King Lear

Women, Sex, and Lust in Shakespeare's King Lear

As the audience gears up for King Lear's death, as they bite their nails at the coming sword fight between the two separated brothers, they notice that within all this royal drama a silly cat fight has developed between Regan and Goneril. We can trace it all the way back to the beginning. After Goneril claims that she loves her father "more than words can wield the matter," (33) a formulation that could never be topped, Regan professes that her sister "comes too short." (34) They come together when it is convenient for them and for the plot. They are equally willing to throw their father to the winds, when he demands his humanity. And when each sees the opportunity to satisfy her feminine drive, each is willing to do anything - to poison or stab the other - to win the prize.

Indeed, Regan and Goneril are hardly characters at all. Shakespeare sketches them as easily as he does the obsequious servant Oswald, imbuing them with all the motives, nuances, passions as would befit a tigress or a two-year-old. Nor are they really different from each other. At the end of the play, only the Shakespeare scholars could tell you who claimed Edmund first, who stabbed whom, or who dies when. The reason is, of course,...

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