It was a little difficult to relate King Lear to the topics that we have covered in the semester. Finally, after some thought, I decided to select Act II and relate it to the feminist critics discussed.
Helene Cixous in “sorties” states that “Either the woman is passive; or she doesn’t exist. What is left is unthinkable, unthought of. She does not enter into the opposition, she is not coupled with father” (pg 230). Women, in the past, were perceived as obedient and submissive. These characteristic traits were portrayed as favorable and if women lacked these aspects they were considered as non-existent. In Act two, the women, more specifically Regan and Goneril demonstrated the exact opposite of this notion. They utilized deception to gain priority. The sisters strived to completely dethrone their father. The king’s knights represented power and the sisters, acknowledged this fact, demanded the king to release them from their knightly duties. By eliminating the King of Britain, the women gained excessive amount of power and hence became more salient to the world as well as to the male dominating society. Another way in which they eliminated the king from power was when they sent Kent to the Stocks. Even though King Lear asked his daughters to dismiss him from the device, they refused indicating his lack of power.
Act two can also be perceived as anti-feminist. Luce Irigaray states “Man and woman, woman and man are therefore always meeting as though for the first time since they cannot stand in for one another. I shall never take the place of a man, never will a man take mine” (pg 238). The sisters, in a discrete fashion, strived to become the opposite sex. They could have gained power and rights to the country with out striving to deliberately belittle their father. This notion is also perceived through their relationship with their husbands. It seems as if they dominated that relationship as well. They refuse to listen to their spouses when they ask them to treat their father in a more kindly fashion. However, in order to gain power, according to Irigaray, once must remain in their own position and never strive to become the opposite sex.