The Portrayal of Women as Animals

Throughout the play, the female characters, Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril, are associated with animals. Characters in the play often compare the female characters to animals and in moments where King Lear is extremely upset at his daughters, he shows a lack of respect towards his own children. The metaphor of animals representing female characters depicts how men in the play view women. The comparison of women to animals signifies how women are viewed as less than human. Women are seen as inferior to men. This comparison also reflects how women are perceived as primitive. The common belief is that animals do not think and act like humans do. Animals cannot reach the same levels of achievement and power as humans can. When male characters compare women to animals, it shows that those male characters believe that women cannot achieve the same things as men. This idea connects to the play’s idea of power. The comparison signifies that women cannot hold the same level of power as men because they are inferior. As Lear loses his power, he becomes angry at his daughters. When he talks about his loss of power and family conflicts, his anger at his powerlessness is coupled with his lack of respect towards women. This relates to the comparison of women to animals, he is angry because his daughters took his power, and he believes that women are not equipped to hold positions of power.

4 thoughts on “The Portrayal of Women as Animals

  1. Charles V

    Throughout the entire play woman are continually regarded as inferior to men. The respect towards woman in this play is non-existent. The woman that gain power and continually nagged at and put in a position to try and hand over the power but they are staying strong! I think gender roles and stereotypes do ad have played a huge role in this play.



    I agree with everything you said I was even wondering when the women were called dogs was that suppose to be in substitution for the b word (female dog). But yes the comparison that is made between women and animals feels very inhumane.


  3. LIVIA N.

    Because of this, I can’t tell if Shakespeare was just using female stereotypes to deem them more evil or if its also the implications of their decisions. Part of the tragedy in King Lear is Lear’s state, so of course his daughter’s were portrayed so negatively after stripping Lear of everything. But when the daughters are portrayed as bad rulers subhuman, and adulterous I can’t help to notice that it using female stereotypes.


  4. Audrey S

    I agree that Shakespeare wrote women into his play as significantly inferior to men. I wrote my blog about a similar topic – how Shakespeare doesn’t really acknowledge the women in the play as real people – and think that it is very clear that women are looked down upon. I would love to see some quotes to highlight exactly when women were associated with animals, but I agree that throughout the play they are depicted as less than human.


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