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King Lear Essay

1341 words - 6 pages

The Significance of Cordelia’s Silence in King Lear
Cordelia’s silence in King Lear by Shakespeare can be analyzed through different views. Here in this essay I try to criticize this matter through the principles of Kate Millet, Louis Althusser’s hegemony, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, and Michele Foucault’s epitome and language. Although Cordelia’s presence in this play is not much frequent in comparison with the rest of other characters, her silence can reveal exciting information about the historical roots of renaissance. In order to provide a comprehensive approach toward the revelation of the Cordelia’s behavior, I have tried to add historical perspective to all the above mentioned ...view middle of the document...

Cordelia’s sexuality is characterized by humbleness and silence which were the main features of Renaissance time that all women more or less embraced them.
Louis Althusser, the Marxist- Structuralist critic, believed that Family is the first institution of power that defines its members. Cordelia as we know is born into a royal family. Since the royal family is the foundation of power therefore it tries to impose its majesty on the family members then extend it to the whole jurisdiction. Cordelia is entrapped in the world of power. She can’t move freely with in such a realm and her silence signifies her awareness of the Hegemony. Within the system it’s not possible to escape from it. All one can do is to pause the system and then restarting it again. Therefore Cordelia decides to be silent because she knows that by her rejection from the court she can achieve the freedom. But as we know the system doesn’t stop and Cordelia is free temporarily because she is rejected from the court of England and is entered into the Court of France. The intermediary between her rejection from English court and her entrance into the French court is the only moment of freedom that Cordelia achieves by mean of silence.
Cordelia’s silence can also be construed through the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan. He deemed that by the time children enter into the symbolic order, they look at the father as the symbol of social order. The father observes as an agent that children follow the orders and threaten them to castration if they fail in submitting to rules. Girls in comparison with boys have got more access to Imaginary order, during which they used to enjoy the time when they were united with their mothers. According to this view, King Lear is the agent of patriarchal order and he wants to prove his superiority by forcing Cordelia to admit her love to him. Metaphorically, King Lear is trying to preserves his own Phallic Stage and keeps Cordelia under his own jurisdiction. As soon as Cordelia expresses her love, she enters into symbolic order. However, her silence is a revolt against the symbolic order, therefore she violates the phallic stage of the King Lear and tragically she’s doomed to castration which manifests itself by her rejection from the court.
Michele Foucault believed that every historical period is governed with one particular epitome. This epitome establishes the dominant ideology and chooses the language in which the epitome shapes and extends its power. According to this view, epitome, which is very similar to Althusser’s hegemony, identifies the people in the society and establishes their roles through language. In effect, language is device of power. King Lear through his majesty has been governing on his children for a long time. He was a powerful king and brought his children up according to the policy of court. Therefore, his questioning of Cordelia is asinine because love is not bounded in terms of dynastic jurisdiction, however;...

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