Read an excerpt from Queen Goneril
Set seven years before King Lear, Queen Goneril centres the struggles of Lear’s daughters as they negotiate patriarchal systems built to keep them relegated to the sidelines. In Goneril, we find a natural-born leader. In Regan, a boundary pusher. And in Cordelia, a reluctant peacekeeper. As the three work to dismantle their individual constraints, a storm of inner reckoning begins to brew that reflects their deepest yearnings and mirrors our contemporary world.
In this deliciously disruptive adaptation, Erin Shields investigates some of the most urgent feminist issues in her signature revisionist style of reimagining the roles of women in classic texts. After reading this play, you may never want to return to Shakespeare’s King Lear again.
Read the opening monologue of the play below.
GONERIL: It is out of love I want my father to retire.
He has ruled this kingdom with a steady hand,
brought prosperity to those who were suffering,
and united a people divided by faction and allegiance.
Why only a few months ago, he won a war,
after which, he instructed his general to bring back the bodies
of three hundred soldiers to give them a proper burial.
How noble is that?
But like every recent gesture of kingliness,
he stopped short of completing the task.
The earth was too frozen to bury the soldiers immediately,
so they were piled in a heap just outside the palace walls.
Over the winter, the bodies congealed into an icy mound,
but now that the rains have come, they’ve become vulnerable
to the assaults of rats and other scavengers.
Old age, it seems, has deprived my father of his senses.
He no longer smells the decomposing corpses,
no longer feels the unrest of the peasants,
no longer sees the dissension in his ranks,
nor hears his daughters pace the upstairs corridors
waiting for spring to come.
It’s not that I’m desperate for the responsibilities of a sovereign.
As I am woman, I question my own ambition.
Who am I to carry forward my father’s legacy?
How dare I presume to lead a nation?
But as I am human, I question my hesitation.
If not me, then who?
If not now, then when?
How dare I stand idly by
knowing there is something that can be done.
I have been staying at the palace these past two months
to encourage my father to find peace in his sunset years,
to initiate the path of succession,
to relinquish his kingdom and leave its future to me.
Out of love, you understand.
Find out how the story unfurls by getting your copy of Queen Goneril today!