Another dysfunctional family…make that two…

From reading the very first line in Shakespeare’s play, King Lear,   “I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall”, I knew this would be a play about the relationship between a father and his children. It seems all too predictable with common themes; such as, redemption, kingship, parent-child relationship, sibling rivalry, love, and power. These themes occur within the first two scenes.  

The play begins by addressing which son-in-law the king feels most affectionate towards and values most. The plot grows thicker when the king decides he is getting to old to rule and decides he would rather spend the last of his days visiting with family.  He decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He does so in a very odd and unusual manner. He commands each of his daughters to profess their love for him publicly and the one with the strongest conviction wins a larger portion of his wealth and land.   Cordelia, the kings youngest daughter, who genuinely loves him the most, refuses to take part in this game and is disowned and sent away.

Dysfunctional family number two and the sub-plot in King Lear...Gloucester and the rivalry between his sons, Edgar and Edmund. Edmund being his illegitimate son plots against both is father and his half-brother Edgar not only for wealth and power but to be recognized as Gloucester’s natural son and not  his illegitimate son. 

It is interesting to see how dysfunctional and evil families can be and act towards one another. In every play I have read of Shakespeare thus far has portrayed at least one black sheep in a family that stirs up controversy and evil plots with sinister outcomes. Lear’s two oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan I do believe are very evil and do not love their father as they claim to. They have no virtue as their younger sister, Cordelia does, and are plagued with greed and power.  I am afraid that this play will be to predictable and these two sisters will ultimately turn not only on their own father, as we have already seen at the end of Act II, but they shall turn on each other as well. As for Edmund, I do not see his outcome promising either.

Although I do see King Lear as predictable, I have been sucked in by the promising evil doings of these characters and have many questions, especially about King Lear. Why does he tests his daughter’s love for him? One of Shakespeare’s common themes is transformation, and I wonder if we will see a transformation in King Lear’s childish behavior. Will he be betrayed further by his own daughters and relinquish his governing responsibilities? Is the storm that his daughters leave him in a turning point? Is Cordelia’s speech of “nothingness”  a true act of love? If so can she and will she be able to forgive her father for disowning her? Why does Kent disguise himself? Is this an act of loyalty to Lear?  Will Gloucester’s son Edmund take charge? Will he defeat his father and his brother Edgar? Or will Edgar be the last man standing?    



3 thoughts on “Another dysfunctional family…make that two…

  1. VincentFinoWriting

    Interesting post, Laurie. King Lear reminds me a lot of King Richard; they both are ignorant and a bit incompetent towards the world around him. Both King Richard and King Lear want to be loved by all, yet their actions do not reflect these sentiments. Additionally, both of them are quick to banish those closest to them–this is inevitably going to lead to King Lear’s downfall, just like it did Richard.

  2. wolferamanda

    I enjoyed reading your post. We discussed this today in class. At first I thought Cordelia was being a brat by not telling her father she loved him. Then after class it became clear that she was portraying her individuality and being honest. I do not agree with Lear’s daughters being evil to him, he gave them all his inheritance and the least they could do was house him and let him have his men. This is dysfunction to me. Looking at the above reply, Lear is definitely comparable to King Richard.

  3. gallaghj1

    I agree with the above statements as well as your post. When I was reading the scene where Lear asks his daughters to him how much they love him, I took it as Lear needing verbal reassurance that his children love him and will take care of him in his old age. Actions do speak much louder than words though and all three of the sisters have shown this. As for the Edgar and Edmund plot, I am curious to see how that will unfold. I think its unfair that Edgar has to deal with his brother Edmund. I can just picture all the illegitimates in Shakespeare’s audience yelling “boo! you’re giving us a worse name!”


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