Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
There aren't any steamy loves scenes in Lear so you definitely won't be fanning yourselves with your copy of the play as you read. That said, the play is full of disturbing sexual language and imagery. We have King Lear to thank for that – the guy has got some serious issues and thinks that all women are disgusting sexual monsters (especially his daughters). Check out what he has to say about women:
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above; But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends';
There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah! (4.6.6)
Hmm. Lear claims that from the waist up, everything appears normal, but down below there's "hell" and "darkness" like a "sulphurous pit." That's not a very healthy view of female sexuality, now is it? Come to think of it, Lear's vividly inaccurate and blatantly sexist description of female anatomy calls to mind the symptoms of a very unpleasant venereal disease – "burning, scalding, stench," and so on. Yuck. It seems that King Lear associates all women with a very unpleasant STD, especially his daughter, Goneril, whose name, as you may have guessed, sounds a whole lot like "gonorrhea."