When Lear asks his three daughters to convey their love for him Goneril responds “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;/ Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;”. These words, we understand, do not come from genuine feeling but from a desire to gain land. Indeed Goneril is aware that her father loves Cordelia the most :he always loved our sister most;” and that the whole performance is false yet she know that flattery will bring rewards and so she complies. Once she has her reward Goneril turns upon her father resulting him being left homeless upon the heath.
Goneril’s decision to tell her father how much she loved him despite knowing that he loved Cordelia the most is the first illustration of her willingness to do whatever it takes to gain power. Shortly after this she plots with her sister in how they should deal with Lear and later she ensures that her father is treated poorly by Oswald “Put on what weary negligence you please”. This emphasises the falseness of her words in the opening scene and the fact that she does not really love him. Goneril’s true evil though is most clearly observed in the plucking out of Gloucester’s eyes. This scene is truly shocking and Goneril is not just a passive observer but encourages the actions with her call to “Pluck out his eyes”. Her poisoning of her sister Regan should therefore not surprise us. It seems that her desire to get what she wants, in this case Edmund, means that she will stop at nothing. While her suicide may suggest that she feels regret, many critics believe that it is just a way to prevent her having to face what he has done.
After the professions of love Goneril is seen conspiring with Regan about how best to deal with Lear and his knights. They are clear that they will show no leniency towards him despite his age and this is then evident when Goneril conspires with Oswald so that he will behave in a way that will irritate Lear. Later in the play Goneril is involved with the terrible treatment of Gloucester again showing her as being central in the conspiracy against him.
- Is Goneril an evil character?
- Your answer should include: Tortures / Gloucester / Kills / Sister / Manipulates / Father