Sexism in the “O reason…” Speech
With such powerful language and intonation, it sometimes is difficult for me to remember that King Lear is but an aged man, biased and occasionally foolish. In act two, he finally ostracizes Regan and Goneril by making sexist comments intending to wound both women. His speech has three distinct parts: distinguishing men from women, making a prayer for the present, and giving his threat for the future. Lear divides the world into two parts, one with animals, and the other with humans. The latter category is then again subdivided into men and women. He sees the section of men as like beasts, but women to almost have just a superficial view of the world by only caring about looks instead of substance. He mocks Regan and Goneril with their clothing- something he calls “gorgeous”, but it “scarcely keeps [them] warm.” Lear must consider himself to be like a beast in that he acts as he sees practical, like keeping knights that stay loyal to him as the only family he has left, which are “a reservation to be followed with such a number.” I think he is stumbling over what to say the entire speech, with interrupted sentences, apostrophe, and the use of prose, which might indicate feeling rushed and lack of time in which he would usually have spoken poetry. By discussing sexism, it seems to be an easy play of Lear’s to make that will surely injure Regan and Goneril, even though both are quite masculine in their powers. In the next section, he creates another sexist divide by assigning different responses to hardship per gender. Even his speech shows his condescending beliefs for women by using the soft ‘w’ sound alliteratively in line 319. “…women’s weapons, water drops,” are contrasted with what Lear wants- “noble anger” that is more suited to him as a man. Even the thought of crying would “stain [his] man’s cheeks” in an act of weakness. While characterizing grief as womanly, Lear again associates being female as a deficiency in that one...
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