Significantly before the Glorious Revolution (around 1580-1630) (Lewis 1), the treatment of the lower class people and women was highly violent due to the blame cast on them for the recent problems that arose during this time (before Thirty Years’ War and during Protestant Reformation). Kings treated the lower class servants and peasants like little dogs, and women were shown as very detrimental to society due to the lack of work they could not do due to their discrimination in society.
In the play King Lear, which was written by the famous English playwright William Shakespeare, these problems are shown just within the beginning of the play and are carried on as the play progresses. The eponymous main character in the play, King Lear, has a servant named Kent, who is treated harshly even when Kent gives the king some good advice on some problems relating to gender. This is due to King Lear’s hatred against those that disobeys him, and when it comes to women, the king will get even more mad than normal.
Because Kent wanted the king to treat his daughters fairly in a problem the king was facing, Kent was fired due to what was King Lear thought was absurd judgement. The problem that got Kent fired was a problem in which the King had to split his land among his three daughters: Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan. Goneril and Regan both win the likes of their father, so they were able to receive land from the king.
However, Cordelia was not able to win the likes of her father, so as a result, Cordelia is disowned by her father. A reason for this disowning was that Cordelia was the king’s daughter which meant that she had to obey many strict rules in front of the king. Another reason for this was because Cordelia was a woman, which meant that Cordelia would be given harsh treatment if Cordelia makes just one mistake. King Lear shows Shakespeare’s thoughts on women in Europe using his comedic and tragic ways to question the life he was witnessing and living in.King Lear, is a play written by William Shakespeare circa 1606 and takes place in ancient England in which the eponymous main character, King Lear, rules a kingdom on the west side of England. In the time Shakespeare wrote this novel, QUESTION 1: King Lear, is a play written by William Shakespeare circa 1606 and takes place in ancient England. The play features a trend that existed well before the 21st century about the theme of women’s roles in society. In Shakespeare’s time when he wrote this novel, many big milestones had happened in English history.
For example, in 1534, King Henry VIII created the Church of England due to a dispute between the king and the pope about a divorce. King Henry VIII had 3 legitimate children that ruled over England at least for a year (Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I). Coincidentally, King Lear in the play has 3 children which were all women by the names of Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan. Another milestone that happened was the reign of Elizabeth I. Before Elizabeth ruled England, Edward VI had a short reign from 1547 to 1553 (Hampton 1) due to an illness he got in 1553. He was then replaced by Mary I, who tried to purge all those who were following a newly religion other than Roman Catholicism (Protestants), thus earning the nickname “Bloody Mary” after she killed over 300 of those followers. “Bloody Mary” was viewed as evil to the Protestants due to her purging of them, but all Mary I wanted to do was bring back old traditions to Europe, no matter how bad they were, so that Mary could be viewed as the ultimate leader of England.
Elizabeth I, the third child of Henry VIII, was able to become Queen of England when Mary I died with her unborn child she was going to have with her husband, Philip II of Spain. As Queen of England, she enacted many policies that allowed England to prosper and allowed Elizabeth I to be known as one of the greatest monarchs in European history. Elizabeth I was not only friendly and nice with the people of England, but also listened to them and helped make England a better place to live and trade with. However, there were many killings in the events known as the witch trials. People who were killed in the witch trials were accused of performing witchcraft, which could not only disrupt the normal rituals that people in Europe conducted everyday, but the religious rituals that they performed as well. Women were the main targets of being a witch as they were weak at that time and could not defend for themselves.
Shakespeare would agree with all of this witch trials as he is shown to be a misogynist based on the lines that he has given King Lear which undermine a woman’s position in society. For example, a few of the lines that he says are, “Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear! Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend To make this creature fruitful. Into her womb convey sterility. Dry up in her the organs of increase, And from her derogate body never spring A babe to honor her!” (King Lear 1.4.261-267).
In this quote, King Lear tries to curse his oldest daughter, Goneril, after she displeases the king by asking him to lessen the number of knights that he has at his service. Because the king is very offended by this, he decides to move to the other daughter’s (Regan’s) palace. On the way to the palace, Lear says this quote, in which he tries to say that Goneril should not be blessed with a child due to the fact that she seemed very “evil” toward King Lear.
However, as society in Europe changed over the next few centuries, the trend of hate against women vanished as women proved themselves to be crucial to society in the movements that came along in European history, such as the Enlightenment and the Romantic era, where philosophers around Europe came up with ideas, theories, and art forms that demonstrated how life should be and what values people should follow. QUESTION 2: As the play progresses, the reader learns that not all the conflicts going on in the play are only social (demeaning women), but in which some are also political. This is because one of the secondary characters, Edmund, fights for his place as the Earl of Gloucester. Before Edmund came up with the desire for that spot, he was born as the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester.
Therefore, he was not eligible to the spot, which caused Edmund to feel very jealous of his brother, Edgar, who was eligible for that spot in the nobility of England. QUESTION 3:QUESTION 4: The protagonist of this play is the eponymous man known by the name of the one and only, King Lear. In this play, he is shown to be a very strict ruler of the English kingdom due to his standards that the people around him have to follow. For example, Cordelia, King Lear’s youngest child, fails to appease the king when she is given an offer to receive a third of the kingdom’s land from the king. As a result, King Lear banishes her from the kingdom, where she is to live with her husband, the King of France, for the rest of her life. However throughout the play, many people are shown to risk their lives for him. For example, King Lear’s ex-servant, Kent, will return back to the kingdom as a disguised men just so that the new character can help King Lear think about his decisions, and how King Lear may be wrong about some the things that he has done. King Lear is also shown to be very trusting toward his other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, after Cordelia is banished from the kingdom.
Due to this, Goneril and Regan try to use this trait of King Lear to their advantage by trying to steal more land from the beloved king. Their first try to discredit the king was revealed when Regan says, ” ‘Tis the infirmity of his age. Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.” (Lr. 1.1.293-294). This quote is said after Cordelia leaves with her new husband, the King of France, with Goneril and Regan knowing that King Lear made a bad choice of banishing Cordelia from the kingdom.
Regan was trying to say that the king is becoming very weak, and is unable to understand his own feelings about the things around him. This allows Goneril and Regan to take advantage of the king and try to make him lose his power so that the two sisters can emerge as the leaders of the kingdom. Another thing about King Lear is that he worries more about appearance rather than the actual reality of things.QUESTION 5: There is not just antagonist, but many antagonists, that play a huge part in the conflicts that revolve around King Lear and the secondary characters in this play. The first antagonists in this play are the two older daughters of King Lear, Goneril and Regan. As stated before, both want to discredit the king so that the two sisters could take the throne and become the supreme sister leaders of England. Goneril and ReganQUESTION 6:QUESTION 7:QUESTION 8: QUESTION 9:QUESTION 10:Works Cited”Henry VIII’s Children.” Historic Royal Palaces, www.
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349–359., doi:10.1080/00497878.1989.9978774.Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage, Since 1300. Pearson, 2014.
Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Witch Hunts: Timeline of the European History and Its Roots.” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.
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