Comparing the Dominant and Feminist Readings of Shakespeare's King Lear

Comparing the Dominant and Feminist Readings of Shakespeare's King Lear

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Comparing the Dominant and Feminist Readings of King Lear

   Shakespeare's King Lear has been the source of much contention as to the way in which the text can be read. The play originally was written for the Jacobean audience of Shakespeare's time, but since then has taken on many other readings. These new readings are produced to comment on issues in the society in which it is explored. Readings encompass a wide range of ideas - from the Dominant reading, the manner in which Shakespeare's audience would have perceived the text, to feminist ideals. The various readings are influenced by the context in which they are discussed. In particular the dominant and feminist readings of King Lear both perceive the text in different contexts; the dominant following the traditional Jacobean interpretation as it was originally written, and the feminist reading pursuing a need for the lack of a patriarchal society in the twentieth century. King Lear can be read in a variety of ways, achieving a set perspective that suits the reader.


The Jacobean reading of King Lear focuses the blame for chaos and the subsequent tragedies on Lear's foolish decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. Though the play is set in pre-Christian times, Shakespeare's audience was greatly influenced by Elizabethan structure and hierarchy. According to the Great Chain of Being, God was the head of the universe, and the King was established as Gods connection to people. Lear's choice of abdication would have been viewed as blasphemy towards God. The audience would now perceive Lear's tragedy as inevitable due to his decisions. The play `King Lear' can be viewed as an expression of the Jacobean period concept of so...

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... focuses on Lear's downfall and the pity we feel for Lear. The feminist reading of King Lear focuses on how the portrayal of women in the play is of a negative aspect and displays women as unfit for any role of leadership, else chaos ensues. The film A Thousand Miles shows how King Lear can be interpreted as a feminist reading in a contemporary setting, revealing the text King Lear in an entirely new light - women portrayed as the victims of men. King Lear can indeed be read in a variety of ways.


Works Cited

Frey, C.  Experiencing Shakespeare.  Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.

Granville-Barker, H.  Prefaces to Shakespeare.  London: B.T. Batsford INC, 1984.

Halio, J.  The Tragedy of King Lear.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 

Thompson, A.  King Lear Criticism.  NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.

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