Feminism in King Lear

Feminism at King Lear
Feminism encompasses a variety of theories, movements, and philosophies that deal with gender differences, which ask for equality for all women, and fight for women’s rights and interests.
Some believe that the history of feministism can be divided into three waves. The first wave occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. The second wave took place in the 1960s, 1970s, and the third is from the 1990s until the present. Feminist Theory was born out of the feminist movement. It can take many forms in a variety disciplines, including feminist geography, feminist history, and feminist literary criticism.
Feminism is concerned to a large degree with the history of women’s lives. Feminist literary criticism examines literature written by women to see how it addresses or expresses women’s particularities. It also examines the canon that is dominated by men to see how they have used culture to dominate women.
Feminist theory argues that the subordination of women began in primitive societies, where women were used as exchangeable objects between patriarchal families. These alliances could be made through marriage. This kind of relationship seems to have disappeared in modern capitalist societies. However, the industrial age retains its patriarchal nature. Unfortunately, men hold most of the economic and political power. This is because economies are designed so that women are more likely than men to be poor. In many societies, women are expected to take care of childrearing and domestic work while men tend to engage in more public affairs. Some feminists believe that this continued male dominance is a result of male violence against women. The social structure is characterized by a historical continuous threat to physical force, and nearly everything is in favor of men. Why? Why? She is indeterminate, material, unreliable, and incapable of conscious mastery.
King Lear and Feminism
The feminine presence in great plays and great works of literature is therefore remarkable. King Lear, by William Shakespeare, is one example.
Shakespeare supports and sometimes reflects the English Renaissance stereotypes about women and men, their roles and responsibilities, but he is also a writer that questions, challenges and modifies these representations. His stories offer opportunities to not only better understand Renaissance culture but also to challenge our current assumptions about gender, particularly what it means for a woman to be female. Shakespeare seemed to be asking questions about gender stereotypes. He was asking about male and female characteristics, gender roles, gender definitions, gender behaviors and gender power.
King Lear is about more than a monarch and his divided realm. It also concerns a father, his property, and his three daughters. Act I, scene 1, of the play takes us into an irrational world almost from the beginning. Lear has already divided his kingdom and given the parts to his heirs. (As we see from the dialogue between Kent and Gloucester), and Lear asks his daughters to enter a love-test or contest to decide who will get what. Gonerill and Regan join the fray, giving long, exaggerated speeches because they are aware of Lear’s erraticness. Cordelia is aware of this too, but she rejects the offer. Her words are simple, clear, and honest. “…love you majesty. According to my bond, neither more nor less. It can be read that her negative intention to flatter her father is an opposition to his authority. In most cases, her responses are passive and she chooses silence as the only way to subvert the authority of the upper-class women of Middle Ages. Lear asked her, “What can you say that draws / Third more wealthy than your sister?” She answers “Nothing” to Lear’s question. She understands the question in its most literal meaning and correctly answers it. She can’t say anything else now that the division has been completed and her sisters have received their shares. She may get less, or even nothing; it is possible to get nothing.
The play portrays, in the first instance, the dominance of women’s lives in order to satisfy male vanity. “Better thou” Lear tells Cordelia, in a line not intended to provoke sympathy from the audience. Cordelia points out the incestuous nature of Lear’s demands on his daughters when he asks for affection expressions.
It is well-known that feminism cannot be approached without considering heterosexuality. While it may seem to guarantee a man’s identity, as a masculine man, it makes the man dependent upon women for certification. Heterosexuality does not refer to an identity. It is a relationship or exchange in which male masculinity can be confirmed by the female, passive and submissive. It is what it isn’t. This dilemma is illustrated by Cordelia’s response of ‘nothing’ to Lear’s requests for tokens affections. There is always an error at the boundary where heterosexual males and heterosexual females meet. This means that there is always a margin for error, where something can be missing, or where a repeated confirmation by recognizing does not occur. Lear is reminded by the Fool several times that he is nothing without heterosexual confirmation – “anO without a figure” which, according to slang, means he is a woman.
Women are often the weak link in heterosexual relationships. This is due to the fact that the exchange relationship that creates them is reversible. Lear’s loss in sexual power can be metaphorized as his feminization through his masculinized daughters. The feminization and control of men is a result of cultural normativity and compulsory heterosexuality. One shouldn’t be able to “command service”, as both domestic and sexual labor. A world that is dominated by aggressive relations between rival sites of power, as the play shows through frequent references to possible conflict between Albany and Cornwall, the need to survive demands the subordination and privileging of weaker characteristics. It is not surprising that these characteristics should be distributed according to biological gender lines. It is not clear, however, whether these characteristics are also distributed according to gendered object choice. This is because the men left to rule at end of play, Kent and Edgar, are men who love women more than men.
When women assume traditionally masculine powers and become men, it is called feminization. Men like Lear are at risk because they depend on the confirmation of their masculine identity from feminine women. The play portrays their feminization as madness. Lear’s inability to survive and the fact that he must give power to Edgar shows just how dangerous feminization was conceived within early seventeenth-century cultural gender codes.
Recalling Cordelia’s refusal to take part in the show trial, and in the unreasonable behavior Lear insists on, is a clear indication of this. Despite being his daughter, he seems to think she is not the right partner for his stupidity. She is not, or if she is, it is evident by her insistent, demanding nature. Her logic is undisputed: “Why have my sisters husbands if they say /They love you all?” In open court Lear is not in the mood for logic or truth and Cordelia’s irony hurts. He intends (again irrationally), to continue to exercise control over the world in the way he knows it. This is the world he has shaped and will continue to shape. He was told he was ‘everything’. Only later does he realize he was lied to and that he isn’t even ‘argueproof’. The absurdities that he set in motion have already reached their inevitable conclusion. “Why should a dog or horse or rat live? / And thou hast no breath?”
Cordelia isn’t the only one to challenge Lear to stop his reckless behavior. Kent also attempts to force Lear to face reality and reject his fantasy of irrationality – even the fantasy that he will stop future strife by dividing his kingdom. He abandons polite courtier talk and resorts to direct confrontation. “Be Kent unmannerly/ When Lear’s mad. What wouldst dute, old man? His monosyllables sound emphatic. He asks Lear earnestly to examine his hidden rashness, preserve his kingdom, and acknowledge what Lear knows well – that his youngest child does not love him less.
Everyone knows that women in the past were submissive and obedient. These characteristics were seen as positive and women who lacked them were considered non-existent. Cordelia is absent throughout the play and appears only at the end and beginning of the play. This could be viewed as an example of the “Shakespearean” woman: silent, absent, or dead. Cordelia’s silent, obedient nature is what distinguishes her from her sisters. Her sisters have full speech power and are trying to establish male authority. Gonerill appears to be lying in the love test. She also commented on the fact that Regan and her father will not continue to rule them. They are now the ones in power and not Lear. The scene IV of Act I will see Lear and his daughters clash. Gonerill, Regan and their mother use deceit to get priority and try to dethrone their father. Gonerill will begin attacking Lear’s soldiers for behaving badly. She will also accuse Lear and his soldiers of encouraging quarrelsome behavior. Lear’s Fool will report to his daughters that Lear is being mistreated by them.
Lear is so confused by the events that he asks Gonerill “Are you our girl?” Lear is confused by the events, but the Fool continues his talk: “May an ass know when it draws the Horse?” – Whoop, Jug! “I love you.” Lear’s extreme level of confusion will lead him to an amnesiac state, in which he questions who he is. – This is not Lear. Doth Lear walk like this? Speak so? “Where are his eyes?” Lear is so angry, depressed and astonished by the conclusion of the argument that he declares his intention to go to Regan. I won’t trouble you / But have I left a girl.”
Regan, however, is on the same terms as Gonerill who, before Lear’s arrival at Regan’s castle, sent her a letter informing her of all. Regan informs Lear that she is old and that Nature in her stands on the very edge / Of her confine: you should rule, and bed / By some discretion which discerns your State/Better than you. So, I beg you / To our sister you make return; / Say that you have wronged her, sir. Lear is confused that Regan has not behaved as he had hoped. She wants him to go back to Gonerill to ask for her forgiveness. He is no longer in control of his kingdom, and his daughters are making fun of him. He is unable to make decisions. Lear will, however, try to make her feel better by flattering and placing her on a larger scale than Gonerill.
According to Shakespeare’s text, Gonerill, and Regan are clearly depicted as demons, monsters or anything other than human. They are the ones responsible for the state’s chaos and disruption. They are enemies of humanity and must be eliminated. However, women in power will only bring shame. But there will be a savior. The “sanctified woman” will be the savior. Cordelia is a woman who appears to be a redeeming, although some critics believe this is a restoration patriarchy. However, Cordelia seems to work for redemption of feminine, and she is a balance between her sisters.
The reader will notice that their tragic fate is certain. Their love for Edmund will endanger them. Cordelia’s return to the world brings about changes. Evil is defeated, but she won’t find a better ending.
Gonerill then poisons Regan, and then she stabs herself. Edmund imprisons Cordelia and her father. Cordelia is dependent on her father for care, while her father is devoted to his daughter. Edmund puts them in prison, and Cordelia is shocked when Lear asks Cordelia if she will see her sisters. Cordelia will be later strangled to death in prison, and Lear will also die from the shock.
Some critics believe women are a positive force. Lear is thus redeemed through a loving, non-patriarchal love relationship with Cordelia. However, this is not a way to restore patriarchy.
Act 2 can be seen as anti-feminist. Luce Irigaray says, “Man and woman. Woman and man are always meeting as if for the first time since their inability to stand in for each other.” I will never be able to take the place of a woman, nor will I ever take his place. In a discreet manner, the sisters tried to be the opposite of sex. Without trying to belittle their father, they could have gained power or rights in the country. This idea is also evident in their relationships with their husbands. They seem to have dominated this relationship. When they request that their spouses treat their father with more kindness, they refuse to listen. According to Irigaray however, to be in power one must stay in their current position and not try to be the opposite sex.
Contemporary King Lear critics are also interested in gender identity and the role of women within a patriarchal family. Coppelia KAHN (1986) has done a study on the absence of a mother figure in the drama. Kahn argued that Lear’s failure was partly due to his inability to fight against his own need for a mother figure. Kahn claims that Lear only begins to accept his vulnerability, dependence, and love potential as his life gets closer to its end. Peter Erickson (1985), who took as his subject the bonding of men in the play, concluded that Lear attempts to offset the loss of his daughters by the company and nuturance of other male characters. However, these male relationships are “finally a minor tool compared with Cordelia’s unquestionable centrality for Lear.” Modern critics continue to be fascinated by Lear’s relationship and his daughters, especially in light of their patriarchal environment. Marianne Novy (1984), who analysed the principle of reciprocity or mutuality in the play, suggested that King Lear was criticizing the powerful rights fathers had over their daughters. Novy noted that Lear abuses Cordelia’s authority and then requires her forgiveness. As the relationship between the ruler and the subject is disrupted, the balance of the patriarchal system is then threatened.
The play’s sexual references have been the subject of some of the most eloquent criticism. Many critics find Shakespeare’s use of sexuality throughout the play to be unpleasing. They speculate that Shakespeare’s repulsion towards sex was a major influence on the creation of the drama. Others, however, believe that the tragedy’s central theme of sex is essential. Paul A. Jorgensen (1967), who focused on Lear’s growing self-discovery throughout the play, claimed that Lear gains a better understanding of human nature by anatomizing the female body. Robert H. West (1960), who studied the negative attitudes toward sexuality displayed in King Lear, observed that the play exalts rather than indicts sexuality and love. This creates an impression of awe, mystique, and tragedy.
Feminists might see Lear as an abusive patriarch, rather than as a tragic hero. Kahn says that Lear becomes mad because he cannot accept his dependence upon the feminine, his daughters. The play is therefore referred to as “male anxiety”.
There have always been defenders and opponents to feminist thought, particularly in literature. The study of individual female characters in Shakespeare’s King Lear is becoming an increasingly important part the play’s scholarship. Other interpretations of Shakespeare’s King Lear have been discovered over the past 30 years. One interpretation is that King Lear is about power, inheritance, and property. Another is that King Lear illustrates the dangers of following the patriarchal ways. We might ask ourselves, when reading King Lear, whether the female characters are stereotypical or if we should assume that Cordelia is the representative of goodness, and her sisters as evil.
Feminist criticisms of Lear include a similar variety of views. For Coppelia Kahn King Lear This play is about male anxiety. Kahn suggests Lear may go mad when he refuses the fact that he is dependent upon his daughters and that he needs the feminine. Lear becomes mad when he can’t face his feminine side. He refuses to cry. He is saved when he learns to weep and rekindles a loving, non-patriarchal bond with Cordelia. Kahn believes the play affirms femininity to be a positive force.
Kathleen McCluskie’s reading King Lear The opposite view is held by her. She considers Lear an anti-feminine play. She suggests that King Lear’s misogyny, as well as its hero’s, is a result of an ascetic tradition that presents women as the source for the primal sin of sexual desire, and combines with concerns about the danger to the family from female subordination. She recognizes that the “action of the play”, the organization of its points-of-view and the theatrical dynamic in its central scenes are all dependent on an audience accepting an equation between “humanity” and “male power”. McCluskie notes that Shakespeare forces us to sympathise both with Lear and Gloucester and the masculine power structure. She doesn’t believe Shakespeare is a move towards the feminine. King Lear It is the opposite. “Family relationships in this play are portrayed as rigid and fixed, and any movement within them can be viewed as a destructive reversal or reversal to the rightful order.” McCluskie believes that Cordelia’s saving love, which is so beloved by critics, serves… less to redeem womankind than to show patriarchy as it has been restored. It is clear that Gonerill and Regan are evil women and create chaos in the world. This must be stopped. Either the feminine must be submissive (Cordelia), or it can be destroyed (Gonerill, Regan).
King Lear: The Feminist Theory. Of the three major theories that William Shakespeare uses in the play King Lear, one is quite obvious. It is the feminist theory. The play shows that women are more in control of their decisions and hold a higher ranking than the majority of men. How women act towards men, and how it differs from reality. This essay will focus on this topic. There are many theories about the tragedy of King Lear, William Shakespeare. The Feminist Theory is one major theory. The first act of the play demonstrates how women can control men’s thinking through a feeling of love.
Scene four: Goneril confronts Lear about his behavior towards her and her servants. He is now a child, not a wise man, she believes. Lear is surrounded by a hundred men who do what they like, and Lear enjoys their chaos. Lear is free to do what he likes, and he doesn’t have to worry so much about controlling a kingdom. If Lear isn’t a mature man, Goneril will seize half his men. Lear believed he had raised a child who would take care of him. He didn’t have a mother who would constantly nag him. Goneril sent a messenger to inform Regan about her experience with Lear, and asked for her to do so. Shakespeare switches the control. Women had less respect for men back then. In the second act, Regan and Cornwall visit Gloucester in order to see Edgar being accused of treason. Also, her father is going mad. Regan wasn’t surprised to hear about her father. She couldn’t care less about his health or condition. Regan will do the same thing to Lear as Goneril, and deny her father the love he believes they showed him. Scene two: Regan and Cornwall captured Oswald fighting, and Kent was taken into the stock rooms by Regan.
King Lear, another Shakespearean tragedy, features both good and bad women who lead to the end of the play. Three female characters are featured in King Lear: Cordelia (Regan), and Goneril. All three women are daughters to King Lear. However, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia are shown as hypocritical, greedy and selfish monsters. Cordelia, however, is the only one who loves her father and takes care of him. “Despite her virtue and piety she is presented as a women who subscribes patriarchy, patriarchal values both in spirit and letter” Cordelia doesn’t have to give her father praise or words of love when it is time for Cordelia. Your Majesty, I love you / Accordingly to my bond; not more nor less” (Norton King Lear). Cordelia is King Lear’s only daughter who loves him fully. Cordelia tells Cordelia that Cordelia learns about the terrible treatment her father received at the hands Goneril and Regan. She then tries to help Lear. Cordelia is unfortunately killed. Lear was so upset by the sight of Cordelia’s body that he committed suicide. King Lear and his three daughters, Cordelia, are all dead by the end of play. Cordelia and Lear, however, die happy to have their relationship resolved.
Feminist literary critics focus primarily on the representation of women in literature, since literature is an integral part of the ethos. A lecture on Feminist theory described Feminism as “politically motivated movements committed to personal and/or social change.” These associations are social constructs that exist within a context of sexual and gender identity. Feminists must, therefore, examine and evaluate texts. This requires that the reader sympathize with what it means to be male or female and whether it encourages them to challenge gender norms. Feminist literary perspectives have shown King Lear to have misogynistic tones. This is due to the fact that the storyline challenges traditional gender roles and portrays women as assertive, demonic and the source of all problems in society.
Shakespeare’s depiction of women can seem misogynistic if seen through the eyes modern women. Many of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, portray women as submissive and obeying towards their husbands. King Lear shows the opposite. However, many critics, such as Aleena Bonk, claim that the women are “biased, misogynistic, and (they) leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth”. It is quite remarkable, however, that King Lear’s women live in a patriarchal society while still holding the greatest power. It is important that Feminism wasn’t invented until the 19th Century.
Regan appears to be the gentler and more cautious sister. She compels Goneril into thinking about her actions more carefully before plotting to kill the king. Regan is less hostile than Goneril in her speech, trying to be respectful towards Lear even though her intentions are contrary to hers. Regan eventually proves to be just as bloodthirsty than Goneril. She even suggests that Gloucester be hanged immediately before Goneril suggests the horrifying act of goinguge his eyes. Regan is able to overpower her father, just like Goneril. Regan obeys her father when she does this, thus reverseing the dominance of men over women in patriarchal societies. Regan does not love her husband. This is evident by Regan’s act of k= Emmet becoming her lover shortly after her husband died. However, the duke Cornwall is very different from the duke at Albany. Cornwall seems to love causing pain and abuses his power. He does however, follow his wife’s instructions. Regan and Goneril do not attempt to gouge Gloucester’s eyes. They instead let Cornwall do the dirtywork while they watch. This shows that the men give the orders, while the women are the ones who do the dirty work.
Playwrights of women have struggled for years to define femininity. Their works reflect the inequal treatment of women in society. Some contemporary women dramatists use canonical texts to challenge patriarchal dominance as a means of achieving this goal. Women playwrights have taken Shakespeare’s plays to the stage in contemporary theatre. They are opposed to the main ideas he introduced through his seminal works. Elaine Feinstein (1930-), one of the modern revisionist women playwrights, attempts to subvert both the gender and political aspects Shakespeare’s King Lear. Her version of the play is Lear’s Daughters (1987), which was written in collaboration with Women’s Theatre Group. Lear’s Daughters marginalises King Lear the ex-protagonist by presenting him offstage. Instead, it prioritizes his imaginary wife who was absent from the original play. The title suggests that the focus is not on Lear, who is a flawed father but his three daughters, who are afflicted by parental neglect. His male protagonist is now reduced to a lesser extent and his daughters are no longer responsible for his tragic fate. Feinstein reaffirms her feminist stance, eliminating male characters and making the Fool an androgynous figure. The new protagonists are the daughters and Lear’s wife. Lear’s Daughters addresses the issue of gender inequality and protests the social and economic decline during the Thatcher era.

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