King Lear: Critical Study Of Text (A Feminist Reading)

1547 words - 6 pages

In this production of Shakespeare's King Lear, a feminist reading of the play has been chosen to be presented to the audience. Certain important factors must be taken into consideration as to how this reading will be reflected on stage. Thus, we will examine, in detail, two important scenes: Act I, scene i, and Act IV, scene iv, their impact on the action and main issues of the play (ambition/ greed, power, corruption, appearance versus reality and growth through suffering) and how the characters, specifically the women roles, are to be portrayed to reflect this particular critical reading.Act I, scene i, is worthy of our attention as a valid representation of the major issues within the play, an impetus for the play's ensuing conflict and a display of the nature of the characters. The scene opens with Gloucester and Kent discussing Lear's plan to retire and partition his kingdom amongst his daughters. The king's public drama of the love test denotes the insecurity and fear of an old man who requires reassurance of his importance, blindly accepting his elder daughters' seditious falsehoods. As opposed to a genuine assessment of his daughters' love for him, the test seems to invite, rather demand, flattery. Goneril and Regan's professions of love are banal and insecure, 'I love you more than word can wield the matter,' however Lear unreservedly welcomes these trite remarks. Regan echoes her sister by saying, 'I find she names my very deed of love; only she comes too short.' In contrast to her sisters, Cordelia, the youngest and favourite daughter responds to Lear's emotional demands by answering 'Nothing, my lord.' Markedly, she has a much greater degree of forthrightness and assurance: 'Unhappy as I am I cannot heave my heart into my mouth,' a metaphorical statement that enrages Lear, who thus disinherits Cordelia, triggering the tragic events that are to follow.A feminist reading of this play could focus on a number of aspects from this opening scene. Consideration could be given to the early dialogue between Kent and Gloucester. Gloucester's blatant indiscretion to Edmond's bastardy compels the audience to see reasoning in the character's subsequent actions, 'I have so often blushed to acknowledge him.' Edmond is seen as flawed owing to the flaws of his mother, 'A son for her cradle 'ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?' The metaphorical devices that can be seen in this statement, 'husband for her bed', works to both debase the maternal figure and offend the son. Gloucester seemingly disengages himself from any form of culpability and particular emphasis on this aspect of the scene could direct more focus on the ensuing misogynistic aspects of the play. Traditionally, from a feminist perspective, the characters of Goneril and Regan are branded villains; stock characters, conventional representations of 'evil'. This 'evil' is defined by acts of will, power, desire, and sexuality - acts which disrupt both conventional morality...

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