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King Lear Theme of Gender

There's a reason that King Lear isn't taught in Feminism 101... unless it's being held up as an example of misogyny.

In King Lear, women are often seen as emasculating, disloyal, promiscuous, and the root of all the problems in the world. King Lear in particular has serious issues with women—when his daughters, Goneril and Regan, betray him, he begins a diatribe against women, particularly female sexuality, that echoes throughout the play.

Questions About Gender

  1. What kinds of roles do women have in King Lear?
  2. There's plenty of talk about mothers in King Lear, but mothers are ultimately absent (as characters) in the play. What's up with that?
  3. What is King Lear's attitude toward his daughters? Does his attitude spill over onto all women?
  4. How do characters in the play view female sexuality (in a positive or negative light)? What textual evidence would you use to back up your claim?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When Lear's daughters betray him after he has given them his kingdom, he feels as though he has been emasculated—according to Lear, Goneril and Regan strip their father of his "manhood."

King Lear views female sexuality as horrific and terrifying and, since Lear believes that most women are promiscuous, he also believes that most women are monsters.

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