The Negative Connotation of a Woman in Power

Throughout the unfolding story of King Lear, I could not help but favor Goneril. To me, she displays a confident character who makes choices for herself rather than cater to other men around her. Not only does she challenge her father’s leadership, but also goes against her husband’s wishes, and takes charge of her military.

A Common rebuttal would be that many of Goneril’s actions were to please Edmund, whom she acted romantic with throughout the play. At the end of the day, she isn’t doing this for Edmund but instead to be betrothed to him instead. Not only did Goneril promise Edmund status, who is a bastard and not born into power, but she also murdered her own sister because she was also in love with Edmund. Maybe Goneril was a favorite of mine because she was bold, I think it had more to do with her strive for power in a male-dominated society.

Unfortunately, Goneril is deemed an antagonist to the story because of her attempts to claim power. Deciding she is a villain is unfair to the circumstances she was placed in society due to her sex assigned at birth. Goneril did what was necessary for a woman in society at the time to obtain and maintain her power. The other characters and many other readers confuse an assertive woman as a villain with mal intent because society has an issue with women in power. This common narrative of women with power being slandered is happening in society today. While running for president, Hilary Clinton was heavily criticized for her views on feminism in America. Her thoughts and ideas scared the greater public because people confuse a woman in power with an antagonist solely based on the fear that women are held to higher standards than men are.

Although Goneril was made out to be the villain of the story, I think her efforts for power portray a strong woman who truly did what she wanted for her and not others. In my eyes, she serves as an example of the almost impossible standards women are held to compared to men and how hard it is to defy the perception of others when your capabilities are already decided based on your sex assigned at birth.

One thought on “The Negative Connotation of a Woman in Power

  1. Gigi D

    I like your analysis of her character Owen! Although I didn’t personally love Goneril for her cruel actions, I did like the idea of her character as a whole and the amount of power she held as a woman. However, it is interesting that despite this progressive role, Shakespeare simultaneously reinforced the idea that women in power are monstrous in comparison to other men in power.


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