The Women of King Lear: Shaping Tragedy with Love and Betrayal

Categories: King Lear

Women share center stage in the majority of the Shakespearen works. Many a plot by his pen include women in the primary themes. Sometimes the plot is revolved exclusively around them causing a catastrophe. In King Lear, Cordelia is the source of all troubles which lastly leads to her own distruction along with her father and siblings. Shakespeare significantly illustrates the characters of the three brother or sisters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. While Goneril and Regan form the Evil group, Cordelia represents the sweet, innocent and the noblest individual of all the three.

King Lear while checking his children' love towards him asks each of them to inform him how much they like. Regan and Goneril flatters the old daddy with false representations while Codelia just says that she enjoys him as a child loves her dad. The King entirely irritated deserts her and decides to stick with Regan and Goneril. The evil side of Regan and Goneril is finally understood to the King when he was thrown out.

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There is likewise a subplot running along with the main plot in the play which demonstrates how the Earl of Gloucester is tricked by his invalid child and throws his child, Edgar out.

This plot is constructed in the same lines of the primary plot however the Women characters are equally associated with both the plots triggering utter havoc. We can see 3 kinds of characters portrayed by Females in this play. Lets talk about each of them here: Regan: She is the oldest of the 3.

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She flatters her daddy with incorrect notions and the King thinks in her words. He comes to understand of her wicked character only when she eliminates all his fans and treats him terribly. She falls in love with Edmund, the invalid son of the Earl of Gloucester and conflicts with her sibling, Goneril who enjoys the exact same person.

She is finally eliminated by her own sibling succumbing to the same person. Her partner, the Duke of Cornwall records the Earl of Gloucester, tortures and blinds him. We can see the wife and her partner associating with dark deeds and finally yielding to their wrong doings. Goneril: She is the second daughter of the King. She too praises her daddy with incorrect flattering with a false view of attaining his kingdom. Shakespeare sketches her character in a comparable line in addition to her sibling, Regan's character.

She too falls for Edmund and finally kills herself before poisoning her sister, Regan. We can see her husband, The Duke of Albany later realises his mistake and tries to help the King and Cordelia. Goneril’s character is so cruelly pictured that she even asks Edmund to kill her husband to marry her. Cordelia: She is the sweetest of all the characters in the plot. She loves her father more than any one but fails to praise him like his sisters do. This is the only mistake she does which finally leads to King Lear’s death and her own death.

Such was her love for her father that she runs for him as soon as she hears about his madness and protects him till she dies. Lear later repents but it is too late then. One can see how jealousy, desire, lust drives the women leading to utter chaos in Shakespeare’s plays. One mistake by Cordelia shatters the entire kingdom which proves how important the decision made by a woman in a patriarchial society affects the entire kingdom. Talking of the subplot in the Play, The Earl of Gloucester being fooled by his illegitimate son abandons his son, Edgar.

Here the man, Edmund takes the center stage who finally being announced as the New Earl of Gloucester. Edmund plots the sketch to throw away Edgar from the kingdom and he succeeds in doing so. He would have achieved what he wished for had he not met the two women, Regan and Goneril. Both fall for him and demand him to choose only one among them. He later succumbs to Edgar’s sword. Thus women rule the entire play depicting both good and evil. Kent on one occasion even gets surprised to find how such cruel and evil women are the sisters of the noble Cordelia.

There is also a subtle display of foolness among the women in this play especially in the character of Cordelia. She could easily praise her father when she asks her how much she loves him. Instead she chooses to express her love in the most casual manner which leads to her own expulsion. In conclusion, one can clearly see how Women dominate the entire play of King Lear and how they change the kingdom to a tragic place.

Works Cited

World Wide Web site: Grootveld, Anna. “Literary Analysis: Women in Shakespearean tragedy. ”

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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The Women of King Lear: Shaping Tragedy with Love and Betrayal. (2017, May 18). Retrieved from

The Women of King Lear: Shaping Tragedy with Love and Betrayal essay
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