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Role of Family in King Lear

I believe that Shakespeare attempts to teach much about families and their roles in the context of King Lear. Shakespeare defines the ultimate dysfunctional families and yet shows ways in which they could have been better. While unveiling the problems caused by scheming, dishonest children, he also deals with the pitfalls of being honest. He shows readers and actors that while honesty is always the best policy, it is not always the easiest road to travel. Shakespeare reaffirms this fact by presenting not one, but two families whose relationships and patterns reflect his fact.

Role of Family in King Lear

Lastly, Lear is the central character and remains such throughout the play despite his shortcomings and problems with deceit, honesty, loyalty and understanding. Edgar, son of Gloucester, recognizes the loss that both his family and that of King Lear has suffered. He comments, “The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most; we that are young Shall never see so much nor live so long.”

In many ways, King Lear continues to be the focus of the lives of those over whom he had ruled. Goneril and Regan will pay for their actions, and Edmund, too, will receive his just reward. However, the legacy that King Lear leaves is important to those he ruled, as well as those he unjustly punished, such as Cordelia. Edgar, as a subject, but also as a wronged child, understands Cordelia’s plight, and her loss, but has experience as well with a father whose anger caused rash decisions. While the play ends tragically, Lear’s mistakes and decisions remain models for those around him, both to avoid and to recognize earlier.

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