King Lear sees women in power and demonstrates women using their position to their advantage. What I think is most interesting about the shift in power is how unexpected it is from the characters in the play. Even though the power is directly handed to the daughters, people do not see them as a threat because they are women. This allows them to act cruelly and nobody suspects them. Part of what makes their strategy so good is that they play into the role men expect them to be in. Regan and Goneril are the perfect examples of this. They use their innocent relationship with their father to pinpoint and expose his mental weaknesses. They maintain the image of innocence with not only their father, but the people around him, for a short amount of time. This helps them capitalize on their fathers deranged state and smoothly transfer the position of power to them without much resistance.
When Edmund comes into power through the manipulation of his father and brother, Regan and Goneril saw him as a potential threat. As a woman in their current time period, people were much more likely to stand with a man as a leader due to the way women were viewed. They knew this and decided to both act on the situation, by both flirting with him and trying to play to him. However, Goneril and Regan both understood that the one who married him would have a large advantage over the other kingdom. This unspoken understanding provoked a competitive and greedy relationship between the two sisters and was eventually led to their downfall.
Overall, Goneril and Regan’s unique and genius rise made the play as a whole and presents the largest theme in the play: power is taken by who has the drive and cruelty to take it.
One thought on “Women Taking Over Power”
I thought this was a very interesting interpretation of the characters, specifically when you mentioned how they pretend to play the role that men expect from them. I did not thing about this while reading King Lear, but that is exactly how they transition the power so smoothly without any suspicion.