GCSE English Literature
King Lear – Parent and Child Relationships
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, written between 1603 and 1606. King Lear is a play that has many different themes in it for example, the madness and suffering of rulers and sight and blindness. However one of the most important themes of the play is its treatment of family life and parent and child relationships, Shakespeare focuses heavily on the relationships between fathers and their children and shows the effects of favouritism on all their lives.
King Lear has a main plot and a sub plot. In the sub plot the Duke of Gloucester’s illegitimate son Edmund deceives and betrays his father. This reflects the ...view middle of the document...
However, when Cordelia refuses to take part, furious Lear casts her off and divides the kingdom between Goneril and Regan. After being banished from the kingdom, Cordelia leaves Britain and marries the King of France.
Goneril and Regan decide to get rid of their ‘idle old’ father and plot against him. They eventually get rid of all his knights and drive him out into a storm and shut the doors on him. Alone in storm with his faithful servants, Kent and the Fool, Lear goes mad. Learning from letters of her father’s suffering, Cordelia returns to Britain in an attempt to restore the throne to its rightful king. During the battle between Britain and France, Cordelia and Lear are reunited. The French army loose and Lear and Cornelia are captured and imprisoned. Meanwhile, Goneril and Regan are both desperate for Edmunds love, their passion drives Goneril to poison Regan and then he kills herself. Despite the efforts of Goneril’s husband Albany to save them, Cordelia is hanged in prison and King Lear dies a broken damaged man, half mad.
The play opens at Lear’s court, Lear enters with his three daughters and Goneril and Regan’s husbands. He announces that he is abdicating the throne ‘Get me the map there. Know that we have divided In three our kingdom’. His actions are not the way a responsible ruler should be acting. King Lear also does not have the power to do this as only God can make a King. He wants to ‘shake all care and business from our age’ therefore pass the responsibilities of ruling to his daughters. Although he also wishes to retain the ‘Preeminence and all the large effects’ His idea is foolish and self-centred as his desire is to be treated as important and royal after he has giving away his kingdom meaning he doesn’t want to do any of the work. Already, the audience can to see that Lear is selfish and self-pitying. He asks his daughters ‘Which of you shall we say doth love us most’.
Goneril is chosen to speak first. She announces that she loves her father ‘more than words can wield the matter’, ‘dearer than eye sight space and liberty.’ She professes that she is the most loving child ever, no father could find better, ‘As much as child e’er loved, or father found.’ In Goneril’s speech one of her line foreshadows later events in the play “No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor". In the end, Lear loses his grace, health, beauty, honor, and finally his own life as a result of Goneril and Regan’s evil actions.
Regan, Lear’s second daughter also falsely professes her love for Lear, she is "made of that self metal as my sister". Regan emphasises the value of her love and therefore should be priced at Goneril’s ‘worth’, she tells him that her sister’s sentiments fall “too short” because Goneril cannot possibly love her father as much as she does. "I profess myself an enemy to all other joys... In your dear highness' love". However she too betrays Lear, denying him her castle and casting him out in the storm.