Throughout King Lear, there is a fight for power. Regan and Goneril become obsessed with gaining all the power that they can and using it to their benefit. Edmund also becomes power-hungry and betrays Gloucester and Edgar in order to rise in the ranks. In the beginning scene, Goneril and Regan express their love for Lear in order to gain land but they discard Lear as soon as they receive it. However, Albany is portrayed as being indecisive. While Goneril fights for power, Albany makes no moves to use his power for which Goneril often criticizes him.
During the second half of the play, Albany shows his lack of interest in power when he berates Goneril for being a bad daughter to Lear and comparing her to an animal. Albany further expresses his distaste for having power after the death of Goneril and Regan. “For us, we will resign, during the life of this old Majesty, to him our absolute power; you to your rights, with boot and such addition as your Honors have more merited” (V.iii.363-366). Albany wants to restore all of the power to Lear despite having the opportunity to have it all for himself. Albany continues to convey his dislike when he tells Edgar and Kent to “rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain” (V.iii.389). Albany remains dedicated to his morals by refusing to take the power from Lear as Goneril and Regan did. This goes against traditional gender roles as Albany can be described as a coward and Goneril is seen as the villain for stealing power. Albany becomes one of the only people left at the end of the play and is viewed to be a good person, almost saint-like. While Albany does not conform to traditional gender roles, he succeeds and gains power while acting with female stereotypes.
3 thoughts on “Albany and Power”
I think it’s also notable how Goneril mocks Albany for acting like a ‘woman’ would, and stating to herself privately that she would not act like a ‘woman’ for him but rather for Edmund. The switch between Albany and Goneril isn’t that the general social dynamic of men versus women is being broken, but rather an attempt to switch their places, still preserving the power imbalance.
I really like your take on Albany and his desire, or lack of desire, for power. I think power in this play is often seen as something that the characters want and Albany is often overlooked for not wanting power. I think Edgar also shows signs of not being power-hungry. This is interesting because, as you mentioned, men are usually characterized as power-hungry while women are often seen as passive. The roles in this play are sometimes reversed.
You make a really interesting point. I like this analysis of Albany, not being one of the super main characters, but still, you showed how he plays such a large role with power and stereotypes. I think that power and the fight between characters for it is definitely an important part of learning more about each character which is what you did so this is very well written.