Theatre and Film, Johnny Carson School of


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Theater Arts, Under the supervision of Professor Harris Smith. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 Beth L. King


The challenge for every actor is to bring something of yourself to a role. The more real it can become for you the more real it will be for the audience. Goneril is a caricature. She is rich, powerful and she does horrible things like throwing her father out into the cold, having an affair, poisoning her sister and ultimately killing herself. She is one of Shakespeare’s “evil” women. I have to say I do not consider myself evil. So what could I have in common with this monster of a woman? One of our fellow classmates died while we were working on this play. His name is Jason Francis. He always said to look for the love in a scene or character. That advise is what helped me to understand Goneril the woman.

There are two people that Goneril loves in this play, her father King Lear, and herself. Goneril is insanely jealous of Lear’s affection toward her younger sister Cordelia. I believe that Goneril was Lear’s favorite child until Cordelia was born, after all Goneril was the first royal child born into the family. Now Lear dotes on Cordelia and has no interest in Goneril. This affects how Goneril deals with her husband, her lover and all of the men in her life. She does not trust men and believes she can only count on herself. Lear is not a good father to Goneril but it is her choice to seek revenge that finally causes her downfall.

Advisor: Harris Smith