The Most Evil Character in King Lear: Goneril

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There is such an incredible amount of killing, violence, and deceit in King Lear by many characters that it is difficult to choose the most evil character. The most evil character may deceive one into thinking she is less evil than she is, but upon closer inspection it is quite clear that the most evil character is Goneril. Nevertheless, some may think Edmund, Cromwell, or Regan are the worst, but for a variety of reasons Goneril surpasses their evil. First of all, how does one define evil? Anything highly immoral is evil. In terms of the play King Lear, the most common form of evil is deceit and cruelty.

Cromwell and Regan showed violence towards Gloucester by gouging out his eyes. However Cromwell does not try to deceive anyone. He does not try to hide the fact that he is evil. Goneril is not only slightly more sadistic, malicious, and rotten than Cromwell, but she tries to fool other characters by concealing her ways. This makes Goneril even more evil. She tricks her father Lear, her husband Albany, and her sister Regan into believing she is not evil. In the following quote, she pretends to love her father but later turns her back on him:

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, honor; As much as child e’er loved, or father found; A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. Beyond matter of so much I love you. (Shakespeare 1.1)

Later in the play, Goneril and Edmund plot to kill Albany because he is sympathetic towards Lear. Albany is completely unaware of this, and still thinks that Goneril is a loving, normal wife. Goneril and Edmund both lie a lot, but Goneril commits more ac...

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...in his power. Greed is corruption. Corruption is a form of evil.

Goneril is also a very revengeful person. She gets back a Lear’s favouritism of his daughter Cordelia by taking away everything from Lear and then turning her back on him. The bonus for her was the money and power. However, even after she gained his money, she still indulged in torturing Lear by casting him away with nothing. It was not necessary, for Lear does not take much money to take care of. She could have at least let him sleep in her house as opposed to outside.

To sum it up, Goneril’s heart is so rotten the stale decay of the organ can almost be smelled through the book. The rancid smell of her lies, sins, hatred, hunger for power, revenge, and violence are overpowering the other characters’ stenches. The strongest smell of Goneril is her vicious acts of evil and her lies to conceal them.
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