The Patriarchal Tyranny
The Patriarchal Tyranny of King Lear is very different to the the way Britain is ran today. In Britain, the head of the Monarchy is the Queen, but in Pagan times, women had very little influence, and the influence they had was through their husbands. However, women’s genetics have never changed – we have always been as strong as we were then, except for the fact that women were oppressed into their stations.
We can see this in the characters of Goneril, Regan and even Cordelia. Goneril and Regan weren’t addressed until Lear wanted his daughters to tell him they loved him. This could summarise the societal idea that women were only there to serve men’s reign. Goneril and Regan were there to produce heirs and assist their husbands while they took care of the politics, in theory. The reality was very different for their characters, because they are considered to be among the strongest female characters in any of Shakespeare’s plays.
Cordelia, likewise, isn’t given time to speak and be listened to. Though she doesn’t experience this in the same way as her ‘evil’ sisters, she is ignored. The second she underplays her love for her father, she is banished without him really listening to her reasoning. Her voice isn’t relevant but her forgiveness and love in the end of the play is.
I said before, is the head of the British Monarchy is the Queen, however, in Pagan times, women had very little influence within their society. The King’s daughters would never have been allowed to be reigning monarch of England, as happened with Elizabeth II after George VI.
The Peerage was a system in which titles were passed through generations and the country was ran by these families under the monarch. The men in these families would mostly have guided the King in a political way, however some would have ran cities further from the King’s reach.
Old Age, Illness and Death:
In Lear’s opening speech, we are immediately introduced to the idea that at old age comes along with a helpless weakness. He will “crawl” towards his “death” as though it is something inevitable as well as something you struggle towards. While babies crawl towards growth and the ability to walk and live, he will crawl in a way that seems grotesque and sinister towards either a grave or a hooded figure.
From the moment he announces his goal to crawl towards his death, he begins to struggle in life. He falls first when with Goneril, second when with Regan, mightily while he is on the Heath, until finally he is brought to Cordelia – the only person he believed did ever love him honestly. He seems to see her as almost an angel, or a mother, something of comfort, beauty and peace.
In the modern world, old age can likewise come quickly. Mental illnesses can cause people to forget who loves them – their families. It can make people untrusting and alone, much as what becomes of Lear when he is alone with just his fool on the Heath. He has no family, no people worshipping and loving him as before. It leaves him alone and feeling meaningless. We all witnessed how much he relied on the admiration in his court as well as his hundred knights. Without these people, he is empty and feels meaningless.