When attempting to read criticism of Shakespeare plays one idea is
clear: if the review was written more than five or ten years ago the essay is
likely to be exclusive when it comes to the women in Shakespeare. Little
attention had been given to the women of Shakespeare prior to the seventies
feminist movement. The women in King Lear deserve attention just as women in
every Shakespearean play do. A common idea among critics is that the women
perpetuated evil and were not worthy of acknowledgment for anything else.
Goneril and Regan are believed to be vicious, evil women and Cordelia the small,
sweet daughter and while this interpretation may be true there are other aspects
to consider which are not typically presented when reviewing these female
characters. Each of these women is worthy of acclaim for her strengths of
character as well as in opposition to the male characters and various subplots
A common interpretation of Lear is one of the juxtaposition of good and
evil within the play. Many traditional critics have made this idea their
primary focus in interpretations which often ignores the feminist and class
conscious theme that are also present in King Lear. Most recent critical
essays of King Lear do make note of the class struggle within the play; however,
critics tend to ignore the gender struggles which upon thorough reading are
clearly as obvious as the class issues. I have chosen an interpretation of King
Lear from 1960, by Irving Ribner and set it in contrast with a 1991 review by
Ann Thompson. There are some interesting points made in both essays and some
stark differences in what and who' are the important themes and characters in
In Irving Ribner's essay, "The Pattern of Regeneration in King Lear,"
Ribner focuses on Lear's regeneration as a result of the "suffering" he must
undergo(Ribner 116). In the opening section of his essay, Ribner makes clear
that he will approach... [continues]
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