The Characters of Goneril and Cordelia in King Lear
Nothing makes a story like a good villain, or in this case, good villainess. They are the people we love to hate and yearn to watch burn. Goneril, of Shakespeare’s King Lear, is no exception. Her evils flamed from the very beginning of the play with her lack of sincerity in professing her love for her father:
"Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare; No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour; As much as child e'er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. Beyond all manner of so much I love you. (I.i. 56-62)
One can just feel the insincerity and exaggeration in her words, perhaps even a touch of hatred that is bubbling like a volcano on the verge of explosion, which will wreak destruction on everyone and everything that gets in its path.
Of course, Shakespeare does not disappoint. The volcano is actually a good analogy for this character, for she does exactly what is expected. Not only does her father feel her wrath, but also her own husband, the Duke of Albany, who she has killed; The Duke of Gloucester whose eyes get gauged out in her presence; her other sister, Regan, who she kills out of jealousy; and Goneril, herself, when she comes face to face with her true self.
In regard to her role in the Elizabethan age, Goneril not only stood for evil, but also rebellion. She has rebelled against the accepted role for women by rebelling against both her father and husband. This reflects much of the theme of the play in that rebellion against accepted social order under mines that order, which leads to downfall and chaos. Again, everything comes tumbling down in the kingdom.
Could we ever say that we could actually feel sympathy for Goneril? I think the time I would say I felt "sympathy" for her was when she killed herself because she saw the person she had become, in a matter of speaking. This shed some light in that we must come face to face with the question of if she regretted her actions, and SOMEWHERE deep down inside, her icy heart was beginning to thaw. To some degree, I find her a tragic character in this regard. Could she have redeemed herself if she had lived? Did she really deserve to die?
Cordelia is the epitome of goodness in Shakespeare’s King Lear. "What shall Cordelia speak?/ Love, and be silent" (I.i.63-64). These words echo a reminiscent time when loyalty to the king and one's father was paramount. King Lear, Cordelia's father, planned on dividing his...