King Lear: Family Relationships, Human Nature and Its Failings

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“I love your majesty according to my bond; no more nor less” (I.i.94-95). Good morning teachers and HSC students. King Lear, a timeless story of family relationships, human nature and its failings. But what makes this play “timeless”? The fact that it contains universal themes of love, jealousy and family relationships makes it applicable to modern times even though it was written for a 16thcentury audience.

Two critics that have commented on the thematic concerns of family relationships and human nature are Maggie Tomlinson in “A violent world” and Jim Young in “Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind”, both of which I’ll be discussing, today in detail.

The concept of family relationships is a prevalent theme that can be viewed on many levels, such as the deterioration, renewal and the nature of familial bonds. There are many family relationships in the plot of King Lear, with the two major ones relating to the sub plot of Gloucester and the main plot of Lear.

In both these relationships, betrayal is the major factor that contributes to the deterioration of the kinship. In Gloucester’s case, through the simple act of humiliating Edmund, where Gloucester says in his presence “There was good sport at his making and the whoreson must be acknowledged” (1.1.21-24), he created a rift in the relationship. Maggie Tomlinson brings up a rather significant point when she comments on the nature of the relationship and the trust that is abused. She states “The evidence is simply not the sort of thing any one let alone a father would believe in” This illustrates the trust that is built in these types of relationships and the ability of it to be exploited.

Family relationships are also seen between the daughters and King Lear. Shakespeare cleverly investigates the nature of relationships through Lear’s test to see who loves him the most. Goneril and Regan are portrayed as manipulative people with the gift of words and courtly manners, but it...
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