Vaginal Fear in Lear, a Critical Analysis

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Mikhaila Searle
Roger Farr
English 207
February 28th, 2013

In “The Darke and Vicious Place”: The Dread of the Vagina in King Lear, Peter L. Rudytsky analyses what some argue is Shakespeare’s most important tragic play, “King Lear.” Rudytsky looks at the play through a feminist psychoanalytic lens to explore the misogyny behind some of the play’s key players as well as the play as a whole. That Lear is misogynist in nature (both the play and the lead character, King Lear himself) is not a new notion, as Rudytsky points out. Many before him have searched for and found hidden anti-feminist sentiments in the work. This, he also states, is partially because, “Shakespeare’s plays are written from a male perspective and depict predominantly conflicts of masculine identity” (292). From a psychoanalytical standpoint, these “perspectives” and “depictions” could be interpreted as Shakespeare’s own struggle with his masculine identity on the subconscious plane coming forth in his writing. Or, they could simply be because he was a man writing about men in what, at the time, was predominantly a man’s world. As a man, it would have been a great challenge for Shakespeare to write successfully from a female perspective on his chosen subject matter, especially at the time in which he was prominent when there was little understanding or consideration of women. Rudytsky begins his analysis by looking at Edgar’s lines to Albany when he is relaying, in the play’s final scene, how he came upon his freshly eyeless father (Gloucester): “And in this habit / Met I my Father with his bleeding Rings, / Their precious Stones new lost” (TLN, 3151-53; 5.3.188-90). Rudytsky explains to us how in this passage, Shakespeare is using Gloucester’s eyes (“precious stones”) as a metaphor for testicles and his eye sockets (“bleeding rings”) as a metaphor for a vagina and thus this blinding of Gloucester is meant to symbolise his castration. It is easy to see how “precious stones” could be used to...
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