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King Lear Gender

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Gender Roles Reversal Tragedy

In the world today, there are characteristics that are classified as masculine or feminine. Humans, that act upon their opposite sex, does not always lead to their advantage. In King Lear, many characters in the play demonstrate gender-role reversal. King Lear begins the play with power, but soon bequeaths it to his eldest and second eldest daughters. His daughter, Goneril, betrays him, which causes King Lear to abandon his kingdom. Gloucester, King Lear's nobleman, similarly wants to distribute his power to his older son; however, his younger son fools him into thinking that his older son wants to kill him. Eventually, it results Gloucester to go through significant obstacles which results in a disadvantage for him, also his relationship with his oldest son is greatly affected for this particular reason. King Lear was written by William Shakespeare in the 17th century. According to the gender approach, one would examine the role of masculinity and femininity throughout the text. Throughout the play three main characters convey the gender role reversal as mentioned early. Goneril becomes masculinised while King Lear, and Gloucester carry on female traits. At the end of King Lear, it is clear that the gender role reversal resulted the characters of King Lear to their destruction. King Lear, Gloucester, and Goneril, all die by the end, one can speculate that their death could have been avoided if they had acted upon their gender. This essay will transmit that in King Lear; Gloucester, King Lear, and Goneril, display gender-role reversal, which results in their destruction.

To begin, Goneril, King Lear's eldest daughter, displays male characteristics throughout the play, which leads to her destruction. King Lear divides his property between his two elder daughters, he then decides to live with (n)either? of his daughters. Firstly, he goes to Goneril and decides to stay with her. However, when Goneril finds out that King Lear is coming, she tells her servant, "Goneril [to Oswald]: When he returns from hunting,/ I will not speak with say I am sick./ If you come slack of former services,/ you shall do well. The fault of it I'll answer." (1.3.8-11). Goneril plans to cut all communication with her father again, she is deciding to get ahead of the problem. The author's analysis about gender-roles states "Female learn how to get along; males learn how to get ahead." (Page 15 - Steven E. Rhoads). This conveys that males tend to learn how to get ahead of problems instead of attempting to follow them. If Goneril acted according to her gender, she would have talked about the conflict with her father, and approached a reasonable solution in order to maintain peace. This possibly could have prevented King Lear from creating such a brutal commotion. Furthermore, when King Lear went to his other daughter, Regan, she similarly denied him from staying at her house. In disbelief, King Lear abandons himself and cries his way out. After he leaves, Regan and Goneril, the daughters who were give King Lear's property, speak about King Lear leaving, "Regan: This house is little. The old man and 's people/ Cannot be well bestowed./ Goneril: 'Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,/ And must needs taste his folly./ Regan: For his particular, I'll receive him gladly,/ But not one follower." (2.4.330-335). Instead of feeling sympathy for her father now being homeless, Goneril instead allows her father to walk away with shredding a tear. It is said that "women show more emotional self-disclosure as compared to men" (Chaudry and Sultan). The authors state that being emotional is a female characteristic. Given that Goneril was more emotional when her father left, it may have prevented the King's departure. As a result, he would not have gone to France causing a war between France and Britain. The war resulted in Goneril's desired love, Edmund, to be fatally stabbed, and an apparent reason she killed her sister then committed suicide. In conclusion, if Goneril acted in her gender-role, it would prevented her father to leave, or even to prevent her death.

Another character who did not act according to their gender, is Gloucester, which eventually lead to his destruction. Gloucester in the play is slowly growing old, Edmund, Gloucester's younger son, acknowledges the fact that once Gloucester retires, Edgar, Edmund's older brother, will be in control of everything. Edmund's master plan is to fool Gloucester, and ruin Edgar and Gloucester's relationship. Edmund says to Gloucester, "Edmund: I have heard him oft/ maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and/ fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the/ son, and the son manage his revenue./ Gloucester: O villain, villain!" (1.2.75-79). Gloucester has a lot more power than his son, Edmund, yet Edmund is fooling Gloucester. In an article relating to 'The Piano' (novel), Greg Bentley states "Ada's father is one of the most present characters is in it, and one of the most powerful" (Bentley). This is just one story out of several stories that states fathers are powerful. Gloucester being the father and holding more power, yet he still is fooled by his son Edmund.

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