How significant is female agency in King Lear?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Female agency is highly significant in the drama.  Essentially, the opening scene that sets the stage for what will happen consists of a man who is impotent in action, waiting, and paralyzed in taking action.  His paralysis depends on the outcome of female agency.  The daughters set the drama in motion.  Lear is merely a prop of their actions.  He waits for the declarations of love offered by Reagan and Goneril and then is angered by what Cordelia offers.  Female agency sets Lear's actions in motion. His world is defined by female agency.

At the same time, female agency is significant as Lear progresses towards realization.  The scheming that is present in Goneril's and Reagan's actions represents one aspect of female agency.  The desire to save her father is the embodiment of another element of female agency.  Both help to carve out both the trajectory of the drama as well as Lear's own realizations about himself and his place in the world.  Female agency is where these truths are seen.  In this light, female agency, the capacity of women to hold an active role over their own being and predicament, is highly significant in King Lear.