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The Loathed Lady Essay, Research Paper

The Loathed Lady

The play King Lear by William Shakespeare portrays the effects of villainy and ruthlessness. The decline of the kingdom and the lives of those involved in this tragedy begin when King Lear asks his three daughters Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan to profess their love to him. The amount of love that they claim to possess will in return reward them with a third of Lear s kingdom. The oldest daughter Goneril goes first and is followed by Regan. Both these daughters make ambiguous claims of love that, when taken literally, cannot be true. Of course, the third and the last to make her claim is Cordelia. Cordelia is terse in her description of her love for her father; she says what is logical and makes her point without the use of flattery and exaggeration. Her straightforwardness disappoints King Lear as a father and as a king. Therefore, he divides Cordelia s third of the kingdom among her evil, scheming sisters Goneril and Regan. Goneril displays ruthlessness, selfishness, and ungratefulness towards her husband Albany, her sister Regan, and her father King Lear.

Goneril is the oldest of the three daughters and can be said to be indistinguishable from her sister Regan. There are some certain evil deeds that Goneril accomplishes though that make her distinguishably ruthless and selfish. Goneril displays this ruthlessness and selfishness towards her sister Regan when she fatally poisons her. The

two sisters are feuding over Edmund s love. Goneril still has a husband, but her sister is a widow who is gaining more of Edmund s attention. Goneril poisons her sister to leave Edmund with only one choice herself.

Goneril calls her husband Albany a moral fool because compared to direct action, ethical consideration is a folly (Elton 152). Goneril sees her husband as a mild man who thinks too much before he takes action. Stressing the body, rather than the soul, her scale of human value is measured in terms of force and physical virtu… (Elton 152). Goneril plots to have her husband killed so that she can belong to Edmund. She asks Edmund himself to carry out the murder.

Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. You have many opportunities to cut him off. If your will want not, time and place will be fruitfully offered. There is nothing done if he return the conqueror. Then am I the prisoner, and his bed my goal; from the loathed warmth whereof deliver me, and supply place for your labor

(IV. iiiiii. 262-268).

Albany eventually realizes the abnormal villainy within his wife. At one point he calls her a fiend. Her ruthlessness that has shined through does not attract Albany to his wife, but instead it causes him to be passive to her suggestions and to form opposite opinions from her.

The ungratefulness of Lear s children is one of the major themes presented. Goneril exhibits this quality as much as her sister Regan does. Goneril uses flattery to attain her third of Lear s kingdom as well as to cause Lear to believe that Goneril possesses goodness. She eventually ends up leaving her father outside in the raging storm without shelter. She tells her father that she has no room for his train of knights and servants. Goneril and Regan take all of Lear s power away. Goneril assists in Lear s arrest when she does nothing to stop it. Lear dies knowing her true evilness. He regrets his foolishness for dividing his kingdom the way he did and for believing such false testimonies.

Goneril represents all the evilness, selfishness, and ungratefulness in society. She is a heathen villainess, sprung fully grown from the head of the Renaissance Machiavel,… (Elton 153). Goneril s evilness reciprocates to destroy her in the end. She commits suicide after her sister, who is also her aid in her rise to power, dies from the poison Goneril gives to her. Goneril loses the love of Lear and her sister Cordelia. She loses the respect of her husband. Lastly, Goneril betrays her own sister with her selfishness. Her selfishness, ruthlessness, and ungratefulness do not get her far in her quest for happiness and power.


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