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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Does Goneril Commit Suicide?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2569  Thursday, 7 November 2001

From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Nov 2001 17:01:45 -0500
Subject:        Does Goneril Commit Suicide?

In King Lear 5.3, a Gentleman enters to announce: "O, she's dead!"
Albany asks "Who dead?" And the Gentleman answers: "Your lady, sir, your
lady; and his sister/By her is poisoned; she confesses it."  Edmund
assumes that Goneril "slew herself" (Arden edition 5.3.223-240).

However, several of my students doubt Edmund's assumption.  How does he
know?  He's been onstage.  And they assume that Regan, when she realizes
that she's been poisoned, stabs Goneril.  Rather than murder/suicide,
there are two murders.  After all, Regan has already stabbed a
rebellious servant. Why not do in her sister?

I haven't done a search of all the literature, but Foakes doesn't
entertain the idea, even to reject it.  Ditto G. K. Hunter.  Is there
any good evidence that Goneril commits suicide?  Albany says that "she's
desperate" (159), but Goneril claims that "the laws are mine" (156), and
asks who can arraign her.  That doesn't sound suicidal to my ear.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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