How King Lear Portrays a Loss of Power as a Loss of Sanity.

Throughout his play, Shakespeare’s King Lear shows multiple scenes of acute loss of power in an individual, weather its Edgar being forced out by a false accusation from Edmund, or Lear giving up his kingdom to his daughters, just to be shunted by them in the next act. These examples do not complete the list of power struggles, but are great examples of men so dependent on the power they hold, when they lose that power, they lose grasp on themselves. Take Lear for example, the moment he realizes that he holds no power or status over his daughters or the dukes, he almost instantly starts acting out of control, weather its begging to let him stay or insulting every person that lays eyes on him. Lear in this case firmly believes he can still get what he wants because he was the one that gave the power he held to his daughters. Lear’s hope quickly fades, however, as he is kicked out of Cornwall’s estate and sent to fend for himself in for the storm. From there, the hole that his loss of power formed becomes much more apparent.

Lear begins scene II of act III by challenging the storm to hit him with everything you got, in which he is half pretending to hold power over the storm, whilst being torn apart by it. When Lear continues by emphasizing that he does not need the cruel hospitality of his daughters, and even refuses basic shelter, it becomes clear that his void of power has escalated into his own self deprecation, in which he believes that he is nothing without the power that he once held, and is going mad over it. later in the act, Lear begins to talk like the fool, as if its his destiny for a powerless man like him to become the new fool. Its not just a loss of power that causes Lear to end up like this, but rather his dependency on power in order to give him his conciseness.

Live, Love, Laugh, Lear

Throughout the story of King Lear, the King, King Lear is presented as a crazy man who wants nothing but power over people. While this may be originally true, this sense begins to be unraveled as the story progresses. In the beginning, it seems the KL only wants to be told his daughters love him and two of them do in order to get as much land as possible. On the other hand, the third daughter tells KL only that she has shown her love throughout her life and shouldn’t need to explain it in the moment. This begins the story of the greedy and powerful King Lear. As the story progresses KL seems to become more power-hungry and care for little else. And while this is partly true we also see the true nature of who KL was before he was a crazy man. There are moments of clarity where we see who King Lear really was, one of these moments is when they are in the storm standing outside a cottage. While KL was all about standing in the storm and understanding the world he shows empathy for those with whom he’s traveling. He tells them to go inside, that he understands that they cannot be in such weather. This insight into the true man that KL was gives sympathy and allows the reader to understand what was really going on that the KL that we see throughout the story isn’t the real king. To that I say Long live King Lear.

Lear(n) from King Lear

My dad’s parents are much older than most grandparents. My grandma was of the first generation born in an independent Ireland and my grandpa remembers the Great Depression and fighting in WWII.

Both constantly told stories, which made me love history and storytelling. They taught me many important lessons through these stories (for example, don’t steal Jeeps). I am so grateful that they told the stories and that I listened.

A lot of people might not be attracted to the story of King Lear because he is not young. However, King Lear is so powerful and important because Lear is older – it shows that a person can change even in old age and, through the story of an old person, it encourages the audience to change before they are in old age.

The audience has a lot to learn from Lear’s journey during the play. Similarly, we have a lot to learn from the older people in our lives. We don’t inherently owe our elders respect. However, we do owe it to listen to them.

Personality Typing in King Lear

One of my favorite things to do when I encounter a new story is to try my hand at assigning them a Myers-Briggs personality type. When it comes to King Lear, some of the characters were abnormally easy to gauge, as they served as archetypes for a few different types. Lear, for example, is a typical ESTJ. Generally seen as power-hungry and strong-minded, ESTJs have a cognitive function stack of Te-Si-Ne-Fi. This means that their dominant function is extroverted thinking (Te), which harshly analyzes the world around them to process and organize information. In King Lear, we see this in his tendency to look at information from a purely rational perspective and his blatant disregard for the feelings of those around him. ESTJ’s auxiliary function is introverted sensing (Si), which is a processing function and determines an individual’s method of processing information internally and in real-time. This manifests in King Lear’s frequent comparisons of current events, not from a philosophical standpoint, but from a more rational and pragmatic one. The combination of his dominant and auxiliary functions serves to take in information directly from the environment, analyze it based on tangible and factual data, and organize it into a logical framework that compares current and past data in order to categorize things appropriately. The tertiary function of an ESTJ is extriverted intuition (Ne), which seeks to observe and understand the possibilities of the outside world. Because this is not one of his first two functions it is used far less frequently and is developed later on in life than the Te and Si. Finally, the inferior function is introverted feeling (Fi). This function, used the least, guides the ESTJ through the processing of their own emotions.

However, while under stress, ESTJs begin to act very differently. The tendency of every MBTI type, while undergoing some kind of stressful event or period, is to fall back on their tertiary and inferior functions because of an overhwleming desire to excape. In the case of ESTJs, they begin to heavily lean on Ne and Fi, causing them to overanalyze the philosophical implications of their poor state-of-mind and hyperfixate on their feelings of confusion and unrest. Ne and Fi are the two dominant functions of an INFP, Cordelia’s type (Fi, Ne, Si, Te). I believe this is why Lear and Cordelia seem to find much more common ground by the end of the play, as their outlook and processing of information is somewhat similar.

The King’s healthy functioning is seen almost exclusively at the beginning of the play, but as he begins to deteriorate, the pragmatic and decisive nature of his ESTJ stack deteriorates with him, causing himself to get lost in an internal world of deep sorrow and complex questioning of life.

King Lear in Modern Politics

King Lear contains many motifs and examples that can be seen in politics today. This makes me marvel at how Shakespeare incorporated elements of leadership and politics that are still relevant almost 500 years later.

One major example of this correlation can be seen in President Trump’s “reign,” in which he had some of the same attitudes and leadership strategies as King Lear. For example, both Lear and Trump tried to fix all problems on their own instead of relying on others for help and advice. Lear does not really listen to those around him, as he thinks that because he is the King, he is in charge, and only his ideas are the acceptable ones.

Another example of King Lear coming to life in politics today can be seen through the President’s cabinet. In King Lear, his daughters Goneril and Reagan both praise King Lear, telling him how much they love him, and how devoted to him they are. However, it becomes clear that his daughters do not truly love him, but just wanted the power and land that their father could give them. The President’s cabinet is a group of people that the president surrounds himself with to give him advice and handle more specific problems. The idea is to have some people that do not have the same viewpoints as you, so that you have a variety of viewpoints to make the best decision for the country. Nowadays, however, it has become increasingly polarized, and the cabinet is often filled with people that have the same viewpoints as the President. During Trump’s presidency, I remember reading an article about how Trump fired one of his cabinet members for something that he said against Trump. This seems very similar to Lear kicking Cordelia out for not professing her love to him.

While it is clear that any president is not as bad as King Lear, and not nearly as crazy, the correlations between Lear and politics today do make me think about practices in politics, and the way that people have been conditioned to respond to ideas they do not agree with. This idea of hearing different viewpoints is extremely important in today’s culture, as social media has made it so people only hear ideas that they agree with, creating an even greater political divide. By keeping in mind the Tragedy of King Lear, we can avoid these problems and not fall down the rabbit hole that Shakespeare prophesied.

King Lear: A True Example of Karma

There are a few different instances of karma being a role in King Lear. But the acts and decisions of Goneril and Regan stand out to me the most. In Act 1, they give these elegant speeches about how much they love their father. Explaining how words or material possessions cannot describe how much they love him. But it does not take long for the sisters to forget every word they said and turn on their father for their self-interest. In Act 1, Scene 3, Goneril tells Oswald to start acting against Lear and treating him disrespectfully. She also tries to lessen his number of knights. With Regan being on her side, this begins the downfall of King Lear and also, where the slow downfall of the daughters.

The way Goneril & Regan act unto others in the play are also uncalled for. One of the more popular scenes in the play, where Regan insists Cornwall plucks out the eyes of Gloucester and also murders a servant. These sisters are both blinded by their own greed and self-interest, that they will do anything and harm anyone to be able to be on top. But as we all know, this mindset and their actions ultimately lead them to their downfall and finally, at the end of the play, their death.

As I came to the end of King Lear, the first thing I said to myself was, “Karma’s a b*tch.” Reading this play, it was sort of obvious that something like this would happen, but being able to experience it all happen and witness the outcome that was placed in front of us was best way for the play to come to an end. Pride, jealousy and greed will always lead to downfall and we got a good example of it in King Lear.

Manliness, Emasculation, and the Fear of Strong Women

Gender roles play a HUGE role in the storyline of King Lear. From the emasculation and takedown of King Lear resulting in a major loss of power to him to the ultimate, untimely demise of every strong, or even just, every female character, this work truly highlights sexism that was alive and prospering during the time period in which Shakespeare wrote it.

At the beginning of the play, in Act 1, Scene 1, Lear is furious at the fact that Cordelia states she will love her husband when she marries him in the future, and will thus not be able to afford every drop of her love and devotion to her father, for now, and forever. He states, “I loved her most and thought to set my rest On her kind nursery. Hence and avoid my sight!(I, i, 137-139). Here it can be seen that unconditional love is only expected of women in this play. Lear banished Cordelia because she would not love him unconditionally for her entire life in the way he expected. While parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, Lear abandons his daughter, the one he loved the most, because of gender roles.

According to Lear, his other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, aren’t much better than Cordelia. Both of his daughters have stated that if he wishes to live with them, then he must reduce his worldly possessions to almost nothing. In this grand act of emasculation, Regan states, “What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five, To follow in a house where twice so many Have a command to tend you? What need one?”(II, iv, 300-303). Here, Regan is completely overpowering Lear. She is “stripping” him of the last few things he has power over, to allow him to stay and be cared for by her. Lear sees this as a complete and absolute reduction of his power, which he refuses to stand for. Instead of being reasonable and giving up his men, he leaves her castle as an insane storm rages on.

At the end of the play, all three of Lear’s daughters end up dying in the battle that rages on for power and total control of the kingdom. Regan was killed by her sister, Goneril. According to the Gentleman, “Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister By her is poisoned. She confesses it”(V, iii, 268-269). Goneril poisoned Regan over Edmund, a man, for fear that she would have stolen him from her. By having these women die over a man, Shakespeare is reinforcing the gender roles that women are petty, and exist purely for men and to fight over men. He does not even afford them their own, unique deaths. Rather, deaths by one another, grasping for a man they cannot both have. Cordelia is mourned the most by her father. He is overcome with grief when he finds her lifeless body and, in response, states, “Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in a woman”( V, iii, 328-329). Even in her death, Lear enforces patriarchal ideas of what women can be. He liked that she was quiet, subservient, and gentle, and in her death, that is what he is choosing to remember. Not the times she controlled an army, or stood up for herself, using her voice. He never chose to acknowledge her power.

Are Trump and Lear comparable?

Reading King Lear reminds us all of one “king:” former president Donald Trump.

Like Lear, Trump plays the victim more than he takes responsibility for his actions. Lear claims he is more “sinned against than sinning.” Similarly, Trump blames the “fake news” media for his own mistakes. Trump also uses derogatory words against women he disagrees with, calling some “pigs,” similar to how Lear refers to women he argues with as animals. Even their over-expressive language matches, with Trump claiming he is always the best (or “least racist person”) and Lear more or less forcing his daughters to exaggerate their love for him.

But even with all of their similarities, I think it is foolish to compare Trump and Lear when you take a step back. In fact, I think the two counter each other’s narrative.

Lear is a tragic character. He begins with power, and due to his own actions, loses what he once had. But with the other leader, Trump, he miraculously gained power, despite having all of the character flaws that Lear had.

Trump became the first president to have never had previous political or military experience. He went from a reality star to leader of the free world. If anything, Trump teaches us that diverging attention away from your own mistakes, having a problem with women in power, and being straight-up power-hungry can work, even in the 21st century.

Some would argue that we saw the fall, or the tragedy, of Trump in the 2020 election. But no matter how bad that election was for him or how bad he further ruins his reputation in the future, he still became president. He became the most powerful person in the world. Trump’s story is technically a comedy.

Character flaws in Shakespeare’s times, or at least in one of his plays, win in our era.

Family Ties

In Act 5, as Lear and Cordelia die their indominable family tie is shown. What made Cordelia stand out from her sisters, was her pure heart and good intention. Her character comes back into fruition at the end of the tragedy. Cordelia is unlike her sisters in the fact that she did not profess disingenuous love to her father.

In the end of the tragedy, Lear realizes the mistakes he has made with his daughter, his sorrow is exacerbated by his impending death. “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness.” (V.III.) In the end, Lear finally is holding himself accountable for his action of banishing his daughter. Often times when one is nearing death, they have this realization and try to right there wrongs before it is too late.

Cordelia’s pure heart cannot bear to see her father in his condition. Despite all the pain he inflicted upon her, she still cares for him. So much show that she says, “For the, oppressed king, I am cast down. Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown.” (V.III.) When Cordelia reunites with Lear in the last scene, she wishes it was her who is sick not him. Only a daughter’s love can forgive a father for his atrocious actions.

Love is fickle, complex, and unexplainable. The love between Cordelia and Lear shows a true love that stood over time. Cordelia is an admirable character for her ability to forgive. Readers also see Lear’s growth as he realizes the consequences of his action. Act 5 offered a bittersweet ending in a true tragedy style of writing, as readers learned from the characters downfalls in the story and not all is lost in love.

King Lear, Narcissism & Leadership

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s take on King Lear is compelling and presents a characterization of the King as a narcissist whose ultimate suffering is being anything different. In fact, in their article, The Madness of King Trump: On Being Unfit to Serve, they claim that the King’s Act 1 Scene 1 attack against Cordelia is only a tough love lesson on what it means to be royal. Is it harsh? Maybe. But in their words, Lear “like other egocentric rulers, rewards sycophants and punishes honesty whenever it strikes them as a threat to their grandeur.”

What follows is an intricate analysis of leaders and well, their narcissism and mania. The following question is posed: “What leader isn’t something of a narcissist, elected or no?”

Sure, no-one can argue that there are selfish political figures concerned more with their own interests rather than a constituents.

But is putting yourself first actually being a leader?

Can someone who lacks empathy, like a narcissist, be a leader?

A central point of the play is Lear learning to understand others. Lear starts to regains his empathy in the storm. After being confronted by his daughters, he recognizes the hardships that await those outside the comfort of his kingdom walls. He compares himself to them and realizes while he is complaining about how many servants there are to his name, some have no choice but to sit out in the storm. Eventually, that empathy also extends to Cordelia. Through it, he remembers why he was in power in the first place and turns the play into a humbling, arguably heroic narrative for the King.

This is when we see Lear at his best. Even though it was too late.

Maybe that’s why we excuse narcissism and “unfitness” in leaders especially political ones. If we are judging the capability of a leader based on their influence and their ability to command a troop into battle, then yes. A narcissist would be perfect for the job. Narcissists are expectional at manipulating opinions and influencing minds in order to get what they want.

Using that as the measuring point, the question is no longer whether narcissists can be leaders but when do you draw the line? And if they are the precedent, who is to follow? When Lear was deemed to mad to lead, Regan and Goneril stepped into the picture and brought wicked plans with them.

Lear doomed himself. Why? Because as narcissists do, he alienated himself. He begins the play by banishing Kent, his most loyal servant and sending Cordelia away, his most loyal daughter. He isolated himself until the power was only in one vehicle and was so easy to take. Like candy from a baby.

King Lear and Social Class

In Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Lear, multiple character’s realize the injustice baked into our society through social class. Both Lear and Gloucester realize, when at their lowest, that they are not alone in their struggles. The injustices that they faced in those moments was an experience shared widely across their kingdom, by many, many more people. They both come to the realization that they haven’t been doing enough to address the gap between the social classes, and realized that it is too late for them to make a difference because they had lost all of their power. They both remark on how the rich and those in power should experience what it is like to be poor and to suffer. If the rich knew how they were feeling, they would be more likely to do something about it. Lear adds that the rich will not act in the favor of the poor because they enjoy their current lives and refuse to see the struggles of those around them. This idea, although written hundreds of years ago, is still incredibly relevant today. There are millions op people in this country who are struggling to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck, off of wages that aren’t enough to survive. The working class has been routinely manipulated and abused in order to fund the extravagant lives of the wealthy. Those currently in power don’t want to do anything in order to aid the working class, partially because they enjoy their comfortable lives themselves, and partially because they are in league with the wealth, who want to use working class people for as much labor as possible and hoard all of the profits for themselves. The play argues that, if the wealthy were to experience what it is like to be poor, and that it is not a choice, they wouldn’t be so cruel and would make an effort to help them more. While I think this idea is a good one in theory, the wealthy would never be put in the situation of the poor, and if they were, there would be another wealthy person to take their place and continue to manipulate the working class. I think, in agreement with Lear, that the best way to aid the working class and make things right is to redistribute the wealth that those in power have accumulated and hoard for themselves. If their wealth was redistributed among the people, we would have a better, more efficient, and equitable society in which we don’t have people starving and dying ion the streets, or going bankrupt because they can’t afford healthcare.

Bastards in Shakespeare’s England

Edmund the bastard has a label scarred onto him which he cannot shake off, and which causes him to hold a unquenchable desire to secure power and prove himself worthy of respect and his fathers title. In introducing Edmund, Shakespeare ensures the bastard label is made clear, and makes Edmund’s feelings around the label known. “Why brand they us with base?….” Shakespeare must have included “bastard” as a central character trait for a reason, given the English societal customs of his period.

Using “bastard” as a central character trait was not unique to King Lear for Shakespeare. In “King John” Phillip the Bastard served as a more noble representation of a bastard. Bastards are included in a number of other Shakespeare plays, but with more minor roles.

Shakespeare seems to feel sympathy for bastards in his plays, even for the villainous Edmund. His writing appears to sympathizes with the grievances Edmund lays out in his “Stand up for Bastards” speech.

One theory for Shakespeare’s bastard focus is rumored to be that he had a bastard son of his own. A book recently published called “Shakespeare’s Bastard” suggests Shakespeare’s godson, who became a famous poet and shared a unique facial feature with Shakespeare, was actually Shakespeare’s illegitimate (and only) son.

Of course the book merely speculates, but the importance of the Bastard label in English society remained. The coat of arms of all royal bastards was required to feature a band dexter to signal their baseness. A papal decree from 786, almost 750 years before the birth of Shakespeare, declared english royalty “must not be begotten in adultery or incest” and that “he who was not born of a legitimate marriage” could not succeed to the throne.

There had been a few famous English Royal Bastards, but none who became as powerful as Edmund in Lear.

Robert, 1st Earl of Glouster, for example managed to secure power by being the oldest illegitimate son of the king. He was entrusted with holdings in Normandy by his father.

King Lear is Really the Hero

I think that throughout the book, the way it is written it seems as if Lear is the bad guy. To me I think that he is just really misunderstood, and I think that’s why he is my favorite character. Just because he was the King everyone views him as some snob who just cares about power and land but what he really cares about is his family and doing the right thing. He got his land robbed from him and was betrayed by his own daughters and yet still kept a positive mindset on things. At certain points there are times where he seems bad, but he has so much anger built up because of the betrayal he has gone through and sometimes that anger comes out. He is also a character that shows a great amount of change/development. In the begging he is very uptight and banishes certain people for very silly reasons yet overtime he learns things about himself and realizes that without power you have to gain peoples respect on your own without just demanding it. Characters that grow over time appeal to me a lot because it shows how dynamic they are and how unique their personality is. Lear completes the plot of the play and shows many themes throughout just through himself. Without him the book as a whole wouldn’t make sense and would lose so much of the dynamic effect.

King to Father

Throughout out readings of King Lear, it is evident that Lear no longer understands the world around him and no longer understands others advise to him. It is said in the very first chapter that Lear is growing older, and he realizes this and therefore he gives away his lands and money but most importantly, he doesn’t give up his title as king. He subconsciously was not ready to give up his claim because he knows no other identity than that as king. He does not realize that there are many things and relationships that make up a person’s identity and because of this, those people have the ability to mold each other’s characters.

Lear does not think of himself as a father. He will say that he is the father of his daughters and that is true but there is more to a father than just biology. A father should be caring, loving and accepting. If these things are believed to be true, then why would a father disown his daughter because she professes that she can love her father and her husband? By the end of the novel, Lear is stripped of his army, his daughters, and his sanity but through it all, he finally understands that he only ever needed one person to love him, not an entire army nor kingdom. His reconciliation with Cordelia was a turning point in Lear’s character because he understands that being king is temporary, but being a father is permanent.

Edgar the Survivor

In the beginning of King Lear, Gloucester establishes Edgar as his legitimate son and Edmund, born from a different mother, as his bastard son, meaning Edmund will not be able to collect any inheritance. This creates an inevitable conflict between the two brothers that ignites after Lear gives away his land and begins his slow and painful path toward death. Edmund convinces Edgar that he has been banished by Lear, then accusing Edgar of a violent crime in order to receive inheritance.

And so it began: the humiliating time in Edgar’s life where he just tried to establish himself as a loved and wanted person rather than someone who serves no purpose, manipulated by the promise of money. Edgar can’t control the fact that his brother can’t get any inheritance, but instead of urging Edgar to help him, Edmund simply tries to end Edgar’s life.

“Who gives anything to Poor Tom … that hath laid knives under his pillow and halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud of heart to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inched bridges to course his own shadow for a traitor?”

Edgar, III.iv.58-61

Now disguised as Poor Tom to save himself from execution, Edgar has a way to articulate how, as the legitimate child, he has for his entire life served as nothing but an example of power and has been taken advantage of by his younger brother. As someone born into wealth, he would be deemed a traitor, but disguised as a beggar, Edgar would attract pity through this language.

Throughout the story, Edgar remains in disguise, a peacekeeper among the conflict that Lear has kickstarted. He helps Gloucester, who has also been deemed a traitor and had his eyes plucked out for his compassion towards Lear, die at peace among the chaos:

“Give me your hand. Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum. Come, father, I’ll bestow you with a friend.”


Edgar not only saves his father, but he saves himself as well, choosing the perfect moment to reveal himself to Edmund when the war is lost. Killing his brother in a fight, Edgar takes revenge for all the suffering Edmund has caused him. One of the sole survivors of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Edgar gets a second chance at living an impactful life.

In class, the motif my group tracked was the storm, and a central theme that we took away from it was that when one endures suffering, they see personal growth in the end. Edgar, who loses his home, disguises himself as a beggar to save his life, and watches his own father die, ultimately survives, and he can grow past the stage in his life where his only purpose was to demonstrate power and inherit money.

Misogyny in King Lear

In King Lear, each of Lear’s three daughters represent different negative qualities of women. The manner in which they are portrayed suggests strong misogyny throughout the play. Shakespeare reveals his interpreted weakness of each female character by highlighting Goneril’s infidelity to Albany, Cordelia’s flawed relationship with her father, as well as the power Regan holds over Cornwall. The characteristics of the female characters and their consequent punishments indicate Shakespeare’s misogyny. 

Shakespeare portrays Goneril as cold-hearted due to her unfaithful relationship with Albany and ultimately suggests that these qualities were deserving of death. It appears that Goneril believes she has done everything right by lying to her father about her love and remaining faithful to her husband despite her feelings for Edmund.  Shakespeare’s misogyny is highlighted when he kills Goneril as punishment for her lack of control and infidelity. 

Cordelia’s insubordination and subsequent death is a clear depiction of Shakespeare’s misogynistic tone. She admits she is unable to love her father more and respects him enough not to lie like her sisters did. While her truthfulness initially seems respectable, Shakespeare portrays it as disrespectful and Cordelia is punished by death

Regan holds power in the play which is ultimately the reason Shakespeare portrays her in such a negative light. Regan has more wealth and power than Cornwall and therefore holds the dominant position in the relationship. Shakespeare portrays Regan as villainous because of her ability to overpower Cornwall. The servants exemplify the play’s view on women by making various hateful comments about Regan, one of which is “Women will all turn monsters”. Her ability to gain power in a relationship where she stereotypically should have been submissive is portrayed in a particularly negative manner. In a similar fashion to her sisters, Regan is also punished with death by the end of the play.

Why are women in power so threatening?

We can all agree that in King Lear women in power are villainized. By being portrayed as vicious animals, and”tigers not daughters” the narrative sets them up to be antagonists.

Think about all the women you have seen in power. Sure, we’ve progressed as a society enough to even allow women in power which some may argue is enough to define us as inclusive. But have you ever seen a woman in politics run a successful election and come out with her reputation completely unscathed? Hillary Clinton, AOC, Michelle Obama; each of these women has to do something men don’t have to in order to make her way in politics: prove their worth. These women are constantly questioned and belittled for each decision they make, and it’s because America has a problem. A problem with powerful women.

So why are they so scary?

It’s because of how powerful the image of the “ideal woman” has become. She’s small, clean, submissive, pure, unconditionally loving, and naive, and best of all she never asks for anything more than a man might deem her worthy of. We hate women in power because they break this narrative. It’s easier to villainize someone if they stand out from other members of their group, or at least don’t match the stereotypes of that group. Women have trouble holding positions of power because it has become so ingrained in our society’s culture to believe that women cannot hold positions of power. We have learned that women are submissive and a real man is he who holds power. A woman that has learned her true power and worth is the most dangerous thing to a man. A woman that hasn’t is easier to manipulate.

When we see a woman ascending to a position of power, there are immediately news stores attacking her, allegations fly forward from seemingly nowhere, and her sanity is often questioned. We have a problem with women in power because we have been taught to. We have a problem with it because it switches the gender dynamic, and men with fragile masculinity problems will do anything to keep a woman from making him feel feminine by holding power over him.

Disguise in King Lear

Throughout the play, King Lear, Shakespeare uses disguise as a major role in his characters. At the beginning of the play, Regan and Goneril disguise themselves in front of their father, to make it seem that they worshipped him. Many of the character disguise their intentions towards other characters, as well as pretend to be someone they’re not.

Kent disguises himself as a beggar, and even changed his name to “Caius”, so that he can cntinue to sere Lear. Obviously, this shows that Kent is extremely loyal to Lear, but many of the characters use disguise as a way to make personal gain.

For example, Edgar disuises himself as a poor person named “Poor Tom”, in an effort to not be tracked by his brother and other men. Edgar really gets into this character, and this disuise ultimately allows him to confront his father. Edgar ulyimately becomes the next ruler of the kingdom, so the use of disguise ultimately beneffited him.

Edmund, Edgar’s brother, also dusguises himself as the “good son”, and uses many efforts to frame Edgar, saying that Edgar had intentions to kill his father Gloucester. Like some of the other characters, Edmund uses disguise for his own personal gain.

Shakespeare uses disguise as a constant motif throughout the play, and the use of disguise really showcases the values of each person using that disguise, and what kind of person they really are.

Edmund and His Ladies: Lust or Love?

In the play King Lear by William Shakespeare, Gloucester’s bastard son, Edmund, ends up in a love triangle with Goneril and Regan that eventually leads to jealousy and death. Initially when he is staying with Goneril and Albany, Goneril falls in love with Edmund, and he claims to love her as well. Later, Edmund is sent to stay with Regan and Regan and Edmund also claim to be in love. My biggest question is: Is it love or lust?

First up is Goneril, the eldest of Lear’s daughters. Out of all of them, I honestly believe Goneril was actually in love with Edmund. He was the man that her husband never was. He is obedient and allows her to make decisions, but still possesses a lot of manliness and the ability to take control and command others. Plus the fact that he was young and handsome definitely helped. I believe that Goneril fell in love with these qualities and honestly thought she has finally found the man she deserved. Her love is further proved by the fact she had no issue poisoning her sister, even though they were conspiring against King Lear together, in order to keep Edmund all to herself. Then, Goneril shows her full devotion to Edmund when she makes the decision to kill herself after seeing he was mortally wounded. I honestly think that she must have been in love with him for her to decide to die with him.

Second to the chopping block is Regan, the middle child. Of all three, I think Regan was the one most fueled by lust. Most of Regan’s attraction to Edmund is physical and maybe due in part to her husband’s death. To me, it felt more like Regan wanted to possess Edmund and gloat about it to Goneril. From her role in the love triangle, I kind of thought Regan was just trying to “win” in some sort of sibling rivalry. She does whatever she can to seduce Edmund, and claims she loves him. However, something about that proclamation just feels fake.

Last and definitely the most interesting of the three is Edmund. He is caught in a love triangle with the two most powerful women in Britain. I think that Edmund was experiencing a mix of love and lust. Edmund definitely lusted after both women, probably even more so due to the fact that there were two powerful women that wanted him. However, not love in the sense of being “in love” with either Goneril or Regan. I believe that Edmund was in love with the sense of power he got from being these two women’s center of attention. I also think that he was in love with the possible future he could have and he saw that he could use Goneril and Regan to never feel like a bastard again. He went from being the lowly bastard child, always in Edgar’s shadow, to being respected by the royals and having the opportunity to marry into the royal family and be known by everyone. He was in love with the power he suddenly had.

The Power-Love Dichotomy

In line 289 of Act IV, Scene vi of King Lear, as Edgar reads the letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting to kill Albany, Edgar laments that “To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts” — which is to say, in order to maintain power for himself and his father and prevent Edmund from gaining power, Edgar had to sacrifice his loyalty and love for Edmund. This is one of the most important topics of King Lear: when it is worth it to sacrifice love for power, and when it is worth it to sacrifice power for love. I’ve color-coded these two sides of the Power-Love Dichotomy to make it easier to keep track of the examples listed below:

  • In Act I, Lear appears to sacrifice his power in search of his daughters’ love as he splits his land between them; yet, later in Act II, Lear sacrifices the love of Regan and Goneril because he wished to maintain his own sense of power through the housing of his 100 supporters.
  • At the end of Act III, Regan sacrifices her husband (by refusing to save him from his stab wound, as portrayed in the film) in order to take over his power
  • …however, Regan and Goneril feud with each other — and ultimately kill each other, in Act V — for the love of Edmund, each willing to sacrifice their own power for his love; in fact, Regan even tells Edmund, “Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. / Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine” (V.iii.89-90), effectively pledging to surrender her entire land and power to Edmund in exchange for his love.
  • Cordelia, on the other hand, contrasts with her sisters’ initial prioritization of individual power over love for Lear — in Act IV, Scene vii, Cordelia tells Lear “you must not kneel” (IV.vii.67), showing how she is willing to sacrifice her power over Lear solely because of her love for her father. Lear appears to mirror this sacrifice of power for love as well as he rejects Cordelia’s submission to his own authority: “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness” (V.iii.11-12)
  • At the end of the play, Albany proposes that he and all others who still have power would give it all up and give Lear all of the power of the kingdom until his death, out of a combination of regret, guilt, and most relevantly to this analysis, love: “we will resign / During the life of this old Majesty, / To him our absolute power” (V.iii.362-364)

Out of curiosity — can you all think of any other examples of the Power-Love Dichotomy in King Lear?