From Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet to Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing, we see male pride in many of Shakespeare’s best known plays. However, in King Lear, we see how often pride is deliberately cruel; there is an expectation that the female role is to accept and endure male behaviour. Females are portrayed to be the damsel in distress, represented as victims of a patriarchal society whilst men are vilified. There are high expectations placed upon the fidelity and purity of the wife in typical love literature: obedience, passivity, endurance, naivety and innocence. We see this in Cordelia, yet she is juxtaposed with Goneril and Regan’s who in many ways embody typical male traits of aggression. Whilst pride plays a pivotal role in catalysing a series of events, in King Lear, Shakespeare subverts typicality’s by presenting how both genders, not just men, are culprits of pride and cruelty leading excruciating physical pain and emotional. However, Hosseini in contrast, conforms to typicality’s of stereotypical view of Afghanistan of violence, shining a light upon the prejudice and ignorance of Islam. Since 9-11 and the War on Terror, Middle Eastern and Afghan people have become the enemies of the United States and the words “Islam” and “terrorism” have become synonymous. Hosseini through Mariam allows readers to sympathise with Afghans as the audience members are enlightened to the harsh brutal reality of Afghanistan. Michiko Kakutani argues that Hosseini “succeeds in making the emotional reality of Mariam and Laila’s lives tangible to us, and by conjuring their day-to-day routines, he is able to give us a sense of what daily life was like Kabul” before and during the harsh tyranny of the Taliban. However, ultimately, Hosseini’s message is one of hope: the women of the story learned the benefits and consequences of love, and how that love can be destructive or compliment a person: the females prosper from bonding and teamwork with one and other despite the restrictions imposed on them by Rasheed or the Taliban. The message of females empowering each other despite government’s efforts to reduce the power of females, resonates with a modern audience. Ultimately, both writers use typical gender expectations to highlight something greater; Hosseini uses the suffering that results from male cruelty and pride to present how females can lift each other in a violent, misogynistic world, whereas Shakespeare uses expectations to intentionally subvert the notion of passive and virtuous women, demonstrating how the desire to inflict pain to others is not gendered.
Even though both writers present how pride can cause suffering and pain, Shakespeare presents how both genders to be guilty of pride, while Hosseini presents how only male pride can cause suffering. We see this, as Goneril and Regan’s pursuit of self-gratification results in tragedy, as they take pride in knowing their power over their father in their flattery towards him in the exposition of the play. Eventually results in the inhuman treatment of Lear in Act two, when he is left in “the hell-black night” of the storm. His psychological suffering is symbolised by the storm. The storm imagery is used to emphasise the loss of body politic and emphasise Lear’s descent into madness, meaning his mental anguish is physically depicted on stage. As the storm continues to rage on, Lear’s state of mind deteriorates along with it. However, when the storm is over, Lear comes to his senses and realises he is not immortal and that everyone including himself is simply made up of only a body natural. Furthermore, the storm parallels the vision for the kingdom, foreshadowing the country’s descent into civil war chaos, accentuated more dramatic from the sound of thunder and lightning. This dramatic device is typical of Shakespeare and the disruption of natural order. In Macbeth, for example, the storm imagery reflects the rebellion against King Duncan. In both plays, it becomes a dramatic demonstration of the fact that all humans, even kings, are completely vulnerable to the disruption of the natural order, and the suffering it brings. The concept that “all cruels else subscribe” epitomizes the ruthless and sadistic nature of his daughters as they lacked empathy and left Lear to languish in his misery for the quench for ruling the kingdom. Substantially, the daughters are personifications of evil as they lack conscience but only possess greed and this greed enables them to terminate all obstacles in their path to achieve their goal. Furthermore, Albany uses biblical allusion when he describes Goneril as a “gilded serpent”, which accentuates how cunning and manipulative Goneril is. Since it is similar to when Eve was tempted by the devil to take the apple from the tree of knowledge, Lear has been tempted and deceived by Goneril’s superficial behaviour. Ironically, however, greed is the sisters’ downfall as their desire for more such as lust of Edmund, generated their death. Their desire for status is satisfied but the lust for Edmund destroys their alliance and crucially they destroy one another. Thus, pride is the source of their destructive nature, which in the end destroys them too. Whereas Shakespeare presents how both genders to be culprits of cruelty and pride leading to cause pain and suffering, Hosseini however conforms to typicality’s of literature in “A Thousand Splendid Suns” to amplify how male character’s pride causes pain and suffering. For example, Jalil’s pride for his reputation and honour causes Mariam to be neglected and vulnerable as she was hid from everyone far away in kolba so that his affair could be hidden. This led to Mariam’s mother to not have help during her birth. From the start since Mariam’s birth was difficult and horrific as she had to “lay all alone on the kolba’s floor, a knife be her side, sweat drenching her body”, spending “two days on that cold, hard floor”. The adjective “cold” creates the image of bleakness and bitterness, reflecting the painful experience of the birth. This is heightened by the adjective “hard”, as it suggests something is rigid, portraying how tense the birth of Mariam is. This is significant as it has the effect of causing the reader to have emotions of goosebumps, causing the scene to be more chilling that it already is. The iambic pentameter stresses “hard” more than others, which draws attention to it by the audience, to exaggerate uncomfortable nature of this situation. After the Civil War when the Taliban came to power in 1996, women were in a state of constant house arrest and women’s progress in education and employment was crushed with the harsh laws imposed by the Taliban. Health care was also put into jeopardy during the Taliban’s reign, as women were prohibited from seeing male physicians, which Hosseini has used Miriam’s birth to illustrate how a woman can not be independent and the harsh reality of restrictions imposed on women in Afghanistan. This depicts an eerie vivid imagery a painful pregnancy that causes modern audience to feel disturbed. In addition, the writer intentionally depicted this imagery at the start of the novel to foreshadow Mariam’s life. Therefore both writers present pain and suffering resulted from pride. However, although Shakespeare presents how both genders are culprits of cruelty and pride leading to cause pain and suffering, Hosseini uses his characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns to amplify how male character’s pride causes pain and suffering.
Shakespeare in “King Lear” additionally presents how pride derived from good intentions also creates suffering and death in act 1 scene 1. Lear’s pride does not allow him to see the truth in act 1 when Cordelia breaks traditional gender stereotypes, disobeying her father by not participating in the competition. Cordelia says to him that “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less”. She offers a truthful evaluation of her love to Lear. The verb “heave” creates the image of physically attempting to forcibly haul something up, accentuating the effort and hard work as it depicts heaviness. The significance of this is establishes her virtue and the authenticity of her love, to emphasize how strong her love and respect for her father is, that she cannot lie. This highlights her nobility in contrast to the empty flattery of Goneril and Regan to gain wealth. In addition, this suggests that Cordelia cannot heave her heart as her integrity won’t allow her, which also exemplifies Cordelia’s pride leading to her death. Cordelia is only telling the truth to her father: she loves him as a child should love their father, yet because of this Lear is angry and disowns her. Cordelia’s love is genuine because unlike her sisters she does not manipulate people around her for her own beneficial gain. Furthermore, Cordelia is the only female character who is virtuous and compassionate, the dichotomy is set up to present not all females are pure evil. Like most tragic heroes, Lear has one fatal flaw, which is his pride, his hubris. His ego and pride lead to Lear’s downfall and his kingdom is divided; his ego is exaggerated when he divides his kingdom in half “with his two daughters” and leaves Cordelia nothing as “pride, which she calls plainness, marries her”. This highlights Lear’s highlights his pride and ego he gives an immature and infantile response. The effect of the personification is that it accentuates his pride, as his ego does not allow him to have the perspective vision to see the truth, which is a constant motif in “King Lear”. Lear’s narcissism is pinpointed by the iambic pentameter as it stresses “plain”, which suggests Lear’s ego does not allow him to see beneath the surface. The adjective “plain” stresses the simplicity of her response, highlighting how Cordelia is pure and honourable as she gives honesty instead of being manipulative and duplicitous. A. C. Bradley criticizes Lear, that his “words are monstrously unjust.’, this is because all Cordelia offered was honesty and unconditional love and does not deserve punishment. Furthermore, Lear’s immaturity and rash behaviour are exaggerated on the stage of the national theatre 2014 production as he flips the table, throwing a tantrum like a child. Kent’s warns to Lear of his “hideous rashness”, Lear’s pride blinds him, and he again supports his other daughters’ flattery. Similarly, Hosseini also explores how a father’s pride and ego blinds his love for his daughter. This is due to Jalil’s concern for his honour caused Miriam to be neglected and shielded from society, so that his reputation cannot be destroyed. Thus, Jalil’s pride lead to Mariam not knowing what father’s love is and caused Nana to be resentful that she believes that a man’s love “it isn’t like a mother’s womb; it won’t stretch to make a room for you”. The noun “womb” evokes emotions of nurture, nutrient and endearment, which exaggerates how a mother’s love to be comforting and loving. The metaphor has an effect portraying a man’s love to be merciless and heartless as it’s contrasted with a nurturing potent mother’s love. This causes Mariam to think Jalil, did not care for her, developing emotional pain. After Mariam moves in with her father, she is forced into marriage. Jalil allows Miriam to be married off so he can preserve his pride as the remainder of his affair is sent off. Therefore, both writers present how pride blinds them from love.
Both writers consider the importance of the role gender plays. Structurally, Shakespeare subverts to female typicality at the start of the play, as Goneril breaks traditional gender stereotype of passivity by being assertive to Albany, to give audiences a clear impression of Goneril at the start. Whilst Shakespeare breaks passive gender stereotypes, in “a thousand splendid suns”, Hosseini conforms to gender topicalities to give light on cultural oppression imposed on women by men. In act 1 scene 4, Goneril criticizes and emasculates Albany’s compassion to Lear she criticizes that “This milky gentleness” makes him weak and that he’s “much more at task for want of wisdom”. When she refers to Albany’s “milky gentleness,” she’s essentially implying he’s a coward for not being harsher on Lear when he challenged Goneril’s authority. Goneril implies that her husband, Albany, is too mild-mannered when it comes to dealing with Lear. Furthermore, Goneril degrades Albany by questioning his intelligence that he lacks “wisdom”. The connotations of “milk” are of femininity as it’s associated with a woman’s capacity to nurture children such as breastfeeding. Goneril refers to the “Milky gentleness,” which implies he’s feminine and weak, as femininity in a man is seen feeble, frail and delicate. Goneril implies that Albany is powerless and effeminate. When she refers to Albany’s “milky gentleness,” she’s implying he’s a coward and not masculine enough. For Goneril, mildness and lack of killer instinct makes someone feminine, this creates effect of Goneril being presented psychotic as she has no remorse or empathy, thus desire to cause pain and suffering onto others. Therefore, Goneril is dangerous as she desires to cause suffering and pain to others. The idea of emasculation is also In Shakespeare’s other plays such as Macbeth when Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of being “too full o’ the milk of human kindness”, she also implies he’s too weak and a coward. The critic Coppelia Khan in “The Absent Mother in “King Lear” suggests that “masculine identity depends on repressing the vulnerability”, (Kahn, 2011:95). This supports Goneril’s mentality of what masculinity is, and that is of abusing the weak. Comparably furthermore male characters also possess pride. Like most tragic heroes, Lear has one fatal flaw, which is his pride, his hubris. Although Shakespeare breaks traditional gender stereotypes, Hosseini however conforms to traditional passive women gender role to give light to cultural oppression imposed on females. Through Hosseini’s narrative style, he explores how the burqa is a symbol for oppression. Later on, the novel after she’s married to Rasheed, Rasheed than gives Mariam a burqa to preserve his honour and pride by covering her face. Mariam felt that “the loss of peripheral vision was unnerving, and she did not like the suffocating cloth kept pressing against her mouth”. The fact that her mouth is being suffocated only intensifies the lack of control and free will in the relationship. He claims that he wishes to protect Miriam but, really, he aims to dominate and control them. The nuances of “suffocating” are to inhibit breathing and to suffocate, which has an unnerving effect of claustrophobia and uncomfortable. Furthermore, Rasheed aims to administrate the cultural oppression that is imposed on women under the Taliban rule; the burqa is used to ensure his dominance over Miriam, making her to conform to female expectations of subservience. The Taliban enforced laws that Women’s progress in education and employment to be crushed with the harsh laws imposed by the Taliban.in addition Taliban rule caused women to have been stripped of their voice and mobility, thus restricting the advancement of women and were no longer in control of their life decisions. This has influenced Hosseini to present the female characters in “A thousand splendid suns” to be vulnerable, fragile and weak. This is because the tyranny of the Taliban caused women to be subservient and oppressed from restriction put on them. Natasha Walter criticised Hosseini that he “does not challenge the usual western view of Afghanistan,” (Walter,2007), which I disagree as Hosseini conforms to typicality’s of literature by presenting an abusive male character to give light to reality of oppression and dehumanisation of women that is imposed on females from the Taliban. Usual representation of Afghanistan women is that they are willing to be passive, however the female characters cannot criticized as there’s no form of escape from the Taliban’s senseless brutality. The novel’s title is taken from seventeenth century Persian poet Sib of Tabriz, written about the city of Kabul: “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,/ Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” Ironically, this is not the accurate reality of modern Kabul; it is an idealized city, a nostalgic pleasant memory, thus a sorrowful reminder to the modern audience of what long ago Kabul might have been. Therefore, overall whilst Shakespeare breaks traditional gender roles to emphasise how both genders are guilty to pride, Hosseini however conforms gender roles to accentuate how males abuse cultural oppression to control females.
Both writers similarly present how male pride can cause destruction and cause suffering. Shakespeare presents how male pride can cause them to be blinded form genuine love whereas Hosseini uses his male characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns to amplify how male character’s pride can be abusive. Shakespeare in “King Lear” presents how both genders are culprits of pride, which results in suffering and pain. Goneril’s vicious traits contrast with Cordelia: a pure, loyal and unselfish woman, which depicts many traits expected of a woman in the cultural standards of the Jacobean society. Cordelia is only telling the truth to her father, she loves him as a child should love their father, because of this, and Lear is angry and disowns her. Cordelia’s love is genuine because unlike her sisters she does not manipulate people around her for her own beneficial gain. He wants to be treated as a king. His ego and pride lead to Lear’s downfall and his kingdom is divided; his ego is exaggerated when he divides his kingdom in half “with his two daughters” and leaves Cordelia nothing as “pride, which she calls plainness, marries her”. This highlights Lear’s highlights his pride and ego he gives an immature and infantile response. The effect of the personification is that it accentuates his pride, as his ego does not allow him to have the perspective vision to see the truth, which is a constant motif in “King Lear”. Lear’s narcissism is pinpointed by the iambic pentameter as it stresses “plain”, which suggests Lear’s ego does not allow him to see beneath the surface. The adjective “plainness” has many undertones of honesty as it suggests exactness and openness, which is significant as Shakespeare intentionally used these connotations as it has the effect of highlighting Cordelia as pure and honourable as she gives exact pure honesty instead of being manipulative and duplicitous. Lear’s immaturity and rash behaviour are exaggerated on the stage of the national theatre 2014 production as he flips the table, throwing a tantrum like a child. Kent’s warns to Lear of his “hideous rashness”, Lear’s pride blinds him, and he again supports his other daughters’ flattery. Kent also uses the rhetorical question to disrespect Lear as Kent asks Lear “what wouldst thou do, old man? When power to flattery bows?” Kent addresses Lear as “thou”, an inappropriately intimate and casual term to use to his monarch, which enunciates how Lear has degraded himself because of his pride leading him to create rash decisions. The metaphor in the rhetorical question in “when power to flattery bows?” suggests that Kent is advising Lear to reconsider his hasty decision, Kent as only pride bows to flattery, and Kent is telling Lear that his pride is getting the better of him. The idea of Lear’s power being reduced may have been influenced by the attitudes of Renaissance Europe as Lear has split his body politic to his two daughters. The immediate consequence of Lear’s quick rashness is accentuated at the end of act 1 as Regan and Goneril decide to “hit together”, thus creating a strong sense of foreboding of harm to Lear. Lear’s tragic flaw, pride, undoubtedly results in Lear’s misuse of power, which culminates in his life and his kingdom moving further out of his control. Lear’s dividing the kingdom goes against the body politic, which is argued by the critic RA Foakes that “Lear divides what is “indivisible”, for in dividing the kingdom he acts in the body natural, doing what is not permitted in the body politic”, (Foakes,2016:18). I agree as it goes against the divine rights of the king, against the gods’ decision with kingship, thus Lear went against gods, which leads him to his denouement. Essentially, Pride has led Lear to abandon his commitment to his kingdom and to God. Hence, pride is a prominent and reoccurring theme throughout “King Lear”. Similarly, to Shakespeare, Hosseini also presents how pride can be a destructive force. Furthermore, later the novel Rasheed and Mariam try to conceive a child, but Mariam cannot have a baby, which creates dishonour and damage to Rasheed’s pride. This causes as Rasheed to metamorphose into being emotionally and physically abusive. For instance, he taunts and degrades Mariam by saying “you know nothing, do you? You’re like a child .your brain is empty”, the degrading tone causes emotional pain to Mariam that she felt “she was nothing but a burden to him”. The accusatory tone intensified through the repetition “you”, which causes Miriam to be feel humiliated, embarrassed and have low self-esteem. The simile develops the degradation as Miriam is being compared to a “child” has implications of immaturity, naivety and ignorance, which with addition of rhetorical questions and condescending tone suggests to mock Miriam’s intelligence. In conclusion, Mariam and Laila are both victims to all types of abuse throughout the novel. Hosseini used them to represent the majority of the women in Afghanistan who get abused everyday by their husbands. He uses this theme to bring awareness to the problem of not just spousal abuse, but abuse in general. Women are beaten and tortured every day because their society says it is ok. Hosseini shows the power that men have over woman, and how difficult it can be for the women to escape. He develops Rasheed’s character to represent all the men in Afghanistan who have become monsters and think it is ok to abuse their wives because they did not please or satisfy them enough. This novel also showed how far some men in Afghanistan are willing to take it. Rasheed was about to kill Laila and Mariam, but they were lucky enough to save themselves. Most women would have been alone and not able to save themselves in that situation. Therefore, both writers present how male pride can cause destruction.
Ultimately in conclusion the main similarity between the two texts is that the violence is always used to oppress the defenceless and vulnerable. However overall both texts are different, this is because in “king Lear” both genders are culprits of pride and cruelty leading to pain and suffering, where as in a thousand splendid suns, the men are culprits of pride and cruelty leading to pain and suffering. Hosseini’s intentions are to give spotlight to the mistreatment and oppression of women and Shakespeare’s intentions is to give light how cruelty and cause harm onto to others is not gendered by subverting to the typicality that females are the defenceless victims.