Goneril – Praying Mantis style love

In act one we see Goneril proclaim her love for her father. She claims to love him “more than words can wield”(1.1.53) and continues to elaborate from there. King Lear believes her proclamation and leaves her her share of his estate. Goneril tells her sister Cordelia “You have obedience scanted,/and well are worth the want that you are wanted.” (1.1.279-280) The footnote explains that this means “and you deserve to get no more love (from your husband) than you have given (to your father)” (footnote p. 2499). This proves a very ironic lecture as Goneril shows her “obedience” and “love” throughout the play.

Goneril complains about her father’s knights staying at her palace “that this our court, infected with their manners, / shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust / make it more like a tavern or brothel / than a graced palace.”(1.4.219-221). At this point she is setting herself up for dismissing his knights. What a way to to show her love and obedience to him.
After dismissing half of King Lear’s men, Goneril sent word to Regan that she fears “he may enguard his dotage with their [his knights] powers, and hold our lives in mercy.” (1.4.304-305) adding “and thereto add such reasons of your own / as may compact it more.” (1.4.316-317). Goneril asks Oswald to embellish her lie to make it more threatening sounding to Regan. Ahh true love.

Goneril throws her father out into a storm and blames him “Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest, / and must needs taste his folly.” (3.1.285-286). A lesson “beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;”(1.1.55)

This “love more than than words”(1.1.53) extends beyond her father to her husband. Goneril mustn’t be greedy with her love so she shares it with Edmund. She courts him with phrases and actions such as “a mistress’s command”(4.2.20) and actions of a kiss. She complains that “my fool usurps my body.”(4.2.28). Goneril feels that her husband is a fool and thinks he owns her giving her the right to be adulterous. Her “love” and “obedience” is really clear here. Albany sees this and calls her on it, something that may save his life later in the play.

The cold “love” spreads to Gloucester. When Goneril hears the news of Gloucester’s eyes being cut out she responds “One way I like this well;”(4.2.85) Well, she did say she loved her father more than “eye-sight, space, and liberty”(1.1.54). She didn’t mention whose eye-sight….

If this is how Goneril expresses her love I’m curious who else she loves and what their fates will be. Her sisters? Edmund? Will we find out about any other “loves” of Goneril?


One thought on “Goneril – Praying Mantis style love

  1. maggylynn

    Shakespeare really set up much of the play in Goneril’s proclamation of her love for Lear. It is interesting the correlation you draw between “eye-sight, space, and liberty” and Gloucester’s fate. She has already controlled more space than what was rightfully hers, as a third of the land should have gone to Cordelia. I don’t if she has directly taken away someone’s liberty (yet), but surely Lear has taken away his own liberty. His abdication gave his daughters power, and he made himself a subject, losing the extent of freedom he once had.


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