King Lear and the Analysis of the Family Concept Essay

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The issue regarding which is more important, love and family ties or fame and political power are issues that are always present in every generation. Well, which is really more important that we should devote our lives in search for the more important thing? Is blood really thicker than water? It is a subjective topic in which persons have different experiences and stand about the subject matter. This paper aims to answer this question by referring to the epic play of William Shakespeare: King Lear. It is also important to look at the values and actions displayed by the characters of the stories and to analyze whether they are still applicable in our contemporary time.

King Lear is regarded by many critics as one of the best works of the arguably greatest writer that has ever lived, the immortal William But despite being on of the authors last works, King Lear had echoed throughout literary history as one of the best read and staged play. It has also become a staple material for those who endeavor in literature studies. The success of the text owes much to the themes that the text generates. One of those themes is an issue that the whole world can relate to about a family. The socio -cultural nature of the family had amplified significantly the readership of the text as it is being used as a study text by those in the social sciences.

Family and Society

Family is an essential part of the society. It is a major component in the aspect of social health in the world we live in. The family which includes the parents and children, all play a big role in shaping the society, in maintaining the social health of the place we call home. The family is a means of the propagation of life, wherein because of the family, societies continue to exist. It is because of the parents capability to bear children and raise them to become better people, thus accounting for a better society.

Comparison and Contrast between Modern and Shakespearean King Lear Family

The modern American family has more diverse components not just the typical family members. Often times, the structure of a modern family is greatly influenced with the modern influence brought about by the changing times and ideas. Modern societies are not only characterized with the great influence of technological advances and dependency, but rather in more complex terms, the modern family is subjected to changes in the ideals behind the essence of a modern family image. (Woloch 1997)

But unlike in modern families, the aristocratic family of King Lear in Shakespeares work typifies the basic notion of family struggles at that time. The character of King Lear is portrayed as a struggling human being eager to win the favour of his children in the most drastic ways he knows best. The intention of the character of King Lear is to do what he thinks is best for his sons and daughters. However, he became so obsessed in power and blinded by his intention to protect his daughters at all costs in the expense of Cordelia.

In discerning the true identity of a modern family, we realize the need to evaluate the changes in the basic unit of structure in the society from Shakespeares time until now. During the early centuries, the family is characterized by only one true virtue: it is composed of the father, the mother and their children. The history behind the family as a concept, involves the idea of each roles portrayed by each entity.

The father is the sole provider of the family; the mother is the one who takes care of the children and the household; and the children are there to be nurtured, loved and provided for. But generally these concepts have become the main stereotypes brought into the modern societies.

The play has those stereotypes. King Lear is portrayed as a noble aristocrat obsessed with his power. Cordelia is also a pivotal character in King Lear wherein she is seen as a typical good daughter who always follows her father. However, the fool can be put as an allegory of Shakespearean society wherein truth is at its essence of being true.

Times change and almost everything in the society changes and has changed. Not just from infrastructure, but also the amount of knowledge shared and experienced by everyone. The concept of family has also changed dramatically. Brought by the women revolution and the emergence of the feminist concept, the country has experienced the women greatly influence the manner in which concepts in the society is changed.(Woloch 1997)

The role of women in the society has greatly changed from the stereotyped domesticated females, to the working and productive women of the future.(Kemp & Squires 1997) This is an important phenomenon in history that must be addressed in order to define the concept of changing family image. One notable contribution came from the changed status of women and the achievement of gender equality in the country.

Another contributing factor to the changing views in family image made by the play King Lear is the role portrayed by men in the society. From a patriarchal type of society, King Lear for instance, experience a dramatic change brought about by the change in the status of women.(Woloch 1997) Men in modern times have to compete more and more with women in context of career and including family life. There is a great paradigm shift of roles from the earlier centuries wherein men have the sole right to work for their family. In modern societies, women share equal roles in bringing and managing resources within the household.

These events are clearly depicted in both stories of King Lear and Cordelia. Placed in both different contexts, the two characters in the play depicted the changes within the modern family. In the Kings character, the life of a domesticated father is shown albeit part of the aristocracy. The concept of tough love towards Cordelia is present in all acts. Having experience what probably most modern fathers are experiencing, Shakespeare realized is that being a domesticated father entails the kind sympathy for mothers who spends most of the time taking care of the kids. While men busily work to earn their monthly income, mothers are entailed with a much greater responsibility in terms of taking care of the children.

There is a conflict shown in the essay in which the author questions his capacity, as a male figure in the society, to handle such responsibility in the home. While his wife is away, he maintains to struggle between his job as a writer and as an on-hands father. Every domesticated father will realize that it is somehow degrading to realize that he can not do his job or fulfill his professional aspirations in life if he exchanges his role with the wife.

There is the internal conflict that lies within the men to question their respective roles in the society and specifically in their own family. Osborne explains the struggles experienced by men in accepting that hard roles that women portray in the society. Once they too have experienced being domesticated, this eventually changes their own perception of their role in the family.

Sexual identity and social identity is another main idea in the plays depiction of courtship. In the story, social acceptance has a main role in considering this kind of modern family. This can be seen over the courting of the Duke of Cornwall towards Cordelia. Over the years, society has witness the growing number of social class relationships that includes a child or the wanting of a child. Many states still is irreconcilable with the issues behind aristocracy. But it is of practice to respect and tolerate the decision by the protagonist in handling his family.

Obstetrics, Family, and Social Health on King Lear

            Obstetrics is a key in maintaining social health because it deals with a big part in the society the family. A particular concept which can be adapted in thes paper, Obstetrics makes sure that life propagates, because it takes care of the womens concerns during pregnancy, the formation of a new life, a life that would play a big role in the society. Obstetrics takes care of being able to have children of your own, which is another important factor in the family. A child, the product of the parents love and efforts, completes the societys building block, the family (Nesbitt, 2002). As in the case of the main protagonist in the play, the same concept can be applied since King Lear had a difficult time in handling his children effectively.

Comparison of the Concept of Family in other Shakespearean Plays

In the story of Antigone, Haemon must choose between her love for Antigone and the fame and political power that await him if he obeys his father. In both Antigone and King Lear, the concept of patriarchal obedience is evident. Now Haemon is facing a dilemma because of the conflict between his love and his father. The same choice goes for Antigone for she wants to give her brother the honor of being buried in the right way. Both cases can be traced back to the struggles of Cordelia under his father. However, doing so would mean that she must disobey King Lears order. Disobeying the king does not only take the opportunity to be the princess by marrying the kings son, Haemon, but her own life as well. But Antigone and Haemon decided to follow their hearts.

In the end, Antigone killed herself. Knowing that his love is death, Haemon also decided to end his life. Thus, their value for their love ones cost them their own lives. However, they still gain the respect and sympathy of the people of Thebes. It can be said that the actions of Antigone and Haemon are not applicable in our present time. Although there are several movies that portray the same idea, this rarely happen in reality. It is a very rare case in which lovers decided to end their lives since it is impossible for them to be together. They can be considered as martyrs rather than heroes because of the act.

Antigone also displays the kind of courage and determination that is greatly needed in our society today. Although she is a woman, she defies the odds and even the king for what she believes is right. Adding to the fact that she lives in the period when woman are considered inferior to man. This kind of courage is really needed by the present generation. Not only woman but men as well that have the courage to stand up and are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to make a change. Today, although woman are accepted by our society and are said to be equal to men, there are still some times that they are afraid to speak out and fight for their rights.

Also both men and women are sometimes afraid to question some of the things that they find unjust in the society. They are afraid to face the consequences and are unwilling to make a change to improve social order. This characteristic is really needed in our society today, the courage to fight for what is right even if the whole society is against us. If only there are those like Antigone that are willing to give it all in order to make a change, Im sure that our society will be a better place to live.

 On the other hand, King Lear cannot consider himself victorious. His persistence and determination to exercise his power over the people of Thebes had a considerably great cost. Not only had he lost the sympathy of his people not to mention the approval of the gods but the life of his daughters and sons as well. His authority blinded him and the result is loosing the persons that he values the most. If our present leaders will demonstrate the same reason and behavior like that of King Lear, the people will surely revolt and take their powers and authority away and give it to someone more deserving and just. The people will surely not tolerate such actions.

Whether to choose love and family over fame and political power is really a big decision. You cannot have the best of both worlds. To pursue love means to let go of powers and fame and vise versa. Also we cannot really determine which is important, whether to choose love and family ties over fame and power depends upon the situation. What is important is that we do not only consider our own benefit in making the right decision. Also the stories show that to pursue love and power is not wrong, however living your life to attain just one of them is sure to cost you a lot. In making a decision we should both consider the heart and as well as the mind in order to come up with the right decision.


Ashbee, Edward. American Society Today. New York: Manchester University Press, 2002.

Hertz, Rosanna, and Nancy L. Marshall. Working Families : The Transformation of the American Home. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Hutter, Mark. The Changing Family. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Kemp, Sandra, and Judith Squires. Feminisms. Oxford Readers. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Woloch, Nancy. Early American Women : A Documentary History, 1600-1900. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Wakefield, Thaddeus, and NetLibrary Inc. The Family in Twentieth-Century American Drama. New York: P. Lang, 2004.

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