William Shakespeare’s plays, “King Lear” and the “Winter’s Tale”, show the female portrayal through characterization and symbolism. Shakespeare shows how women seeking justice may or may not prevail depending on various trials. The characters of Hermione and Cordelia portray this in theses plays. They were both misunderstood. Hermione’ s husband, Leontes, accused her of cheating on him with his best friend Polixeness when she was just being friendly and Cordelia refused to show her father, King Lear, how much she loved him, insisting that words and language are insufficient to express the love she feels for him. Lear takes this the wrong way and punishes her. In the following essay, several topics will be explored, such as the love and purity both of the characters show, their innocence and how it all results at the end.
To begin with, although Cordelia , the daughter of King Lear, appears in Act I, Scene I and disappears until Act IV, she has a huge impact on the play as a whole. It is acknowledged that the role played by Cordelia in King Lear is a symbolic one. She is a symbol of good and full of love among all the evil characters in this play. When her father asked her to show him how much she loves him she replies:
“Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty
According to my bond, no more nor less.”(1.1/91-93)
By saying that she is showing a truthful statement of her love for him: she loves him “according to my bond”; that is, she understands and accepts without question her job to love him as a father and king. For her words can powerfully describe love but they do not express it. Only behaviour can. Despite Lear's harsh treatment of her, Cordelia remains a loyal and loving daughter. She convinces her husband the king of France, who has graciously embraced her bad condition, to put an effort to save Lear from the cruelties of Goneril and Regan. Her love is real compared to her sisters who just want to have the most land.
On the other hand, Hermione, Queen of Sicily, is the wife of King Leontes and the mother of Mammilius and Perdita. Hermione is a gentle, yet strong feminine character. She is told by the King to greet his best friend, King Polixeness, but her jealous husband throws false accusations at her. She first takes it as a joke because she was sure that her husband was in love with her as much as she loved him but then realizes he is serious.
She also thinks of the comfort of others rather than her own. Obedient to her husband's wishes and ultimately loyal to him despite how he treats her, she bears his tyranny with strength and dignity. One could see that her role in the play is based on the traditional views of what a woman should act like in that period of time, and how to behave towards her husband and obedient and loving wife. This can be seen in her later speech while she's in trial: "So and no other, as yourself commanded"(3-2/129). Indicating she only acted as such towards his friend because he had commanded her, following his orders out of love and respect for him.
Cordelia is a very truthful and courageous woman. She isn’t afraid of saying the truth. When her father asks her to show him how much she loves him she just says that she can’t because no words can describe it. Unfortunately, her honesty leads her father to think that she doesn’t love him because he doesn’t understand what she is trying to say. She is an innocent daughter to her father unlike her sisters, Regan and Goneril, who flatter their father and then throw him out of the house once they've got his money and power. Cordelia’s behavior prompts Lear’s stupidity and action. Cordelia obviously loves her father, and yet realizes that her honesty will not please him. An impressive speech like her sisters' would have prevented all this tragedy. Later in the play, Cordelia, disappears for her honesty and innocence, still loves her father and displays