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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Essay About Criticism Of Shakespeares Plays - 1016 words
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Essay About Criticism of Shakespeare's Plays When attempting to read criticism of Shakespeare plays one idea isclear: if the review was written more than five or ten years ago the essay islikely to be exclusive when it comes to the women in Shakespeare. Littleattention had been given to the women of Shakespeare prior to the seventiesfeminist movement. The women in King Lear deserve attention just as women inevery Shakespearean play do. A common idea among critics is that the womenperpetuated evil and were not worthy of acknowledgment for anything else.Goneril and Regan are believed to be vicious, evil women and Cordelia the small,sweet daughter and while this interpretation may be true there are other aspectsto consider which are not typically presented when reviewing these femalecharacters. Each of these women is worthy of acclaim for her strengths ofcharacter as well as in opposition to the male characters and various subplotswithin Lear. A common interpretation of Lear is one of the juxtaposition of good andevil within the play. Many traditional critics have made this idea theirprimary focus in interpretations which often ignores the feminist and classconscious theme that are also present in King Lear.
Most recent criticalessays of King Lear do make note of the class struggle within the play; however,critics tend to ignore the gender struggles which upon thorough reading areclearly as obvious as the class issues. I have chosen an interpretation of KingLear from 1960, by Irving Ribner and set it in contrast with a 1991 review byAnn Thompson. There are some interesting points made in both essays and somestark differences in 'what and who' are the important themes and characters inLear. In Irving Ribner's essay, "The Pattern of Regeneration in King Lear,"Ribner focuses on Lear's regeneration as a result of the "suffering" he mustundergo(Ribner 116). In the opening section of his essay, Ribner makes clearthat he will approach his interpretation of King Lear from the perspective ofLear's spiritual rebirth
Ribner focuses attention on the suffering of Lear andof the process of rebirth through suffering that Lear is able to do. Lear isindeed the tragic hero but must go through great pains to achieve such notoriety.As Lear's madness progresses he is able to come closer to his epiphany. Learbecomes humble and succumbs to the fact that perhaps he is imperfect as fatherand king(Ribner 127-129). Humility is necessary for Lear's regeneration and itis through his process of pain that he is able to achieve rebirth(Ribner 128). In Ribner's introduction to his study of Shakespeare, he states, "Tragedy is an exploration of man's relation to the forces of evil in the world.It seeks for answers to cosmic problems, much as religion seeks them, for it isa product of man's desire to believe in a purposive ordered universe"(Ribner 1).From this introduction it seems clear that Ribner will be examining the forcesof good and evil within Shakespeare. Later Ribner states in his Lear essay that,"if Shakespeare is to assert the power of man to overcome evil, the forces ofevil must be shown in their most uncompromising terms"(Ribner 116). Ribnerproceeds to present the forces of evil in terms of the behavior of Edmund,Cornwall, Goneril and Regan.
Ribner goes on to state that the primary focus ofthe play is on Lear himself with the other characters serving "secondarysupporting functions, each symbolic of some force of good and evil"(Ribner 117).Ribner views the behavior of Cordelia, Edgar, Kent and the Fool as theantithesis to the evil doings of the other characters. In Ribner's study ofKing Lear the forces representing evil are most clearly examined through thebehavior of Goneril and Regan with occasional references to Edmund and Cornwall.While Ribner does use Edmund as a representative of evil, he also excuses Edmundbased on his background of illegitimacy. Ann Thompson later criticizes thecritics who let Edmund 'off the hook' based on his background. Ribner places his critique in historical context of the Jacobeanresponse to the play. He is careful to note what 'would be' reactions inspecific instances may have been vastly different than contemporary reactions.Ribner makes it clear that in Jacobean England the political reactions to Lear'sresignation of the throne would have resulted in turmoil for the audience andthat they would have been far less influenced by his banishment of his daughter,Cordelia(Ribner 118-119).
A political interpretation of Shakespeare is whatRibner seems to be driving towards. He makes clear what the historical andpolitical interpretations would have been when King Lear was first staged. Ribner pays little attention to the women of King Lear other than toaccuse Goneril and Regan of villainy(Ribner 119). There is little reference oCordelia other than the impact of her final scene with her father. Thereconciliation with Cordelia is noted by Ribner with this scene being the mostnotorious scene for a female character in Lear.
Ribner does not ignore thewomen completely but repeatedly refers to Goneril and Regan as vicious, cruelwomen(Ribner 123-125). Ribner primarily focuses his attention on thetraditionally visible ideas when criticizing Shakespeare--the patriarchal valuespresented therein. Ribner's essay is representative of the patriarchal frontand does not give adequate attention to the female experience in Lear. In hisessay, Ribner completely ignores the possibility that Cordelia has undergone herown process of rebirth and regeneration. He presents quite an insightful essayon regeneration and rebirth--a commonly feminine ideal but has left out thefemale experience of that ideal.
Ann Thompson's essay, "Are There any Women in King Lear?," is centeredaround the debate of the relationship between various forms of historical andmaterialist criticism and feminist criticism of Shakespeare texts. Thompson hasdivided her essay into three important sections, each focussing on a differentaspect of King Lear. First, she begins with "The Family Quarrel Revisited"which is an analysis of the relationship between feminist criticism and variousforms of historical and materialist criticism of late. In this section of heressay, Thompson does not mention any specific characters from Lear. Thompsonmakes a point of mentioning that the critics most intent on analyzing thepolarization of these forms of criticism are women and that male new historicistcritics have been reluctant to respond. An argument Thompson brings up is thatwhile feminist critics a ...
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