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Portrayal of Women in King Lear and Ran

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    Portrayal of Women in King Lear and Ran
    Women have a position, characteristics and a role in King Lear and in Ran. These films take place in a time period when geography influenced the portrayal of women. A significant portion of how women were portrayed to the audience in both films is based on the positions women held in the established hierarchy and how their new position in the hierarchy impacted the people around them. The characteristics of female characters display very clearly how women were portrayed. In comparing women in reference to their characteristics there are separate women in each film that portray women to be good or evil. Lastly, the portrayal of women was also shown through the specific role they had in each film. The role of women in both films is to start the cycle of life and attempt to create a final outcome that is in their favour. Women create the chaos that is essential in each film. The portrayal of women will be compared and contrasted in Ran and King Lear through their positions, characteristics and roles which portray women to be sinister and supporting people in King Lear and primarily evil in Ran. The great chain of being displays how women were negatively portrayed in both films. When a woman is given a position of authority or has an influence on a position of authority, chaos ensues.

    In King Lear, the great chain of being is broken because the position of the supreme ruler of the land is handed over to two women. (King Lear, Act 1, scene 1 lines 55-86) A king, ergo, a man is always intended to rule over the kingdom according to the great chain of being. The disruption of this chain led to chaos in the upper echelons of the English hierarchy. Ran also displays women to be detrimental through Lady Kaede’s influence on the male leader. Lady Kaede persuades her husband to eliminate Hidetora from the kingdom. (Ran) Lady Kaede’s action starts all of the chaos in the play. The great chain of being is broken because Lady Kaede, a woman, was participating in the decision making, and as a result chaos ensues. Ran and King Lear portray women to be detrimental to the hierachy through the positions women held and the result of placing women in these positions.

    Women have been portrayed to have similar and contrasting characteristics in Ran and in King Lear. In the film Ran the most prominent female figure is Lady Kaede and she exhibits many characteristics. Lady Kaede exhibits cunning, intelligent, vengeful and dissatisfied characteristics. All of Lady Kaede’s actions are driven by her desire to avenge her family. She is consistently dissatisfied with the life she is living because Hidetora and Hidetora’s family have not suffered for their actions. This drives her to use her cunning and intelligent qualities to avenge her family. (Ran) The portrayal of the prominent female figure in Ran shows similar characteristics with the prominent female figures in King Lear. The two most prominent female figures in Michael Elliott’s interpretation of King Lear exhibit characteristics that are similar to those characteristics exhibited by Lady Kaede. Regan and Goneril both exhibit sleek, intelligent and dissatisfied characteristics, but they additionally exhibit lustful and selfish characteristics. Regan and Goneril use their position to diminish their father’s power in order to gain full control of the kingdom. This shows the selfish character of both women. (King Lear, Act 2 scene 4 lines 202-288) Also, these women lust for Edmund after they each got married. (King Lear, Act 4 scene 2 lines 11-24) (King Lear, Act 4 scene 5 lines 30-40) King Lear and Ran both portray women to have characteristics that are detrimental to the established chain of being. The females that play a lesser role in each play are those portrayed to have positive characteristics thereby suggesting that the hurtful characteristics of women are more prominent than the helpful ones. King Lear gives off a different image of women than Ran regarding the positive aspects of females.

    In Michael Elliott’s film King Lear is overwhelmed with sadness as a result of Cordelia’s death. (King Lear, Act 5 scene 3 lines 262-279) The good natured female in Ran, Lady Sue, is less prominent than Cordelia. This is exhibited by the lack of empathetic feelings for Lady Sue’s misfortunes by her peers in the film. (Ran) Lady Sue lacks the attributes that others admire. This portrays the most well respected female in Ran to be only moderately respected. In King Lear the positive characteristics in females are portrayed to be equally balanced to the detrimental characteristics. The supportive and loving characteristics of women in Ran is outweighed by their hurtful and vengeful characteristics. The role of women is consistent in both films. Their selfish characters guided them to start spinning the wheel in the cycle of life. In King Lear, Regan and Goneril’s intention to diminish their father’s power accelerated the downward motion of the wheel.

    Regan and Goneril tampered with the cycle of life by setting expectations for their father which they knew he would choose not to fulfill, causing him to have to leave the kingdom. (King Lear, Act 4 scene 2 lines 202-288). In Ran, Lady Kaede begins spinning the wheel by getting inside the head of Hidetora’s son, Taro. She directs him to eliminate his father from the kingdom. This starts the downward motion of order in the film. (Ran) The role of women in both King Lear and in Ran is to get the cycle of life in motion.

    In conclusion, Ran and King Lear demonstrate the position women have in the social hierarchy, how women’s characteristics portray them and the role women have in the social hierarchy . Women are portrayed through the positions they held in the established hierarchy and how chaos ensues as a result of women holding these positions. Women are portrayed through the individual characteristics each woman posses. Women are also portrayed through the role they had in both films to start spinning the wheel in the cycle of life. Women are given the same negative connotations in each work but only in King Lear are women shown to have equally positive characteristics. Ran and King Lear both demonstrate the roles they have in society, how women live in society’s hierarchy, and how their characteristics are portrayed.

    King Lear portrays women to be good and evil through causing problems in the English hierarchy when in power, having personal characteristics which are equally good and evil at heart and a woman’s role in the film which is to start making the wheel in the cycle of life spin. Ran portrays women as detrimental people through their roles in the film which break the great chain of being thereby ensuing chaos, having personal motivations that are evil at heart and by start the spin on the cycle of life.

    Works Cited

    Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington. King Lear. Toronto: Bantam, 1988. Print. Ran. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. By Akira Kurosawa, Oguni Hideo, and Masato Ide. Prod. Serge Silberman and Hara Masato. S.n., 1985. DVD. King Lear. Dir. Michael Elliott. Perf. Laurence Olivier. 1983. DVD.

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    Portrayal of Women in King Lear and Ran. (2016, Aug 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/portrayal-of-women-in-king-lear-and-ran/

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