Storm of Reform

One of the most interesting aspects of William Shakespeare’s play King Lear is Lear’s response to losing his land and power to his two daughters Regan and Goneril. This power shift ultimately affects Lear’s character as a whole in a major way. We begin to see such character developments emerge when Lear is forced into the storm.

At the start of the play, being king is such a huge part of Lear’s identity that he believes that he commands respect and authority just by being who he is. Goneril and Regan flatter Lear with flashy complements and seemingly genuine professions of love to Lear and as a result get him to give up his land holdings to them. Cordelia refuses to partake in such “fake” behavior and is banished from the kingdom. At this point in time, Lear believes that Goneril and Regan love him the most because of their words, but soon realizes otherwise.

After giving up his power, Lear continues to act as though he is king but quickly notices that he no longer commands the same level of respect and authority as before. Goneril and Regan begin treating their father poorly and eventually end up kicking him out into a brutal storm. It is clear that Goneril and Regan’s praise of Lear was only a means of gaining power for themselves.

While in the storm, and in the shelter, Lear is forced to reflect and face the consequences of his daughters’ betrayal along with his own conflicting emotions. It is here where Lear learns the most about himself before he “goes mad”. Not only does he realize that people will do anything for power but he also realizes that only those who are truly loyal (for instance Kent) will continue to respect you even after power is lost. Lear begins to see clearly through Goneril and Regan’s lies and begins to see the truth in Cordelia’s words as well. Lear is filled with sorrow and regrets banishing someone who was truly loyal to him.

Lear also begins to regret the actions he took as king (or lack thereof) while in the storm. While standing outside in the pouring rain Lear exclaims:

“Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may’st shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just”(Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 32 – 41).

In this excerpt, Lear expresses his empathy towards the poor and homeless people of his former kingdom. He ponders how the homeless are able to survive in such conditions (like the storm), with no fat or good clothes to keep them warm. Lear begins to see first hand the unfair distribution of wealth. He becomes both angry and sad and regrets not doing anything to fix this wealth distribution issue when he was king. This demonstrates Lear’s growth as a character because it shows that Lear is no longer only concerned only for himself but is now able to empathize and care for others’ well beings as well.

Through his daughters’ betrayal and the loss of his land and power Lear is able to gain more knowledge about himself and overall become a better human being as a result.

Power, Madness, and Identity

by Maya L

In King Lear, the characters’ desires for power shape everything they do, including how they see themselves. Lear, for instance, bases all of his worth on how much power he has, so he doesn’t know how to handle it when he loses his power. When his daughters insist he only have what he needs, he argues that that makes him no better than an animal. It’s made clear that he believes the powerless aren’t deserving of respect, and so the realization that others have lost their respect for him comes alongside the realization of how much power he’s lost. Since he equates his power to his humanity, he then leads himself to believe that he’s losing his humanity, and he starts to go mad.

The way I view his madness is that it resulted from his belief that he was going mad. He believed himself to be losing all that made him worthy and human, and so he let himself lose his mind as well. I find it fascinating how his attachment to power and station is what hurt him the most, not the betrayal of his daughters. I believe that he wouldn’t have fallen so hard from the betrayal had he valued more important things, such as his relationship with Cordelia. If he had focused on the important things in life, he wouldn’t have felt as if he had lost so much, and certainly not like he had lost his humanity. Lear is an example of how the priorities of most of the characters seem to be misplaced, and that only seems to hurt them in the end.

Lear and His Posse

King Lear’s knights appear as an important recurring symbol throughout the play. After giving away all of his land to his daughters, his 100 knights are the single remaining reminder of Lear’s status and power as the king. However, this perception is challenged by Regan and Goneril when they tell him to dismiss most of his knights in order to be welcomed in their shelter. This scene displays a big turning point in Lear’s perception of himself. He isn’t used to people betraying his orders and telling him what to do. Also, Lear feels enraged because he cannot believe that in just a matter of seconds he can lose everything and become another average man.

In modern times, the 100 knights are comparable to the “yes men” that influential people surround themselves with. These are people who always say yes to whatever their superior wants and supports them no matter how bad a decision may be. They must please them and earn their approval any way possible. While these serve a different literal purpose then 100 knights, the symbolism is the same. “Yes men” make powerful people feel stronger and more influential than they really are. Ultimately, the false sense of security becomes a point for their downfall, just as it is shown to happen to King Lear.

What Even is Power???

One of the biggest themes that stood out to me is the concept of power. Power is a weird idea and one that I honestly understand even less after analyzing this story. My biggest question is what does having power even mean in reality because in this story everyone that feels like they have power doesn’t really. The power shifted among many of the characters but nobody even had the power that they thought they had.

People have a natural craving for power that whether or not you know it, is deeply inside every person in my opinion. I think that while everyone seeks some amount of power, nobody ever knows what to do with it once it’s in their possession. Power is something that can control the actions of people and that is seen throughout all the best movies, books, and shows. There is almost always a power that is being sought after or controlled in every good story. But I don’t know if I can think of a single story where the original person with power retains it from start to finish. This holds true in King Lear as we see power get tossed around like a bag of rocks throughout the story. I don’t think anyone knows how to truly the power they have during the novel.

Furthermore, I’m not sure if I know what power means. I think the people considered to not have the “power” in stories are oftentimes the most powerful characters. Power is truly just a social construct that has held to form throughout all of humanity but for reasons I do not understand. Honestly, I think power is pretty overrated.

Identity in King Lear: All The World’s a Stage

Identity is a major theme throughout King Lear. Starting at the very beginning of the play, there are allusions to the world of theatre and acting. When asking to hear his daughter’s speeches, Lear doesn’t care if it’s the truth, he just wants them each to take their roles of the grateful daughter and work with them. Later, both Kent and Edgar disguise themselves out of necessity, and when pretending to be someone else for so long, the lines often get blurred between a character and one’s true self. However, the difference between Kent and Edgar is that the purpose of Kent’s disguise is to protect Lear, while Edgar’s is to protect himself. The characters are often unable to see through disguises, particularly Lear, as he is too lost to think of anything but himself and his daughters. The use of false roles and deception shows parallels to another one of Shakespeare’s plays, As You Like It. In As You Like It, Jacques, the melancholy fool, gives a long speech about how “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” I find it interesting how two of Shakespeare’s prominent plays express the same theme of life simply being acting. Everyone is playing a character and putting on a disguise or a facade in some way, and those who fail to disguise themselves properly often suffer the most. The ability to manipulate one’s identity can seem to be a strong shield against others, but in the end, there is nothing that can truly protect the fragile nature of one’s true self.

Women: The New Power Grabbers

Throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear, he sheds light on the gender roles during this time and the differences in power between women and men. During this time, men were the ones that ruled over the kingdoms with great power while women were only there to be their wives or daughters, trapped in the shadow of greedy men. This theme is very prominent in the beginning of the play, when Lear forces his daughters to profess their love for him in exchange for some of his power. When Lear calls upon his daughter Goneril she states,

Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter…A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

Act I, Scene I, lines 60-67

In this statement, Goneril has to exaggerate her love for her father just for the slightest chance to get some type of power. In the same scene, Cordelia chooses not to lie and overstate the love she has for her father and because of this she is ridiculed. With this scene, Shakespeare expresses the idea that women cannot obtain power without the help of a man. This scene supports the construct of patriarchy by portraying the male as the all powerful ruler who must be pleased and obeyed if women hope to receive any sort of reward.

As the play progresses, the women begin to take initiative and gain power for themselves and their own agendas rather than being submissive to the men around them. This can be seen in many instances with the character Reagan such as when she has Gloucester captured and his eyes gouged out and when she grabs a sword to kill one of the servants. This character development is very significant because Reagan was one of the sisters who falsely professed her love for her father in the beginning of the play and now she is taking charge and fighting men.

Another example of a powerful woman in King Lear is Cordelia. From the beginning of the play she did not fake her emotions just to please her father and by the end of the play she became the queen of France and even gave power to her two sisters as well. With these female characters, Shakespeare contradicts the common narrative during this time period in which women were powerless by portraying them as fierce women who were able to overcome the powerful men and gain power for themselves.

A Powerful Woman

In Shakesphere’s King Lear, the idea of a woman in power is portrayed as negative. Even today, it is unsettling to me that woman are seen more negatively in a position of power than men are. There is still an idea that a powerful women is cold, intense and “crazy.” In the case of Michele Obama, the media had to make her seem more feminine and family oriented in order for others to find her worthy of respect.

In Taylor Swift’s song “If I Was a Man,” she sings,

They wouldn’t shake their heads
and question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing
If I was rude
Could all be separated
from my good ideas
and power moves?

Women are more likely to be judged on their appearance, and how they act than by the work/talent they have. People seem to be bothered when women don’t fit the stereotypes of cooperative, supportive and humble. Also the idea of a woman with children is to motherly to lead, but if she doesn’t have children, then she isn’t living up to society’s expectations. Its a continuous cycle and double standard. A man can lead without it being implied that they are “weak” or “overemotional.”

I do think improvements have been made, and will continue to do so in the future. I think more people should be aware though of the stereotypes/ criticism that goes along with being a woman in power.

Gender Roles: A Social Construct

Throughout Shakespeare’s novel, King Lear, the theme of gender roles regarding women and power is expressed. The novel suggests that women seem to be incapable of achieving power on their own and if they were to receive power it would corrupt their judgement. Which would ultimately lead to chaos and downfall. Shakespeare challenges these traditional gender roles of women in society by giving Regan and Goneril power. The conversation we had in class about nasty women and why men have a problem with it was very interesting to me. It is very obvious that when men feel threatened by a females power they tend to fight back, sometimes even insult. As seen in the play when Lear called his own daughters “hags” and “witches” as a result of them obtaining power. Even though Shakespeare challenged the norm of the time allowing a few women to have power, he still made them out to be crazy for wanting that power. Whereas the male characters who sought out just as much if not more power than them weren’t portrayed as crazy.

The Problem With Finding Identity In Power

We’ve talked a lot this year about identity and power, and how they intersect. People’s identities are tied in with the power they have or do not have. However, a person’s identity should not only be based upon their position of power; if they lose that power, their entire identity crumbles.

In King Lear, we see this play out with the character of Lear himself. At the beginning of the play, he is king, he has as much power as he wants, and that seems to encompass his entire character. As the play progresses, Lear’s power diminishes. First, he gives it away, to his daughters, but soon he begins to lose it against his will as Regan and Goneril take more and more away from him. It is then, in the storm, when Lear grapples with something more than a loss of power: a loss of identity. Lear placed his entire identity in his role and power as king, and now that he no longer has that, he is lost. Subsequently, he begins going mad, with no idea of who he is and no control over what happens to him.

It is dangerous to place one’s identity in only one thing, especially when that one thing can be easily lost, just as Lear’s power was. Power and identity are linked together, but they should be part of a larger web that makes up who a person is.

Dysfunctional Families

William Shakespeare’s King Lear among many other themes and concepts is a timeless example of familial relations along with gender roles. When I think of a modern day family with many kids I immediately picture the older sisters as the bossiest. However when there is an older brother, they are viewed as responsible and protective for doing the same things. Although uncommon, the concept that Lear’s power is going to his daughters with their obeying husbands following behind is a refreshing story line. I think that the one thing that is overlooked is the attitude the audience is expected to have towards Goneril and Regan. It is important to see them as antagonists, but I think it is also important to consider that if their characters were male, their betrayal of Lear would not be considered so intense. Which ties to the idea that daughters are meant to obey their fathers and be grateful for him and what provides them, simultaneously accepting that sons are portrayed to be more prone to disloyalty in a search for independence. So although it seems progressive that Shakespeare has Goneril and Regan to be daughters rather than sons, it is important to consider whether or not it was to ensure that their characters came off as evil and disloyal rather than independent.

Nasty Women: Goneril and Regan

Goneril and Regan, I cannot help but admire these two powerful characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear. While they are cold-hearted and cruel, they go after what they want. Goneril wanted to be with Edmund so she kissed him first. This is a huge milestone for women in literature during Shakespeare’s time. Women during the 1500s are meant to be quiet and used as objects to continue the human race. Goneril and Regan threw those ideas out the window. They manipulated people, especially men, in order to get as much power as possible. However, Shakespeare is still a product of his time. He portrayed them to be crazy, wicked, nasty women all because they wanted some power. But Edmund wanted the same amount of power if not more than Goneril and Regan yet, his madness seemed more subtle.

The Evil Villian- A Strong Woman

Due to the circumstances of the patriarchal society that has been present in society for hundreds if not thousands of years, gender roles have always been a prominent underlying issue throughout history. Gender roles are prevalent in literature and are expressed in many different ways. Shakespeare explores the theme of gender roles throughout King Lear regarding women in power. The main idea of his argument is that women are incapable of achieving control on their own. When they do receive power, it will corrupt their judgment and ultimately bring their downfall as a person. So basically, women are not able to handle the responsibilities of leadership as well as men can. Shakespeare challenges the traditional gender roles of women in society while at the same time sticks to the societal norm in King Lear. He gives them power, whereas, in many novels, women aren’t even the chance to possess any ability. Still, once the power is given to the women of the story, he makes failure imminent for them, which causes him to fall back into the traditional norms of gender roles for women in power.

As seen in Shakespeares’ play, King Lear, Reagan, more so than Goneril, loses her morals while in a blood lust search for power. This can be seen when she orders to have Kent put into the stocks or orders to have Gloucester’s eyes ripped out. These events show her lack of morals as a woman in power, which furthers the theme that women cannot handle power. However, Regan’s actions also promote a feminist ideology. Reagan opposes the usual gender roles by representing a more independent and cruel female role.

The feminist theme is also seen at the beginning of the play when his two daughters, who later turn evil and turn against him, Goneril and Reagan, profess their love to Lear. While his third daughter, Cordelia, refuses to fuel his ego. Shakespeare’s action and character challenge gender roles, specifically during the period in which the play was written by having Cordelia disobey her father, therefore giving her independence. Her power furthers when she gets married and becomes the queen of France. Her other two sisters gain power from marriage as well by marrying the dukes of Albany and Cornwall. While this growth of authority for the women supports the feminist ideology, it also supports a misogynistic view. For the women to gain power, they had to get married and receive power from their husbands.

Shakespeare builds on gender roles throughout the play, supporting both the feminist view and the patriarchal view with examples throughout The Tragedy of King Lear. 

The Stain of Women’s Weapons

“Let not women’s weapons, water-drops,/Stain my man’s cheeks!”


Among other things—mainly being narcissistic, self-pitying, and selfish—King Lear is sexist. He frequently rejects weakness, claiming it is a woman’s trait. He also expects nothing from his daughters other than unwavering love, loyalty, and servitude. He gives them nothing, no respect nor benefit of the doubt, even his gift of his land came with the condition that he would be welcome into their homes with one hundred other mouths to feed whenever he chose. Essentially, Lear passed on the duties of the crown just so he could live in luxury with no responsibility, while his daughters housed him and his retinue. He didn’t even give them love, as he mentions repeatedly that Cordelia was his favorite, directly in front of his other daughters, insinuating that they are less than. Lear is the biggest portrayer of the MALE+STRENGTH/female+weakness binary in the play. He loses his power, partially because of his daughters, and partially because of his insanity. Because of this loss, he feels a loosening in his grip of his masculinity. In his world, the two are one in the same, he only feels like a man when he is powerful and invulnerable.

Although Goneril and Regan are seen as the antagonists in King Lear, I see them as their own kind of protagonists. Where they are portrayed as conniving and traitorous, I see two women taking advantage of whatever they are able in order to make themselves a better life. Their main evil deed was supposedly lying to their father about their love for him. I don’t really see the issue. If a family member I didn’t like that much asked me to describe my love for them—which is pretty self-centered in the first place—I wouldn’t tell them that I didn’t like them. That would be cruel. I would give a white lie, in order to avoid giving unnecessary offense. This might not have been Goneril and Regan’s incentive, but just the same, telling their father they had no love for him would have been much more cruel. Later on in the play, both women do become violent and plan to harm others. However, they are made the villain before any of that occurs. Albany says his wife is “not worth the dust which the rude wind/blows in your face” just because of her actions to her father (IV.ii.32-33). All the daughters did was deny welcome to a hundred rude and rowdy men into the homes that were legally and rightfully theirs. Lear treats this denial as betrayal, but I see it as completely reasonable. They locked Lear out in the storm, but it was right after he said absolutely horrid things to and about them. And, to be fair, he walked out into the storm in the first place, with no intention of returning. To be clear, I do not believe that Goneril and Regan are good people, but I also don’t think they are monsters.

When reviewing the actions of the two villainous women, personally it’s hard to find a true, unforgivable fault. The factor that seems to direct their portrayal as antagonists seems throughout to be their disloyalty. They both deny to give the loyalty expected from them due to their gender. Adultery committed by men is completely acceptable, yet Goneril is a monster because she does not blindly love the man who says her female body is the only reason he doesn’t kill her (IV.ii.64-68). The characters in this play all expect women to be loyal servants they can either receive admiration from, or have sex with. Since Goneril and Regan refuse to complete those duties, they are the villains of the play. Women in this world are expected to be vulnerable and emotional. When the men are faced with powerful women, women who are strong and unafraid, they title them monsters in order to deny their own fear at not being inherently superior.

Media’s Vultures

The other night, my family and I decided to watch The Thomas Crown Affair. This thriller follows a love affair between an art thief and a detective. After watching this movie, I thought about the presentation in class, “Representations of Women and Power.” One thing that stood out to me from the presentation was that when women are in a position of power, they are usually either oversexualized or deemed crazy.
In this movie, one of the lead detectives on this case was the only woman. I noticed her role was very different from the other detectives. She was only used for her “charm” in order to get closer to the art thief. When the detectives started to lose, she was blamed. Her character’s intelligence as a detective was rarely taken seriously, and ultimately, she was being taken advantage of the entire time.
In “King Lear,” when Goneril and Regan became more powerful, they were compared to animals. “Beloved Regan,/ Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied/ Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.” (2.4.136). In this scene, King Lear felt that Goneril’s rise to power had betrayed him and was planning to feed off of him like a vulture. By using animals such as “vultures” as a comparison, the argument that women in power are seen as untamed and turbulent is strengthened again.

Losing everything to gain something

I don’t know what it feels like to have real power. Someone with big money or big control over a lot of people is what a powerful person often has. The Cubs general manager, pretty much any politician even though they all suck, the great Elon Musk or a restaurant owner, they all have something in common which I’m sure you can guess: power. Something I’ve noticed about power is that it seems to be synonymous with influence. Someone who has money, relationships, connections or some type of leverage can influence people or a situation in their favor, effectively using their power to become more powerful. This brings me to my next point which is power is like money, its exponential. The more you have the easier it becomes to obtain more. All this sounds real nice but having power means you have responsibility, pressure and choices to make in order to stay in power. Again like money, going from $0 to 1 million is damn impressive but keeping your 1 million and going to 10 million is a whole different ball game and one that no one can play until you win the first game.

So to elaborate, Lear already got his 1 million and is now sitting with 10 million (AKA a whole lot of power) and yet decides to divide his kingdom because he is old and doesn’t want to deal with all the responsibilities. Again, he’s delegating the pressure, decisions, responsibilities of his power while hoping to maintain some power and control. What is he thinking? In every situation one must bring value in order to maintain their personal value to the situation. Lear is like a CEO of a company, hoping to maintain control while having someone else deal with all the headaches. You know what would happen to that CEO? The same thing that happened to Lear, he/she gets cut out. It’s the only logical thing to happen, if you are not bringing value why are you needed?

Lear experienced this the hard way but he learned something that in my opinion, can only make the powerful obtain more power. Empathy. Sitting in the rain after losing basically everything he feels for his people and their suffering. This is the sign of a truly great leader and someone who has the characteristics to be truly powerful. If you can feel the pulse or needs of your people and truly bring VALUE and help them, what’s stopping you from harnessing the power of the people? In business when your in touch with the consumer and bringing real value to the consumers needs, you win. The people have the real power and sometimes it takes feeling like an average joe to realize that.

Get back to the kitchen… or not

In King Lear, the depiction of women throughout the play reflects a blatant hatred for women and whatever they do. The sexism in the play is not only saved for the women who are “evil”, but the ones who are “good” as well. In the historically-based TV show Reign, women face the same situation. No matter how good or bad, royal or common they might be, all women are consistently treated with disrespect. Both pieces deliver a similar message: no matter what women do, they will still succumb to the sexist views of the early centuries.

Cruel and calculated, Goneril and Regan from King Lear are depicted as animalistic with no redeeming qualities. In Reign, Queen Catherine is quite intelligent and fiercely loyal, but is written to look selfish and deceptive. The men of similar status and character are shown as cunning, with good reasons as to why they act the way they do.

Even the women protagonist are constantly disrespected and undermined. In King Lear, the kind-hearted Cordelia is shown as disloyal to her father and is even written off for a while when she speaks her mind. In Reign, Queen Mary is constantly sabotaged and overlooked by the men in her life, even though she has good intentions and holds more power than them.

Although Goneril and Regan from Lear and Catherine from Reign might have malevolent hearts, all their scheming and hatred might not be completely unwarranted. If the men in your life are going to disrespect you no matter what you do, why not gain a little power while you’re at it?

The Power of Having Nothing

In Act 3, Scene 4 of King Lear, Lear finally begins to show compassion. He does this only after he is stripped of all his riches. This makes me think about the society we live in today: To successfully put yourself in another person’s shoes, do you have to physically put yourself in their situation? Sure, rich royalty can be extremely caring and kind, but to best understand those who are homeless or lower in the hierarchy of society, I think one needs to be put in their position, and from the plot of the play, I think Shakespeare would agree.

Here is an example from my life:

I went on a school ecology trip to Costa Rica a couple years ago. I was not expecting our first destination: a run down house with bed bugs, little drinking water, no air conditioning, and extreme heat. This house was owned by a hard-working Costa Rican family who graciously welcomed us and were so kind and content with life. I was very humbled by this experience because it made me realize how fortunate I was to have all of the comfortable wants that this family didn’t have. Although they had very little, they seemed like the happiest family in the world.

This brings me to another thought: Do riches determine luck and happiness? King Lear had everything he could have asked for, and yet, he always seemed stressed and unsatisfied. The family in Costa Rica had nothing but basic needs and they were completely and entirely satisfied. I would argue that too many riches can actually make a person discontented; when one has all the riches in the world, there is nothing more to work towards, disallowing you to gain something more special than what you already have.

Cinderella And the Evil Stepsisters of King Lear

The idea of women as one of two extremes in literature and religion is one of the most discussed themes in modern history. The comparisons began with early religion, like that of Ancient Greece, but most commonly in the Bible. Children in Christian households grow up going to church and hearing stories about every type of man – good, evil, strong, kind, etc. As for women, they only hear about women who are “pure” and “untainted” or women who are the opposite/evil. King Lear, though the play never mentions the Christian God, displays these undertones throughout interactions of the different women with each other and others.

Cordelia represents the pure and loving ideal of women throughout the play. This role begins in the beginning of the novel, where she speaks with honesty and acts with other characters’ best intentions at heart. She accepts the King’s anger and leaves him be, standing by her choice to tell him the truth. She is absent for the middle acts, but her role is fathered when she re-enters the plot line in Act 4. In Act 4, Scene 3, a gentleman tells Kent of Cordelia’s reaction at the update on England’s chaos from Kent’s letter. The letter detailed Lear’s treatment by Cordelias sisters. The man claims that she “shook the holy water from her heavenly eyes” in her sorrow (4.3.35). Cordelia is idolized as a figure of purity and goodness in her actions and appearance. Her character seems to parallel the Virgin Mary; she is spoken about by a random gentleman in terms that paint her as a “heavenly” figure or an angel, which implies that the greater population that the gentleman belongs to shares this belief.

Contrarily, Regan and General are foils to Cordelias character: they are portrayed as base and cruel compares to the beauty and light emitted by their sister. Tension between Lear and the sisters builds, eventually reaching a turning point in Act 2, scene 4. Lear wants to stay with one of his daughters, but they take away all of his men and servants, vowing to make his life at either of their homes miserable. Since his power and happiness is stripped from him, Lear leaves the castle to gather himself in the outside storm. The sisters’ real cruelty is revealed then, as they lock him out of the palace to suffer in the dangerous storm alone. Regan demands, “O sir, to willful men / The injuries that they themselves procure / Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors. / He is attended with a desperate train….” (2.4.346-349). Goneril agrees with Regan’s request, and so do most of the men there. The act of shutting out their senile father to a storm where he could die seems inhumane of the sisters, and futher’s the portrayal of them in Act 1 as negative, base, and borderline evil.

The very action of shutting Lear outside the palace is what so deeply upsets Cordelia; These actions juxtapose each other, making the negative versus view of Regan and Goneril / Cordelia that much more extreme. Within the context of the whole play, these women create the general sense of gender roles – like the Bible, women are either pure and good or evil and sexual (also due to the sisters infatuation with Edmund). Women are not shown like men are – they must be one of two destructive stereotypes.

Why Not Weep for a Tragedy?

In King Lear, Shakespeare characterizes Lear as a prideful King and Father who is losing power as he is getting older. There are many struggles in the story between people, oneself, a person and nature, and nation to nation. The most intriguing struggle is Lear’s internal battle of trying to accept his age and losing his power of being King, while trying to keep the title and respect as father and King, because it expresses the difficulty of having something for so long just to lose it.

At the end of Act II, when both Goneril and Regan refused to allow their father to stay with them along with his hundred knights, Lear argues that he may not need the knights but as King and father he should be allowed to take them as protection. After their denial, Lear claims they have betrayed him, “I have full case of weeping, but this heart shall break into a hundred thousand flaws or ere I’ll weep. – O Fool, I shall go mad!” (II, 4, 117). Lear’s internal conflict of wanting power or or wanting love and respect has cost him the respect of his daughters as their father, and the respect of the kingdom as their leader. He has essentially lost everything, because he wanted too much. Lear is then left with his title, with no power, and the clothes on his back. He will not be upset about everything that he just lost, but trying to keep the respect and role as King is becoming so difficult for Lear that his mind is spinning in circles. To a man who was not a father and held no title, accepting that he was not powerful or had children would be easy like any other day, however having known the power and respect as King and father it is considered a great loss.

Image result for image of heart shattering like glass

The Struggle of Being a Woman

Back in Shakespearean times, being a noble woman carried a lot of weight. Males sexualized us. We would have to look and dress a certain way. Our mannerisms mattered (even if they were not authentic). And last but not least, we were expected to be docile and follow the lead of the men in our life, especially our fathers.

The struggle of being a woman is very present in the play, King Lear, by William Shakespeare. In the play, King Lear’s daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia are expected to proclaim their love for their father in order to receive their inheritance. Regan and Goneril overexaggerate their love for their father, while Cordelia remains true to herself and does not blanket her father compliments in order to gain his favor. Because of this, she receives none of his power or inheritance, despite her authentic love for her father being more than her sisters’. This is just the first of many examples in the play, where the struggle of being a woman is very real. Non-submissiveness results in great consequences, as seen with Cordelia. “Fortunately” for her, the King of France decides to court and marry her, which means she will remain in nobility. This further exemplifies how difficult it is to be a woman because she must marry someone in order to remain above water. Without a noble man, she would have been nothing.

Later in the play, the portrayal of Goneril and Regan is quite dramatic due to the power that they hold. When Goneril requests that Lear downsizes the amount of knights that he brings, Lear exclaims that Goneril has a “wolfish visage” (1.4.325). In the play, women of power are frequently described as rabid animals. In this case, because Goneril was exerting her authority over her father, who distributed all of his power, she was bashed and described to be a wolf. Moreover, after abandoning their father. the Duke of Albany condemns Goneril and Regan when he states, “Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?”(4.2.49). By describing them as tigers, he is emphasizing that they are acting wild and animalistic.

Even more, the fact that the females in the story act out of control when in power plays on to a theme that we as women cannot hold power without being ruthless. In reality, women can act and rule in a very normal way. The chaos in King Lear does not serve as a proper example of women in power, but does emphasize the many bad perceptions of women. In this modern day and age, ruling as a female is still quite difficult. It is nice to think that progress is still happening. With Kamala Harris as the first female vice president of the USA, we can clearly see change and understand that females are very capable of leading. There is still hope for future women in power.