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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: May ::
Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0326  Tuesday, 8 May 2007

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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 	Date: 	Wednesday, 02 May 2007 12:48:20 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

[2] 	From: 	Brad Berens <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 03 May 2007 06:23:49 -0700
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 02 May 2007 12:48:20 -0400
Subject: 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

>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.

These comments (and some others in the thread as well) highlight the 
dangers of applying contemporary psychoanalytic techniques to early modern 
literary characters.  Ed Taft seems to suggest that the sisters' birth 
order and supposed differences in the paternal affections they received 
gave Goneril a preference for weak men while Regan preferred strong ones. 
If that were so, it would be likely that Regan would exhibit other 
submissive characteristics, but she does not.  Then, having made this 
point in the absence of any real evidence in the text, Ed has to strain to 
explain why the sisters (with supposedly diametrically opposed 
personalities and preferences in men) should both fall in love with Edmund 
[not Edgar, of course].

There probably are personality differences between the sisters, as they 
are more finely wrought than many of the characters in the early plays -- 
for example, how can we distinguish between Chiron and Demetrious (or 
Demetrious and Lysander for that matter).  But the differences are subtle, 
and any stark differentiation will depend on directorial and actorial 
choices.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Brad Berens <
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Date: 		Thursday, 03 May 2007 06:23:49 -0700
Subject: 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0308 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

If I may weigh in on this, it is, I think, worth pointing out that 
Shakespeare never expected the primary manner in which people would 
interact with his plays to be via reading. Onstage, the boy playing 
Goneril and the boy playing Regan would not double because the two 
characters spend so much time in each other's presence. Different bodies, 
voices and costumes would make it much easier for an audience to keep 
track of which sister is which, not to mention that the Regan's sadistic 
Cornwall is vastly different than Albany, and proximity to their husbands 
would also make it easier to distinguish among the daughters.

All best,
Brad Berens

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