A Comparison Of Parent-child Relationships In King Lear And King

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  • Grade: 74

        In the novels King Henry IV and King Lear both parents appear to have tense

relationships with their children. Lear's two children Goneril and Regan pretend to love their

father but their feelings change after they gain access to his kingdom. Once they are in authority

they treat him badly and drive him to the point of insanity. Lear banishes his daughter

Cordelia but soon discovers that she is the one that truly loves him. In King Henry , Henry and

his son Prince Hal do not get along very well because Henry disapproves of Hal's friends and his

lifestyle for someone who is to be the future king. Hal is stubborn and refuses to listen to his

father but in the end he proves that he really does love his father.
        In the novel King Lear, Lear is the ruling authority of Britain who has decided that he

wants to step down from the throne. He plans to divide his kingdom between his three daughters

Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Lear is going to give the daughter who says that she loves him the

most the bigger share of his wealth, and thus he asks each daughter to say which of them loves

him the most. Lear's oldest two daughter's Goneril and Regan are schemers and try to entice their

father by saying that they love him more than anything else. In Goneril's reply she states that " A

love that makes breath poor, and speech unable: Beyond all manner of so much I love you" (I.i.

62-64). Regan proclaims that "I find she names my very deed of love; Only she comes too short,

that I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys"(I.i.74-75). Cordelia , Lear's youngest daughter

and also his favorite does not know how to answer her father's question and says, " Unhappy that

I am I cannot heave My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty According to my bond, nor

more nor less (I.i. 93-95). This reply by Cordelia causes Lear to banish her as his daughter and

divide his kingdom between his other two daughters.


        In passing his authority on to Goneril and Regan, Lear has made a grave mistake. Neither

of his two daughters really love him but only want to be rid of his supremacy and have complete

control over the kingdom. When Lear goes to stay at Goneril's castle we see how her declaration

of love for her father changes. Goneril complains to her servant Oswald that Lears knights are

becoming "riotus" and that her father is also a rude guest. She orders her servants to be unkind to

her father and his attendants which they do and Lear begins to notice. Goneril finally confronts

her father personally and tells him that his servants and knights are nit behaving properly and must

leave regardless of his wishes. Lear cannot believe that Goneril is treating him so harshly and

betraying him but unfortunately she sends away fifty of his knights. He regrets that he ever gave

his kingdom to Goneril and wishes that she will never have a child and if she does that she will

have a harsh life as a mother. King Lear decides that he will move with his daughter Regan at

her castle and because he thinks she will treat him much better.
        King Lear now realizes that he has no control over any decisions since all power is now in

the hands of Goneril and Regan. Driven by Goneril's claims that he is going senile King Lear

wonders if he is going mad and begins to question himself . Regan also appears to be as cruel as

her sister in her treatment of Lear's servant Kent when she orders him to be put in the stocks

even though she knows it would be against her father's wishes. When Lear arrives at Regan's

castle he tells her how unkindly Goneril treated him; she agrees with Goneril saying that he is

getting old and irrational and that Goneril deserves an apology. Even as he begs her to take him

in and give him shelter she refuses her own father. When Goneril arrives at the castle they both

conspire against their father saying he must give up his servants if he wants to live with either of

them. He tries to bargain with them both but in the end they both decide that they will not allow

him any servants at all. He becomes so angry with them that he goes outside in a storm and

neither Regan or Goneril goes after him but orders that the doors be locked leaving their father

out in the storm.
        Cordelia, who is now the Queen of France has been sent letters from Kent with

information concerning the treatment of her father by her sisters. Lear is too ashamed about the

way he treated Cordelia and of her banishment that he refuses to see her. Cordelia sends one

hundred of her soldiers out in search of her father and questions a doctor about her father's

recovery from his state of mind. We can see that Cordelia is the only daughter that truly loves

Lear and searched for him though he treated her harshly choosing her sisters over her. We also

learn that this is Cordelia's reason for the French war against England is to gain control back for

her father and put him back on the throne as she declares, "Therefore great France My mourning

and importuned tears hath pitied. No blown ambition doth our arms incite, But love, dear love,

and our aged father's right: Soon may I hear and see him!" (IV.iv.25-29).

        At the end of the play both Cordelia and King Lear end up dying together after making

things right between them.. It is evident that regardless of Lear's previous treatment towards

Cordelia, she was the only true lover of her father. Even after he had banished her, she comes to

his rescue from her evil sisters and eventually gave her life trying to win back the throne for him .
Lear realizes that Goneril and Regan are heartless and cruel and did not really love him but

wanted his kingdom that they never come to look for their father but leave him out to the storm.

They both are even against each other in that they both want to have an affair with Edmund and

would say or do anything to each other to distract him away from the other sister.


        King Henry IV and his son Prince Hal have a very stressful relationship. Hal will

eventually become King Henry IV. Hal is a young man who is heir to the throne of England and

it upsets his father that Hal seems to spend all of his time hanging out o the other side of England

wasting his time and acting irresponsible. The company he keeps with highwaymen , robbers and

whores is also distasteful to his father. Hal's dishonorable behavior makes King Henry ashamed

and Henry wishes that Hotspur were his son instead . The King compares Hotspur to Hal and

believes that Hotspur is "the theme of honors tongue," but that "riot and dishonor stain the brow

of my young Harry," that is Prince Hal (I.i. 80-84).

        Hal tells himself saying that he hangs around with these low class friends as part of a plan

to make his father and English people think poorly of him so that he can surprise them whenever

he decides to grow up and start behaving like a real prince. He believes that hanging out with

these common people is useful to him and will help him when he is king; an idea that his father

totally disagrees with. Hal feels that if he lowers people's expectations of him then it will be

easier to please them later on then it would be if people expected great things of him now. Thus,

he has deliberately chosen friends and a lifestyle that will disappoint his father and all of England.

Hal says that he will soon reveal his true self to everyone soon. Hal proves that his father's

perspective of him is true when he helps to participate in a robbery and betrays his friends.

Although it was only supposed to be a joke it is not activities that a future king should be involved


        A message has been brought to the tavern for Hal telling him to return home to see his

father in the morning because a civil war is about to begin. Hal returns to the palace to reply to

his father's calling. King Henry is sad and disappointed in Hal and condemns him for his actions

and even compares him to Richard II whom Henry defeated and says that the common people

hated. He tells him that if he continues to hang out with these people then he will never be truly

respected as a king. He says that when he was about to become king he himself was respected

because he only appeared before the common people occasionally.

        Prince Hal suddenly realizes how his father really thinks about him and swears that he is

wrong about his thoughts. He says that he will get vengeance against Hotspur for his actions

against his father and also pledges that from now on he will act as a future king should behave.

This is evident in his reply to Hamlet's speech when Hal says " I shall hereafter, my thrice

gracious lord, Be more myself." (III.ii.92-93). King Henry seems moved by Hal's declaration but

tells him that in order to prove himself he must take charge over the soldiers during the war.

         Hal proves that he really loves his father when he sees that he is in danger with Douglas

who is an excellent fighter. Prince Hal challenges Douglas to a fight and beats him so bad that he

runs away. King Henry finally realizes how much Hal really loves him and thanks him saying that

he is very proud of him and says, "Thou hast redeemed thy last opinion , And showed thou mak'st

some tender of my life, In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me"(V.iv.47-49). Hal solemnly

replies to his father by saying, "O God they did me too much injury That ever said I heark'ened

for your death" (V.iv.50-51). It is evident that Hal has finally earned his father's respect and

they have both overcome the tension that has plagued them so long.

        There are times in life when we can ruin relationships with the people that we love because

we are blinded by the facts. This is true in King Lear because he needed to make himself feel

good he demanded to hear his daughters express their love for him. Anyone can put words

together to say how much they love someone but it is the actions that really count. Lear

discovers in the endthat these actions speak louder than words when Cordelia is the one who

saves him while Goneril and Regan leave him to the storm. Lear almost ruined his relationship

with the one daughter that truly loved him but they finally come together and he sees her for the

honest and loving person she really is. Cordelia was different from her siblings who didn't want a

relationship with their father until it meant expressing their love for personal gains. This is also

true for King Henry IV who goes so far as to say that he wishes that Hotspur were his son instead

of Hal because he is so ashamed of him. Henry's opinion of his son Prince Hal is based on the

friends his son chooses to hang out with and also because of the places he frequents. Hal turns

out to be a very smart and witty person who really loves his father and risks his to save him. King

Henry realizes the love his son has for him and they are able to work things out between them.
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