths and the males deaths also
- Another example of a women failing while put in a position of power in Shakespearean Drama would be Macbeth...
King Lear and Macbeth show that women cannot be more superior to men.
6. Who survives and who dies? why?
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