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The Differences of Violence and Sexuality Women’s Role in King Lear

Updated February 23, 2021
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The Differences of Violence and Sexuality Women’s Role in King Lear essay

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In this essay I shall evaluate the Edward Bond’s Lear in terms of ‘’theatre of cruelty’’ by comparing the play with Bond’s other play, Saved. I will begin by taking a closer look at ‘’theatre of cruelty’’ which shows us the lovelessness, and lack of communication and lack of morality of the people in that time. A great deal is being written and said about ‘theatre of cruelty’ but it is a well-known fact that ‘vilonce’ lies at the heart of theatre of cruelty and also it is at the center of these two plays. After ‘theatre of cruelty’, I will give the summaries of the plays and then I will mention about differences between Shakespear’s King Lear and Bond’s Lear, and lastly,I will review the different facts between Lear and Saved. In this essay my aim is to explicate the roles in the name of cruelity, sexuality and power of the female characters, in both plays.

Theatre of Cruelty

The Theatre of Cruelty was first introduced by Antonin Artaud who was born 30 September 1896 in Marseille, France. His theory of drama was something he called the Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty. The Theatre of Cruelty is a surrealist form of theatre, in which Antonin Artaud hope to create unconscious responses in both audience and performers, which were not normally portrayed in regular theatre. There are two prominent features of ’’theatre of cruelty’’, firstly ,to each viewer, crime taste, erotic obsessions, cruel ability, fear, idealistic life and sense of matter, and even cannibalism will provide the truth of the unconscious mind as honest feelings. Secondly ,the text was not as important as the action on the stage.

In additionaly , Artaud’s theater wanted to convey a sense of pain, suffering and evil by using gestures, sounds and symbols instead of words. What is more, Antonin writes about cruelty, “Cruelty connects things together; the different stages of creation are formed by it. Good is always an external façade but the inner façade is evil. Evil will eventually be reduced but only at the final moment when all forms are on the point of returning to chaos. “(Artaud in, Paris 1932). On top of that he says , The cruelty is not exclusively sadistic or bloody (Artaud in, Shumacher, 2001. P. 119).

Saved is a tragicomic play consisting of 13 scenes. Saved, describes the process of the disappearance of a working class family through concepts such as war, unemployment, sexual and emotional dissatisfaction, miscommunication, and hopelessness. The play begins with Len , who is in working-class and lives in the southern part of London, by seducing Pam, the daughter of Harry and Mary, is a type of punk,who runs from one man to another to pass the day. Pam after relieves her sexual satisfaction with Len, loses her interaction and then, begins to be with a young boy named Fred. However, after a short time they break up but, Pam is already pregnant. She wants to gain Fred again, therefore she goes to the park with her baby to see him, and the cruelty of characters begins. In the worst part of the play and, the most disgusting scene is, of course, the killing of a baby in a baby’s car, just for fun by his/her father (Fred) and his friends while there was no reason( in act 5). Harry and Mary, who have been married for many years and who share the same house but they lack of the sense of parenthood and even they can not form a meaningful whole among themselves.

Lear, is a tragic play consist of 3 scenes. In Lear, King Lear is building a wall in order to keep enemies( The Duke of North and Cornwall) out of his kingdom. He believes that only the wall can protect his people.’’So I built this wall to keep our enemies put. My people will live behind this wall when I’am dead’’( Act I,i) . Bondice and Fontanelle ( his daughters) reveal the plans they share with their husbands to attack Lear’s armies. Each of these daughter wanted Warrington, whose tongue has been cut out and needles soaked in his ears by Bondice and Fontanelle,, to betray Lear.

Warrington, comes with a knife, attacks Lear then leaves. At the middle of the play, a sergeant and three soldiers come on stage looking for Lear. The soldier kill The Boy who assisted Learb and rape his wife Cordelia, and kill the pigs. Bodice and Fontanelle bring Lear before a judge and Lear denies that they are his daughters. Lear sees himself in the mirror as a tortuned animal in a cage. He is found mad and taken away. Boy’s ghost appears to Lear in his cell. A soldier shoots Fontanelle. Bodice too has been sentenced to death. At the end of the play Lear is taken to the wall by Susan, who is living in the Boy’s house, however The Farmer’s son, shoots Lear twice and killing him. Lear’s body is left alone onstage.

Lear, has great similarities with Shakespear’s King Lear, although has exhibit differences as well, because Edward Bond wrote Lear inspiring by Shakespeare’s King Lear. Shakespear’s play, King Lear, is mostly about psychological problems, while Bond’s Lear tells the story of a family that has been destroyed or even disappeared. Violence is almost in the same level in both plays. King Lear’s most brutal scene is an old man’s eyes are cut off on the stage ”Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot”(Shakespeare,King Lear III.vii.69), remains less severe when we compared it to what was done to Warringhton. Thus, violence is becoming the main theme of both plays. In both plays, if I talk about female characters, Shakespeare’s Lear has three daughters – Regan, Goneril and Cordelia. Bond’s Lear has two daughters – Bodice and Fontanelle.

Regan and Bodice are decisive and the characteristics of using and managing other characters are similar, while Goneril and Fontanelle are selfish. Shakespear’s Cordelia is the youngest daughter of Lear, and when he refuses to tell her love for her father using fancy words like her other sisters, her father disavows her and divides his lands among other daughters. However, Bond has created Cordelia as character who has a leader soul with an ordinary life. Actually, Danile R Jones summarized the end of two plays in his article , ‘’ King Lear’s last words are lack of life and hope ”No, no, no life! And thou no no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more, Never, never, never ! (Shakespeare, King Lear V. iii. 307-09).” Lastly, Benedict Nightingale point out in his article Lear , the major diffrence between these two plays ,that where ”Shakespeare’s Lear makes a spiritual journey, Bond’s makes a more political one”( Nighitngale 402)

There are big differences among women in both plays. Bondies and Fontanelle, Lear’s daughters, are known for their betrayal and greed, while Pam, the daughter of Harry, is known for her disrespect for her father and known with her nymphomania. Bondice and Fontanelle had already turned against Lear by telling them that they were going to marry the dukes of North and Cornwall, who are enemies of their father, but they didn’t know yet that this thought would bring them to their end, Bodice says ‘’ I’m going to marry the Duke of North and my sister’s going to marry the Duke of Cornwall [….] You’ll soon learn to respect them like your sons’’(Act I, ı) ,on the other hand, Pam, who is reckless and didn’t know what she was doing, was pregnant from Fred. Bodice is the most violent and conrolled female character in Lear, Fontanelle is more childish, but they both loves violence, because we can see it on the scene where they tortured Warrighton, Fontanella says ‘’He can see my face but he can’t hear me laugh! […..] Kill his hands! Kill his feet! Kill all of it! Make him dead! I want to sit on his lungs’’( I, iv 79-84.).

In Saved, Pam’s cruelty is only to her own baby, because firstly, she gives him/her drug to keep his/her silent and then by leaving her baby alone at the park, she also leave her baby to death. Mary, the mother of Pam, is the dullest and most dysfunctional female character in the play. Sexuality is in the foreground in Saved, while it is in the background in Lear . For instance, in Lear , Cornwall says to Fontanelle ‘’Let’s go to bed. I need your body before I risk death’’(Act I, ııı ) and North says to Bodice ‘’ Let me take you to bed, my dear. I must feel you on me when I go to the field’’ (Act I, ııı). Two sisters explain their dissatisfaction with their sex life, and the other sexual event is the rape scene of Cordiela, who is pregnant and raped by a soldier and also her husband killed by again a soldier ‘’Soldier E shoots him. Cordelia stands behind him.her head is down and she covers her face with her hands. Soldier D is preparing to rape her’’( I, vii ).

In Saved, sexuality takes place almost anywhere in the play, for example, we can see sexuality in Pam’s having sex with Len, or having sex with Fred and many other men before him, and in the sexual attraction between Mary and Len, and the lastly in Fred and his friend’s sexual jokes. In terms of power, if I evaluate female characters, I can give the example of Cordelia, who later turned into the most powerful woman in Lear. The losses and sufferings of Cordelia bring her to the head of army, but when he gets the power, he follows the same rules. The fact that Cordelia is transformed by the power and Bodice and Fontanella gain power and become merciless shows us how much power has changed a woman and how brutal women can be. Bodice says ‘’War. Power. […] I hated being a girl, and it was beter when I grew up, I could be myself-they didn’t humiliate me I made so many plans, one day I’d be my own master!Now I have all the power..’’(II, v ). However in Saved, there is no female character that we can call powerful woman, neither spiritually nor materially

As a conclusion, in this paper I try to analyze the specific characterictics of both Lear and Saved by giving play’s summaries and giving information about ‘theathre of cruelty’ and by comparing them on female character’s sexuality, power, and violence from my point of view and I try to examine the main diffrences between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Bond’s Lear, as far as I can realize.

Work Cited

  1. ‘Antonin Artaud And The Theatre Of Cruelty English Literature Essay. All Answers Ltd. 04 2019
  2. ‘Theatre of Cruelty.’ Topics, Sample Papers & Articles Online for Free, 8 Jan 2017,
  3. ‘The Theatre Of Cruelty English Literature Essay.’ All Answers Ltd. 04 2019
  4. Bond, Edward. Lear. Metheun, London Ltd, Publishing, 1972
  5. Bond, Edward. Saved. the Royal Court Theatre, London, in November ,Publishing, 1965.
  6. Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Wordsworth, 1994
  7. Gallani,Mamoona. TREATMENT OF VIOLENCE IN KING LEAR AND BOND’S LEAR, Published by European Center for Research Training and Development UK, July 2017
  8. Smith, Leslie. ‘Edward Bond’s Lear.’ Comparative Drama, vol. 13 no. 1, 1979, pp. 65-85
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