Parent / child relationships » King Lear Study Guide …

Filial and sibling relationships dominate in the play, as Shakespeare pits a father against his daughter, brother against brother, and sisters against each other. The Elizabethans believed in established natural laws and natural order in the universe in their concept of child/parent relationships; this concept is turned upside down by the filial treachery of Lear, Regan and Goneril against Cordelia, and by Edmund's relentless campaign against Edgar. As filial relationships crumble, the natural hierarchy is upset, unleashing the full fury of the physical elements, which are no longer subject to order. (6) Therefore, it is fitting to address the conflict between man's law and nature's law; characters who adhere to divine justice - Kent, Albany, Edgar, and Cordelia - act instinctively for the common good, while their counterparts - Goneril, Edmund, Regan, and Cornwall - act without conscience as they plot their evil schemes. Lear is the undisputed King of Britain by divine right, but he, unfortunately, divides his kingdom between Goneril and Regan, which naturally gives their husbands a stake in the estate. Goneril's husband, Albany, ultimately denounces her deception and vile actions because he has a conscience and believes she, Regan, and Cornwall are wrong in their aggressive, greedy behaviors. Regan and Goneril not only act completely without any sense of right or wrong regarding their father and younger sister, they betray each other further in vying for Edmund's attention and affection, to no avail. Both Kent and Edgar are disguised for a large part of the play because they fear for their own survival; their loyalties remain with Lear. Lear and Gloucester eventually turn to natural law to understand why their children have betrayed them. This strain of thought also opens the door to address Shakespeare's own political views as they apply to the state rather than just to the individual and a government that is unified and centralized without a system of checks and balances. Certainly single parent households may be tyrannical arrangements in that the children are expected to do exactly what is ordered by the parent. When they do not, as in the case of Cordelia, they may be extricated from the family unit. In order to restore order in the family, sanctions have to be lifted and unification has to be achieved.

Parent-Child Relationship In King Lear

Through the study of King Lear , students will come to understand and appreciate the roles of parents and children, filial expectations, the nature of familial relationships, and their deterioration and renewal as these concepts apply to their daily lives. Just as Shakespearean audiences enjoyed the plays because the performances related to their daily lives, our students today can enjoy the plays for the same reasons.


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This unit will combine elements of King Lear's and Gloucester's familial relationships in what we today call a single parent environment, so students can identify with specific issues they confront in their daily lives. We will blend Lear's and Gloucester's familial situations and show how, in our current environment, the many students who live within a single parent household undergo filial conditions that are not much different those in Shakespeare's day depicted in King Lear. The dealings children experience with their parents, among their siblings, and within their extended families will be visited in this unit as we study Lear's and Gloucester's family dynamics and comparing/contrasting students' family situations.