"Family unions in King Lear are flawed, corrosive and faulty"

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Introduction

  • At the beginning of the play, both Lear and Gloucester both appear to head happy and successful families. 
  • However, by the end of the first scene Lear has torn his family apart with, what Rubio has referred to as, his "love test".
  • Furthermore in the opening lines of the second scene we learn of Edmond's plot against Edgar that is going to tear Gloucester's family apart; "legitimate Edgar, I must have your land"
  • Whilst it may seem obvious that the families of Lear and Gloucester are flawed and faulty, they are not totally unloving and are therefore not corrosive. 

Parent-Child Relationship - Father and Child [Paragraph One]

  • At the heart of King Lear lies the relationship between father and child. Central to this filal theme is the conflict between man and nature's law.
  • In other words... the breakdown of family relationships is inevitable due to the breakdown of natural order.
  • Primary plot : Lear betrays youngest daughter and in turn is betrayed by his two eldest daughters. 
  • Sub-plot : In almost identical fashion, Gloucester betrays his eldest legitimate son, and is betrayed by his youngest illegitimate son.
  • AO3: Hatcher argues "the themes of the subplot compliment the main plot". 
  • In both cases, the natural relationship between parent and child is destroyed through: a lack of awareness, which Kent points out "Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least", hasty judgement, which the Fool points out "thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavst away thy golden one", and ULTIMATELY the abandonment of natural order.
  • The structure of King Lear reflects this breakdown of the family, showing how family unions are flawed and faulty; the renunciation of natural order leaves the stage littered with the dead bodies of parents and their children. 
  • AO3 : Cliff summarised, "tragedy unfolds as two carefully interwoven and parallell stories explore the abandonment of natural order and the unnatural betrayl of parent and child". 
  • AO4 : Jacobean society saw the family as a microcosm of the state. The breakdown of the family can therefore be seen as a reflection of the state under James I. As Knight acknowledged, "King lear was written as an object lesson for James I". 

Parent-Child Relationships - Mother and Child[Paragraph Two]

  • The broken relationship between the father and child is emphasized by the absence of a maternal figure in the play. This further demonstrates the breakdown of natural order and how family unions are "flawed" and "faulty". 
  • In Jacobean England, the role of a mother was to bear and rear children as well as take care of household matters. 
  • Coppelia Kahn notes that "women are pirmarliy responsible for the rearing as well as the bearing of children". 
  • The absence of a mother for both Lear's and Gloucester's families is what leads to the breakdown of all family relaitonships. As Bond notes "the young girls

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