Coppelia Kahn’s “The Absent Mother in King Lear” examines the effect of the maternal void in the Lear family as it relates, specifically, to King. The Absent Mother in King Lear. Coppelia Kahn Fleeing Goneril’s “sharp-tooth’d unkindness,”.Lear arrives at Gloucester’s house in search of Regan, still. This quote explains how in the article it is shown that Lear believes himself to be the sole reason for his daughters lives. A mother who.

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When Lear describes his pain and sorrow as hysterical, he is making it feminine. From ancient times, many suffering women were said to be suffering from hysteria. There are no mothers in King Lear, and in the opening scene of the play, we just see the fathers their powerful influence over their children. When Lear feels the loss of cordelia, and when he feels vulnerable and wounded by his daughters, by calling his sorrow hysterical, he is showing repressed identification with the mother.



The way Lear tries to keep his hold on Cordelia whilst publicly handing her to a husband suggests lear has a frustrated incestuous desire for his daughter. Alternatively, it can be viewed that Cordelia is desired by Lear as a mother.

Lear and his daughters are compared to pelicans and their young. Lear is enraged that he is not nurtured by those who he, pelican-like, has nurtured. Both lear and Gloucester have a deep sense of identification with their children being born of their own flesh.

Lear ignores the role of the woman in creating children, and insists his daughters are only his through the pelican image he takes on the maternal function. Lear implies through misogynistic ideologies that his daughters are evil because women are tainted hhe their sexual capacities. Lear makes generational demands in the opening scene, as well as gender demands. This is complicated by his gender demands of maternal care. Regan and Goneril shame Lear by bringing out the woman in him, absebt Lear anger.


The Absent Mother in King Lear | Authoring The Self in Seventeenth-Century Brit Lit

Cordelia is depicted as being so good and pure when she reenters the play that she becomes the daughter-mother Lear intended. Lear, Kent and Edgar are reluctant to be recognised by those love them most.

When Lear wakes elar see Cordelia, he cries tears of ashamed self knowledge, and here he becomes closer than ever to mature acceptance of his dependancy.

Lear does not want to meet Goneril and Regan because this would mean abandoning his fantasy that one good woman like Cordelia can triumph over evil. To what extent is this true?

Do Gloucester and Lear have such a powerful role over their children? Posted by Jenny Rowntree at

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