The Female Protagonist of King Lear: No Fate For Cordelia Book Review

The Female Protagonist of King Lear: No Fate For Cordelia
An analysis of the character of Cordelia in William Shakespeare's "King Lear".
# 149347 | 1,658 words | 1 source | MLA | 2009 | CA
Published on Dec 11, 2011 in Drama and Theater (English) , English (Analysis) , Shakespeare (King Lear)

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This paper discusses how the plot of Cordelia in "King Lear" does not follow the generic pattern of either a romance or a tragedy and how this is in opposition to the male characters of Lear, Gloucester, Edmund and Edgar, whose plot trajectories all conform to the generic structure of tragedy, romance or a combination of both. It examines how, by comparing Cordelia's lack of adherence to a generic plot with the male characters' conformity to genre, it becomes apparent that Shakespeare is emphasizing Cordelia's agency and free will and how, unlike the male characters, Cordelia does not blame the Gods or fate for her misfortunes. The paper looks at how Cordelia's plot is not depicted as arbitrarily arching up and down as if on a string that is pulled at the whim of an indifferent God and how rather, it is her choices and actions that directly cause the events of her plotline. The paper also argues that ultimately, the failure of Cordelia's plot to follow a generic structure is employed by Shakespeare to disavow the existence of fate in shaping the course of human existence.

From the Paper:

"The trajectory of Cordelia's plot does not conform to the generic structure of either romance or tragedy because there is never a significant change in her status. Cordelia's plot functions on a system of tradeoffs, meaning that she never suffers a loss or a misfortune without also receiving a gain. This plot structure of tradeoffs results in her status never changing and her action never really rising or falling since a fall is always cancelled out by a rise and vice versa. The first trade-off occurs at the beginning of the play when Cordelia is disowned by Lear for her failure to falsely flatter him (1.1). Initially, Cordelia has suffered a significant loss of status, both in an economic sense by losing her inheritance and in a social sense as she is no longer the daughter of a king. However, this initial loss of status is soon countered by the gain of a new position when France decides to marry her despite her banishment and loss of inheritance. "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Shakespeare, William. "King Lear." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 1139 - 1227. Print. 6 vols.

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