King Lear - Renaissance models of femininity require women to be quite and submissive; Lear's evil daughters Goneril and Regal subvert all excepted codes of filial and feminine behaviour. Discuss?

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The Jacobean age was a time of social and religious change. The feudal, medieval view of the world was under scrutiny and traditional assumptions about gender and class were being questioned by many. One of the main themes of King Lear is filial ingratitude, shown primarily by the attitudes of Goneril and Regan, who also refuse to behave like good, submissive Renaissance women should and were expected to in those days.

The traditional values that make the parent-child relationship natural and wholesome are distorted and destroyed in this play. The order and harmony that usually characterize a stable family are disrupted by the evil designs of the greedy and evil Goneril and Regan as well as Edmund. Lear and Gloucester are both trusting fathers and foolishly believe the words of their evil children and banish the offspring that really love them. As a result of their lack of judgment, both fathers are made destitute by their unappreciative children.

The filial greed and ingratitude shown towards their fathers bring immense suffering to all.

Unfortunately, Lear is the cause of his own problems. He has decided to abdicate the throne and divide the kingdom between his three daughters based on a "love-test". The test takes into account the words used to profess love but not the deeds themselves. As a result, the flattery used by his elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, pleases the King's vanity and massages his ego.

In contrast, his ire is roused by the brief but truthful words of his youngest daughter, Cordelia, "Nothing, my lord." (Cordelia Act 1 Scene 1) Lear proves that he is too vain and self-centred to understand his own children and he pays dearly for the mistake, eventually losing his self-respect, his power and his sanity.

Goneril and Regan, filled with greed and jealousy,