Gender Roles in King Lear

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the theme of gender roles is clear. In some ways, he brings power to women through his characters by putting them in powerful roles. Specifically, Regan, and Goneril are put in powerful positions because they have been given kingdoms of their own. On the other hand, he implements the idea that women aren’t deserving of power. Although they are in powerful positions, the women are also made out to seem evil and crazy in positions of power. At points in the play, Cordelia and Regan become angry, loud, and violent. For example, Goneril wants Gloucester’s eyes plucked out. The sisters also turn on each other. The women of King Lear can be compared to stories like Snow White, where the Queen is powerful, but evil. In these types of stories there is usually also a more “feminine” character who helps to accentuate the evilness of the one in power. In Snow White, this character would be Snow White. In King Lear, this character is Cordelia. Cordelia is a more ideal feminine character in traditional gender roles. She is calmer than her sisters and not as power hungry. Overall, Cordelia’s “feminine” presence makes her sisters look bad in comparison and helps to push this idea of how women should act.

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