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. Ag...
... middle of paper ...
...h the wicked prosper, and the virtuous miscarry . . . the audience will not always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue."
What exactly was Cordelia's role in the play? Was she there as an angel - like character who made the distinction between good and evil more visible? Was she just thrown in as a little goody- goody who did no wrong, and maybe, to some degree, we were supposed to despise? Or was she there to make us more aware of a crumbling society where many things were opposite to what one might think it should be, with evil generally prevailing over the good (which to some degree is prophetic to today's society)? There are many theories surrounding this character in particular, and no one has reached a definitive conclusion as of late. The best one I can come up with, however, is simply the answer "Yes," to all of the above.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The tragedy of Shakespeare’s King Lear is made far more tragic and painful by the presence and suffering of the king's youngest daughter, Cordelia. While our sympathy for the king is somewhat restrained by his brutal cruelty towards others, there is nothing to dampen our emotional response to Cordelia's suffering. Nothing, that is, at first glance. Harley Granville-Barker justifies her irreconcilable fate thus: "the tragic truth about life to the Shakespeare that wrote King Lear... includes its capricious cruelty.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1509 words (4.3 pages)
- Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit—“nothing comes from nothing”. In the pre-Christian world of King Lear, this principle is a way of life. Character’s actions prove futile as tragedy befalls them; Lear loses his kingdom and his family, Gloucester his sight, and Cordelia her life. Through this, Shakespeare’s King Lear portrays human cruelty in its most extreme, base degree—thus contributing to the view of an unjust world. By depicting a breakdown in the social hierarchy and a fruitless relationship between man and the gods, William Shakespeare, in his play King Lear, establishes the absence of divine justice in human life, suggesting a minimal, even nonexistent involvement of the gods in human affairs.... [tags: King Lear Essays]
1839 words (5.3 pages)
- Lear's Character Development in Shakespeare's King Lear Though King Lear, of Shakespeare's play, King Lear, wrongs both Cordelia and Kent in his harsh treatment against them, the unjust actions of Regan and Goneril against King Lear cause him to be "a man more sinned against than sinning" (3.2.60-61). In order to relieve himself of the problems and work associated with holding his position so he can "unburdened crawl toward death," King Lear, of pre-Christ Britain, divides up his kingdom into three portions, one for each of his daughters (1.1.41).... [tags: King Lear Essays]
1205 words (3.4 pages)
- The Parallel Plots of Shakespeare's King Lear Many works of literature contain parallel plots in which similar actions taken by various characters precipitate identical results. Upon careful examination, it is evident that “such plots exist in Shakespeare's play King Lear with the deaths of King Lear, Cordelia, Edmund, and Goneril, among others” (Curry 17). The betrayal of a commitment to an authority figure is the cause behind each of the above characters' death. Likewise, the consistent loyalty of Kent, the Fool, and Edgar is rewarded when they outlive their traitorous peers.... [tags: King Lear Essays]
1893 words (5.4 pages)
- The Dysfunctional Family of King Lear In his tragedy King Lear, William Shakespeare presents two families: a family consisting of a father and his three daughters, and a family consisting of a father and his two sons, one of which is a bastard son. While he has the sons basically come out and admit that one of them is good and the other evil, the Bard chooses to have the feelings of the daughters appear more subtlely. At no point in King Lear does Shakespeare come out and blatantly tell his audience that Cordelia is the most caring and loving daughter, while her two sisters are uncaring and greedy, and love their father only when they stand to gain from it.... [tags: King Lear essays]
1629 words (4.7 pages)
- Tragic Figures - Good/Evil in King Lear King Lear, by William Shakespeare, is a tragic tale of filial conflict, personal transformation, and loss. The story revolves around the King who foolishly alienates his only truly devoted daughter and realizes too late the true nature of his other two daughters. A major subplot involves the illegitimate son of Gloucester, Edmund, who plans to discredit his brother Edgar and betray their father. With these and other major characters in the play, Shakespeare clearly asserts that human nature is either entirely good, or entirely evil. Some characters experience a transformative phase, where, by some trial or ordeal, their nature is profoun... [tags: King Lear essays]
1336 words (3.8 pages)
- Many of Shakespeare’s tragedies involve fallen heroes who inevitably have to go through journeys to resolve their issues or complete an ill begotten fate. Shakespeare’s play King Lear is no different. The play highlights the life of a king, his journey into madness, and the events that take place around him that leads up to his death. Several approaches have been taken to analyze and deconstruct the carefully embedded details unfolding King Lear’s demise. Similarly, the focus of this research paper is to take a psychoanalytical approach to analyze King Lear’s decline into madness driven by his daughter’s rejection to be his caretakers.... [tags: Essays on King Lear 2014]
2510 words (7.2 pages)
- William Shakespeare's King Lear "A man more sinned against than sinning" King Lear is one of Shakespeare's more complex plays and within it many different themes are addressed and explored. King Lear is the somewhat unfortunate vehicle that Shakespeare uses to explore many of these themes creating a complex character including the roles of a father, king, friend and adversary.... [tags: William Shakespeare King Lear]
1855 words (5.3 pages)
- The Selfish King in Shakespeare's King Lear In Shakespeare's King Lear a king is stripped of his land, wealth, soldiers, and all of his power because he is stubborn, egocentric, and unkind. Other than losing money and power he loses his three daughters as well. Lear?s pride is so overwhelming that he is unwilling to allow anyone to contradict him. If anyone (besides his fool) even remotely hints that his actions were wrong he gets unnecessarily enraged.... [tags: King Lear William Shakespeare Tragedies]
1012 words (2.9 pages)
- William Shakespeare's King Lear The locations in Shakespeare’s King Lear fall into three categories: inside a court, out in nature, and in-between nature and civilization. Lear himself also wavers between three states: sanity, senility, and the fine line between the two. These states of consciousness relate directly to the scenes’ locations. However, Lear’s insanity is not the fault of his location in the world; for the most part, he has control over his situation. The series of events in correspondence with the location show that man must acknowledge the nature he originated from and live in the civilized world, but not abandon nature all together because too much control or chaos leads t... [tags: Shakespeare Play King Lear Essays]
1567 words (4.5 pages)