How does sexuality play a part in William Shakespeare`s Richard II and King Lear?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Sexuality plays a very minor part in Richard II. There are only two female characters (not counting some non-speaking attendants): the Queen and the Duchess of York. The relationships in which they are portrayed are stable and have not particular effect upon the plot structure. Richard II’s decision to abdicate is not affected by his queen’s opinion and the Duchess of York functions mainly as comic relief.

King Lear is primarily concerned with the non-sexual love between parent and child, but also has an important sub-plot involving sexuality. The King of France in his willingness to take Cordelia without dowry demonstrates an ideal form of love. Cordelia’s relationships with husband and father both exemplify love that is pure and selfless. Her two sisters and Edmund, on the other hand, are capable only of seeking after personal advantage and sexual lust; their betrayals of their parents are paralleled by their adulterous sexual relationships.


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