King Lear Politics and Family

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Sophie Stein
J.D. Price
werkgroep 18
word count: 839

King Lear, politics and family

In this essay I am going to discuss the political elements and the family dynamics in the play King Lear. The question arises if King Lear is chiefly a political play that happens to be shaped by family dynamics, or a family drama that just happens to have political repercussions? I will attempt to answer this question by discussing the relationship King Lear has with his daughters and what kind of political repercussions this relationship has.

In King Lear we notice that Shakespeare names certain characters only by the name of their states[1]. By doing so Shakespeare never lets the reader forget King Lear is primarily a political play. In act 1 scene 1 Lear has the plan to divide his kingdom over his daughters[2]. This political decision is almost immediately influenced by family matters. Lear's political choice is based on which daughter loves him most[3], changing this pure political act into sibling rivalry. After dividing the kingdom Lear stays with his Goneril whom speaks frankly to Lear about the debauchery of his knights[4] Goneril is trying to keep the kingdom from turning into a riotous mess by decreasing the number of Lear's knights. This is a sound political choice! Lear does not acknowledge this act as being good for the state but perceives it as ingratitude from his daughter. Lear says 'Degenerate bastard, I'll not trouble thee; Yet have I left a daughter' I.iv 260-261. Turning this political act into a family matter. In this scene we also note the return of the sibling rivalry[5]. The above mentioned choice Goneril made was good for the kingdom, but she is afraid Lear will know favor Regan causing her to loose power. She sends word to Regan[6] so her sister will choose her side and not Lear's, preventing Lear and his army from siding with Regan against Goneril.

In act 2 scene 4 Lear arrives at Regan, whom has...
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