Shakespeare’s King Lear challenges the societal gender roles, which at the time of the play was considered controversial. In the first act of King Lear, he demands that each daughter prove their love and respect for him in order for them to receive part of his land. Two of the three daughters submit to his wishes and says reassuring things like ” Sir, I [Goneril] love you more than word can wield the matter” (I.i. 60) or “I find she names my very deed of love/only she comes too short”(I.i.78-79). As Lear gets sprinkled with compliments this strengthens his role as a powerful man as two women beg for something that belongs to him. Ironically, his daughter Goneril and Regan, those who graveled for his land, become a powerful force and leader in the hopes to betray their father. This is when the ideal gender roles are switched. While Lear loses power and his mind, his daughters become powerful. Goneril comes to the realization that Albany is not her ally and tells him “no more. the text is foolish” (IV.ii) then continues to call him a “milk – liveried man/ that bear’st a cheek for blows – a head for wrongs,” (IV.ii). In translation, Goneril is calling him a lying coward which in the eyes of society is greatly frowned upon. Although Goneril’s motives to betray her father was already frowned upon by members of the audience, her dominance and assertiveness to Albany, her own husband, was an act more surprising. Shakespeare’s response in the eyes of Albany was to call her the devil which some could argue that response of justified while others protest Albany’s attitude towards women in power.
Albany’s beliefs on women in power seem “old fashion,” when in reality his beliefs are more prevalent in society today as women become more and more involved in our government. Hillary Clinton made headlines, before she even ran for presidency, due to her lack of abilities to be “women like” when she served as the First Lady. When her husband served in office she received major backlash as she become the chair of different committees of public policy, which made her the most involved first lady ever. Hillary Clinton’s leadership and power was a shock to society so much so the White House made a campaign for Clinton to emphasize the more traditional traits of a first lady should be. This campaign gave society what they wanted to see, which was her in the kitchen and merrily hiding behind her husband. Hillary didn’t let this phase her as she ran for president in 2016 against Donald Trump who begin the nasty women campaign against Clinton. The constant set – back Clinton has faced strictly due to her gender is living evidence that our society has not yet reached a point of equilibrium.