King Lear [William Shakespeare]: Essay Four [19 out of 25, 2001/2002]


Chris Larham’s essay on King Lear (19 out of 25, 2001/2002) can be opened in a print-friendly text document format here
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KING LEAR – “How does Shakespeare use language to present Goneril, Albany and their relationship?”

{Essay CONTENTS: Goneril – interrogative mood and emotional character; Albany’s analytical nature; Goneril – imperative mood and attitude towards husband; Goneril – use of sarcasm to strengthen argument; Goneril’s attempts to control husband; Goneril’s philosophy on life; Goneril’s single-minded and greedy nature; Albany’s gentle nature; Albany’s resistance to Goneril’s attempts at control; Mutual knowledge of each other’s flaws; Conclusion.}

In saying “Do you mark that?”, Goneril uses an interrogative to convey the incredulity she feels at Lear’s outbursts. Her apparent astonishment suggests that she isn’t one to think deeply (in this case as to why Lear is acting in such a manner); she is emotional and only considers what’s best for her.[^]

Albany’s, “I cannot… love I bear you”, response exemplifies his rational, logical way of thinking; Albany will always want to know the facts before coming to his own, considered conclusions.”[^]

Goneril appears to talk down to Albany when she uses the imperative, “Pray you content.” It’s reminiscent of a domineering mother saying ‘oh don’t worry your little head about it’ to a thoughtful child. She then shows him further disrespect by breaking away from their conversation to talk to her servant, “What Oswald hoa!”[^]

Following an amusing farewell by the Fool, Goneril again tries to persuade Albany that she is correct. She uses sarcasm, “‘Tis politic, and safe to let him keep/ At point a hundred knights”, to strengthen her argument and attempt to remove any traces of doubt left in Albany’s mind.[^]

When Albany implies that she is worrying unnecessarily, “Well, you may fear too far”, Goneril acts quickly to quash his suggestions and reinforce her own beliefs – attempting to dominate and control once again. Goneril doesn’t seem to like adhering to the etiquette of speech turn-taking – Albany is only rarely able to interject.[^]

“Safer than trust too far” sums up Goneril’s philosophy of life. She is very much a member of the ‘attack now, worry later’ school; she is a do-er rather than a thinker.[^]

Goneril again breaks off her conversation to Albany with her own interests at heart, “How now Oswald? What have you writ that letter to my sister?” This constant serving of her own needs hints at her single-minded and greedy nature – she can cast off a conversation when it suits her, just as she casts off her father.[^]

The “milky gentleness” of Albany is deemed to be a fault by Goneril – she believes that wisdom is more important than mildness. Goneril is very active and aggressive.[^]

Albany’s profound rhyming couplet, “How far… mar what’s well” shows that he has his own individual ideas on circumstances, and is the result of deep, analytical thought. Albany shows he will not be forced down avenues he doesn’t believe in when he – somewhat aggressively – interrupts Goneril’s, “Nay then-“, with a closing, final “Well, well, th’event.” Perhaps Albany is stronger than we think…[^]

Goneril and Albany appear to know the other for what they are, and the connotations of certain sections of their speeches apparently pick out the others’ worst qualities. For example, the “milky gentleness” of which Goneril speaks implies uncertainty, indecisiveness and a lack of clarity. One could also infer that she suggests he is a ‘mummy’s boy‘. In Albany’s profound rhyming couplet, he uses the verb “pierce” which has numerous aggressive connotations, and he hints at Goneril’s self-centredness in saying “striving to better, oft we mar what’s well”.[^]

In conclusion, Shakespeare uses language to present Goneril and Albany as contrasting characters, with different opinions and responses to stimuli. Goneril comes across as an impulsive, aggressive ‘do-er’ {hardly surprising, as she’s Lear’s daughter}, while Albany is portrayed as a calm and considered thinker. As a result – despite Goneril’s controlling efforts – their relationship seems a little uneasy.[^]

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Forty-year-old father of three wonderful children [William, Seth, and Alyssa]. Works as an Assistant Technical Officer in the Sterile Services Department of Treliske Hospital, Cornwall. Enjoys jogging, web design, learning programming languages, and supporting Arsenal FC. Obtained a BA degree in English from the University of Bolton in 2008, and has continued to gain qualifications in a diverse range of subjects thereafter.

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Posted in A Level English [A2]

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