Traditional Criticism Has Tended to View Goneril and Regan as Villains, a View Which Modern Feminine Criticism Has Tended to Challenge. How Do You Respond to Their Characters and Roles?

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Traditional criticism has tended to view Goneril and Regan as villains, a view which modern feminine criticism has tended to challenge. How do you respond to their characters and roles? King Lear is a tragedy written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare around the years 1603- 1606. In Shakespeare’s time it was believed that, as stated by Helene Cixous in ‘Sorties’ that either a woman is passive, or she doesn’t exist. His characters Goneril and Regan go against this belief as they are the exact opposite of the typical feminine stereotype of being gentle, kind, loving and warm. In fact the sisters, in a discrete fashion strive to become the opposite sex in order to gain power. The play begins with the Love Trial, Lear has decided to split his kingdom between his three daughters; Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, offering the largest part to the one who decidedly loves him best and effectively unburdening himself of all responsibility, whilst still hoping to maintain his power and authority as king. The love trial begins with Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril, straight away the audience can see that Goneril has no reservation when it comes to lying to her father as on line 53 she claims; “Sir, I love you more than words can wield matter” However Goneril’s expressions of love are extreme and reveal the inherent dishonesty of her nature. She speaks only of materialistic values; ‘rich’, ‘rare’, ‘grace’, ‘health’ and ‘beauty’, all of which are things that anyone can possess. Next is Lear’s middle daughter Regan, she initially appears as the more sympathetic and gentle out of the two sisters. as she greets her father with politeness, addressing him as ‘sir’ but her manner is deceptive as she uses lexis that reflects financial gain; “I am made of that self- same mettle as that of my sister” and “prize me at her worth” which suggests a financial approach to Regan’s mental state, as she is only able to see the goods that will come from her speech. She claims; “And I find I...
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