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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: May ::
Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0308  Wednesday, 2 May 2007

[1] 	From: 	Alberto Cacicedo <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 19 Apr 2007 23:33:04 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[2] 	From: 	Colin Cox <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 19 Apr 2007 20:35:15 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[3] 	From: 	S. L Kasten <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 11:21:11 +0200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[4] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 09:19:48 -0400
	Subj: 	Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[5] 	From: 	David Richman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 10:21:33 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[6] 	From: 	Aaron Azlant <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 12:10:34 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[7] 	From: 	Bruce Young <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 11:06:48 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[8] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 20:31:17 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[9] 	From: 	Charles Weinstein <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 21 Apr 2007 11:08:58 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Alberto Cacicedo <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 19 Apr 2007 23:33:04 -0400
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

 >The characters Goneril and Regan seem so alike.  That there are two
 >on the "Lear" side to match the one Edmund on the "Gloucester" side
 >seems to be justified only by the need for the Cornwall-Albany
 >conflict to carry the idea of disorder resulting from Lear's
 >foolish division of a unified country.
 >
 >How are these characters  otherwise to be distinguished? She
 >names my very deed of love.  The most precious square of sense.

She names my very deed of love.  The most precious square of sense. What 
need one?  One side will mock the other; the other too.

Those are each Regan lines--more sensual, meaner, nastier.

Al Cacicedo
Albright College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Thursday, 19 Apr 2007 20:35:15 -0700
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

There are quite subtle differences between the two sisters. Of course, a 
lot of this depends on the nature of the two actors that portray the 
roles but even in the lines they are there. Goneril shows many of the 
characteristics of an eldest child, and Regan that of the middle child. 
Cordelia, very clearly, is the youngest child.

Colin Cox

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		S. L Kasten <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 11:21:11 +0200
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

  >The characters Goneril and Regan seem so alike.  That there are two on
 >the "Lear" side to match the one Edmund on the "Gloucester" side seems
 >to be justified only by the need for the Cornwall-Albany conflict to
 >carry the idea of disorder resulting from Lear's foolish division of a
 >unified country. How are these characters otherwise to be distinguished?

 From the Archives:

On 13 Feb 1997  (SHK 8.0203)   Jameela Ann Lares 
<
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 > Asked:

"One of my students, a theatre major, is going to be Regan in the 
university production here, and has asked me about resources for 
researching her character.  I'd appreciate your help on advising her, 
including titles and comments on past productions.  Thanks."

 From SHK8.0210 Thursday, 13 Feb 1997 Harry Hill 
<
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 > answered:

"No amount of research beyond a careful sensitivity to her words will 
yield anything up, in my view. She is a consonantal woman, unlike her 
sister Goneril who is a bid-mouthed vowelly person. I think a key to her 
resides in the neatness and self-containment of ...find I am alone 
felicitate In your dear Highness' love and its preceding Than the most 
precious square of sense possesses. Physically: look at Diana Rigg's 
face as it now is, and you've got the human type that feels and looks 
the way those words and constructions sound." Harry Hill

This response by Harry Hill is one of the many gems that has made this 
list worthwhile for me.

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 09:19:48 -0400
Subject: 	Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Louis Swilley remarks, "The characters Goneril and Regan seem so alike."

Well, no, they don't. Regan is a copy-cat who is less intelligent than 
Goneril and seemingly full of anger and rage (both words are in her name).

We can infer that these feelings come from the fact that Regan has never 
been Lear's favorite: first there was Goneril, and then later, Cordelia. 
  So Regan feels left out. Moreover, each of the two older daughters 
makes opposite choices in a husband: Goneril chooses a Casper Milktoast, 
Albany, while Regan chooses a rough, ultra-masculine, Lear-like 
Cornwall. Both, of course, fall in love with Edgar, whose overwhelming 
masculinity appears to remind them of Lear when they (and he) were younger.

One function of these daughters' differences AND similarities is to shed 
light in the present (of the play) on the dark past with Lear that made 
them what they are now.

Ed Taft

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Richman <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 10:21:33 -0500
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Don't they suggest two distinct sorts of evil?  Goneril is the woman of 
fierce agency--initiating the adulterous affair with Edmund, fiercely 
opposing her father--"do hourly carp and quarrel"--poisoning her sister 
and plunging the knife into herself.

Regan is the "me too and then some" girl; hypocritically soothing her 
father;--"Her eyes are fierce, but thine / Do comfort and not 
burn."--"What need one?"  starting up with Edmund only after she has 
become a widow, the poisoned, not the poisoner.

Perhaps the distinction is of greater use to actors and directors than 
to scholars?  I'd play Regan (indeed, did suggest the actor play Regan 
when I directed the play) as seeming soft, pliant, quiet-voiced, whose 
loathsomeness is gradually revealed.  I think Bradley described Goneril 
as the elder and more terrible, while he described Regan as the most 
hideous human being, if she is one, Shakespeare ever created.

David Richman

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Aaron Azlant <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 12:10:34 -0400
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Many of the characters in /King Lear/ are reflections of each other in 
some form or fashion: consider the Fool's line in 3.4 about "fools or 
madmen", which describes everybody on stage in that scene, and the 
similarities between Edmund and Edgar as well as the various Dukes and 
Earls in the play. Goneril is generally more ghoulish than Regan ("pluck 
out his eyes!"), but Regan emerges as the better manager; otherwise, for 
all intents and purposes they are as interchangeable as Rosencrantz and 
Guildenstern. For more on this, and the ways in which /Lear/ challenges 
an audience's ability to keep its identities distinct (among a great 
number other things), see _King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition and Tragedy_ 
by Stephen Booth.

--Aaron

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 11:06:48 -0600
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Differences between characters are always a matter of degree, and I 
sometimes feel those who call two characters carbon copies are 
exaggerating to make a point.

In the case of Goneril and Regan, since they are sisters with similar 
aims and attitudes, there are obviously more similarities than average, 
but there are still plenty of differences.  Some of these MAY be 
significant--that is, they may genuinely help individuate the 
characters, whether we are thinking of them as character types, 
psychologically realistic representations of people, or dramatic 
"functions" of some sort.

One difference that comes to mind is illustrated in two passages, both 
from Regan:

1.1.71-72: I find she names my very deed of love; / Only she comes too 
short.

2.4.265: What need one?

In both cases, Regan is competing with her sister and succeeds in 
outdoing her, in the first case by cleverly identifying with Goneril 
(who had seemed to give Lear the ultimate expression of love) and then 
pointedly (but understatedly) noting the deficiency of her sister's 
performance; in the second case by casually reducing the number of 
servants to the lowest possible point (zero).  In both, she is playing 
the dutiful, loving daughter (and sister), but we have reason to suspect 
cold self-interest beneath the appearance.

Maybe because I'm an oldest child, Regan's ploy strikes me as 
appropriate to (I won't say "typical of") a younger sibling.  But even 
if we don't push it that far, I think we can see Regan in both instances 
as one who survives by her wits and who doesn't hesitate to do what it 
takes to win.  We (or an actor taking the part) might interpret her as 
taking some malicious satisfaction in her skill at winning in such 
situations.

There are lots of other things that have to be attended to, though, that 
will complicate this picture.  (For instance, what do we make of her 
stabbing a servant in the back?)  I've identified just one thread out of 
many.  It turns out that in their final competition, over Edmund, 
Goneril is the one who, for a moment, appears to be winning.  But her 
methods are more brutal in this case than Regan's in the other two.

Bruce Young

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 20:31:17 +0100
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Well, they have another obvious function - to fight over Edmund.  But 
the wider meaning of two ugly sisters to one Cinderella could be that 
the majority in the Tudor court were 'yes men'.

 >How are these characters otherwise to be distinguished?

Regan's psychopathy?

Peter Bridgman

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Charles Weinstein <
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 >
Date: 		Saturday, 21 Apr 2007 11:08:58 -0400
Subject: 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0296 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

L. Swilley asks "How are [Goneril and Regan] to be distinguished?"

Rather sharply, I should think.  The older Goneil is aggressive and 
"masculine":  she seeks out and foments confrontation, urging her 
servants to snub Lear in order to force the situation to its crisis. 
Openly disdainful of the weak, she hurls gross insults at her husband 
and father, relishing the chance to dominate and control.  She initiates 
the plan to humble Lear (Regan is more cautious and non-committal) as 
well as the suggestion to pluck out Gloucester's eyes.  And of course it 
is she who kills her sister.  Her way of dealing with the world of men 
is to equal or outdo it in personal force.

The younger and more "feminine" Regan follows a different strategy.  She 
hates the ugliness of scenes, and goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid 
them.  She flees her home at night rather than confront her arriving 
father, and then hides in Gloucester's castle while he repeatedly 
demands an audience. Unable to postpone the meeting any longer, she 
tries to be "tactful," telling Lear, ever so gently, that he really is 
senile and should let others control his life.  Circumspection, 
indirection and flattery are always her preferred modes.  Obviously, she 
is as nasty a piece of goods as her sister; but she is much more 
careful, which is why she dies first. Goneril is a blunt instrument; 
Regan is pretty-poison.

--Charles Weinstein

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