In the Elizabethan times, William Shakespeare's expression of the views of women were not uncommon and would come into conflict with the impression of women we have in the 21st century. Shakespeare develops the ideal viewpoint to be the non-existence of a rational woman. In King Lear, Shakespeare does not create a realistic female character; rather the females are exceptionally evil or remarkably possess an innocent, good-natured personality. Shakespeare develops this ideal through the use of imagery, actions of the female characters and the portrayal of the roles that a woman should play in society.
Imagery is used to develop the nature of women created by Shakespeare. Various imagery patterns are used to describe the evilness of Goneril and Regan. This especially becomes evident upon the betrayal of King Lear. Both daughters develop a scheme to refuse refuge of their father in their homes. King Lear pleads his case against Regan to Goneril in saying: .
She hath abated me of half my train,.
Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue,.
Most serpentlike, upon the very heart" (2.4 157-160).
King Lear compares his daughter's attack with the sting of a snake with its tongue. This shows such women to be venomous or poisonous and exposes Regan's evil character to the audience. Shakespeare goes further to describe the extent, to which a father would go to cause his daughter harm and calls upon a punishment for her in saying:.
"You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames.
Into her scornfully eyes! Infect her beauty,.
You fen-sucked fogs, drawn by the powerful sun.
To fall and blister her pride." (2.4 164-167).
Lear is calling on nature to blind his daughter and abolish her pride. This explicit decree by Lear shows the deviance of Regan and the degree of disrespect that is given to her father. Lear has reflected the view of the women in this play through imagery patterns.
The actions of the females add to the contrast in persona of the women in the play.