REGAN ‘I am alone felicitate in your dear highness’ love.’
Biography: • Second eldest daughter of King Lear. • Wife of the Duke of Cornwall, with him she receives a portion of Lear’s kingdom. • Before Lear visits Regan’s home she has Kent, disguised as Caius, put in stocks for quarrelling with Oswald (Her Steward). • When Lear begins to impose on her household, she takes the same line as her sister – lear finds that, now he has transferred his power to her, Regan no longer respects him. This causes Lear to run out into the storm in an angry paroxysm.
Biography continued • Edmund reveals that Gloucester had written to France asking for help against them, Cornwall, Regan’s husband, gouges out his eyes but one of her servants attacks and wounds him. • Regan murders the seditious culprit, informs Gloucester of his son’s betrayal and casts him out into the storm. • Regan and Goneril strike up a jealous competition for Edmund and later meet with the forces of Albany and Edmund to fight the invading army of France (Cordelia). • Regan announces that she plans to marry Edmund but Albany reveals to her the affair between Goneril and Edmund. • Regan suddenly collapses and expires and it is later revealed by Goneril, before she stabs herself, that she poisoned her sister out of spite and resentment.
Personality/relationships: • Equally as cruel as her sister, Goneril, and as ruthless and aggressive. She is unscrupulous, vindictive, malicious, manipulative and adulterous. • (‘Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus! Kills him.’) • Throughout the majority of the play there aren’t many factors to distinguish her from Goneril except their rivalry for the heart of Edmund. This jealousy leads to her poisoning by Goneril. • (To Edmund) ‘I create thee here my lord and master […] let the drum strike and prove my title thine’ (Albany) ‘Your claim, fair sister, I bar it in the interest of my wife. ‘Tis she is subcontracted to this lord’. • ‘Sick, O sick’ … ‘My sickness grows upon me’ (later) Goneril’s and Regan’s bodies are brought out. ‘Who dead, speak man’ ‘Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister by her is poisoned: she confesses it.’
Character analysis: • To the Jacobean audience, the aggressiveness of both Regan and Goneril would have been highly shocking in a woman; the Renaissance ideal of woman was that they were submissive and quiet. • Regan’s insubordination against her father would have been equally as shocking. • During the reign of Elizabeth I, the general consensus on women was rapidly changing, she famously said, ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’. This notion is reflected in the strength of character of the two sisters; they are invested with the power of kings and yet are still subject to the jealousy and emotion of women. (Although it is shown to be their downfall). • Regan and Goneril’s behaviour becomes more and more animalistic and predatory, their demise is ultimately cathartic. Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey
Character analysis: • Regan displays the attributes of the Choleric temperament; she is ambitious, determined, energetic and bellicose and her charisma is displayed in her political mind. • Regan is a suitable match for her husband, the Duke of Cornwall; he is domineering, cruel and malevolent and partakes in the persecution of Lear and Gloucester, unlike the Duke of Albany who is described as ‘milk-livered’. • Knowing this partnership, Edmund was probably better disposed to conduct an affair with Goneril, as he knew that Albany was too mild to protest. • Regan epitomises the struggles of relationships and the difficulties of family power struggles. • According to Freud and Jung’s Elektra complex, the theory of ‘penis envy’ seems to be applicable to Regan, she feels envy of the natural power which comes with being a man in King Lear and remedies this by aquiring power through unnatural means. Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey
Continued: • In the beginning, both Regan and Cornwall appear to be conscientious and reasonable people. Regan appears genuinely upset to learn of Edgar's betrayal. Thus, Regan initially appears as the more sympathetic and gentler sister. • She greets her father with politeness, but her deportment is deceptive. Regan has no real reverence for her father and king, as her subsequent actions reveal, but Regan is more competent than Goneril at deception, more easily assuming the mantle of deference and politeness that a gracious daughter is expected to exhibit. • Regan's plucking of Gloucester's beard reinforces the point that she has no respect for age or rank. In contrast to her basic inhumanity, Regan shows some real humanity, though briefly, when Cornwall is wounded. Regan's concerns that Gloucester should be relieved of his misery indicates that she is aware of public opinion and concerned that her subjects support her actions. Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey