GONERIL - REGAN
They are: destructive force.
Ravening Egoism at war with Goodness.
Goneril: the tyranny of cold persistent pressure; a helpless old man is a helpless old man.
Regan: Her ferocity is unmeasured, less abnormal, less monstrous. She quails when her father curses Goneril.
Both are amorous, lustful. Their love is more hideous than their hate. Their blandishment and caresses are hideous.
Goneril is true to her character to the end. Dies badly.
Regan is overdressed, wears more than she needs, wears what does not keep her warm: “The gorgeous are doomed.”
They are a means of bringing Gloucester and Lear to reality. With Edmund they are rationalists, shrewd citizens of the unrealistic, bargaining world. Goneril calls Albany a fool because his his inhibitions of conscience interfere with a profitable course. To them reasons are justifications of desire. Reason is our view of your situation. So they make almost unanswerable cases for their intention to deprive Lear of his followers until “on reason not the need” and he calls for extra-rational categories of understanding as a means to get at the truth. To Goneril, wisdom is professional skill. Wisdom in the rationalization of her advantage. “You should be wise in giving up your followers,” she tells Lear.
Uninhibited self will, subject to no discipline marks their conduct. They have keen and ruthless minds. They see how the world goes. They have animal and practical intelligence in a calculating mechanism; a development of the calculating element in Lear, freed from the counter balance of the rest of his personality. They are not stupid monsters; they are intelligent. They have no imagination. Important aspects of human life are not apparent to them. They are incomplete, and incompleteness is fatal.
Their free minds become slaves to uncontrollable passions, desire, lust, animal desire; they lack the disciplines to conquer lust. In their passion for Edmund mind is combined with “nature”, undisciplined Nature. Love they do not know, only lust.
Edmund, Goneril and Regan are blind to the existence of moral barriers to the consummation of their ambitions. Love, loyalty, respect have no place in their way of life. They represent tremendous energy used corruptly. The fool’s sex images refer to these women. They are a corruption of creative energies. They may be characterized by the sex theme which pervades the play. “Murderous lechers” is well motivated by their behavior. Eventually each has become the destroyer of the other: they become poisonous serpents to each other.
Oswald, Goneril, Regan, Edmund are pragmatists. They look out for themselves. They have a contempt for age, they have no obligation to the aged; they have no moral reality. They view age and all else in relation, and in terms of its effect -- on them.