King Lear

King Lear


William Shakespeare

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Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Analysis

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Themes and Colors
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon
Authority and Order Theme Icon
Disintegration, Chaos, Nothingness Theme Icon
Old Age Theme Icon
Fooling and Madness Theme Icon
Blindness and Insight Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in King Lear, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fathers, Children, and Siblings Theme Icon

The personal drama of King Lear revolves around the destruction of family relationships. Tragedy emerges from bonds broken between parents and children—and, at a secondary level, from the loss of ties among siblings. Lear, misreading Cordelia's understated, but true, devotion to him renounces his "parental care" (1.1.127) of her. This rejection is twofold. Lear withdraws his "father's heart" (1.1.142); he also strips Cordelia of the financial and political support that formerly made her attractive to her suitors. Driven by greed and ambition, Goneril and Regan fail to show any solidarity with their sister in 1.1. And later, despite their strong professions of love for Lear, they both betray him in order to consolidate their political authority. In addition, although the two "tigers, not daughters" (4.2.49) initially ally with each other, their lustful desire for Edmund ultimately drive Goneril to murder Regan, before committing suicide when Edmund himself is killed, thus ensuring the complete annihilation of the Lear line.

Edmund's conspiracy to mislead Gloucester into disinheriting his legitimate son Edgar provides a foil to the Lear family situation throughout the play. Edmund—who is Gloucester's illegitimate or "natural" son from an affair outside marriage, rather than a legitimate or "legal" one—further highlights the question of where parent-child loyalty stems from: biology or socially acknowledged status. And, indeed, the private or familial sphere is inseparable from the public and political realm in King Lear. Fatherhood, in the play, serves as a model and metaphor for kingly leadership, while the narrative regarding the disintegration of families parallels the disintegration of the British state.

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Fathers, Children, and Siblings Quotes in King Lear

Below you will find the important quotes in King Lear related to the theme of Fathers, Children, and Siblings.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
"I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not."
Related Characters: Cordelia (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.258-259
Explanation and Analysis:
"Yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself."
Related Characters: Regan (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 1.1.339-340
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
"Thou, Nature, art my goddess."
Related Characters: Edmund (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods
Page Number: 1.2.1
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
"My old heart is cracked; it's cracked."
Related Characters: Gloucester (speaker), Edgar
Page Number: 2.1.106
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, scene 4 Quotes
"O sir, you are old.
Nature I you stands on the very verge
Of his confine."
Related Characters: Regan (speaker), King Lear
Page Number: 2.4.164-166
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, scene 2 Quotes
"The nature which contemns its origin
Cannot be bordered certain in itself."
Related Characters: Albany (speaker), Goneril
Page Number: 4.2.41-42
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, scene 3 Quotes
"No, no, no, no. Come, let's away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds in the cage."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 5.3.9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so
That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone forever."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 5.3.308-310
Explanation and Analysis:
"No, no, no life?
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never."
Related Characters: King Lear (speaker), Cordelia
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 5.3.369-372
Explanation and Analysis: