Who’s Your Daddy? : An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Fathers in Power Positions and Their Parental Relationship to Their Daughters
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William Shakespeare and his plays, taught in high schools across America every year, researched by historians for centuries, and enjoyed by classical literature lovers to no end, have been and will continue to be, I imagine, seen as a standard of English Literature. Through endearing readers with a variety of characters easy to connect to, and drawing upon classic themes and relatable storylines, Shakespeare has managed to form a robust foundation of enthusiasts and supporters from around the world. His plays, the objects of study for over 400 years now, provide a unique look into not only Shakespeare’s own time and culture, but into human nature itself. Family dynamics, lovers’ woes, tragedy and triumph— all are found in the thousands of lines Shakespeare has left the world with. All that we choose to pull from those lines varies, but I find a few certain topics to be particularly intriguing for the purpose of exploration. According to Sharon Hamilton, “Shakespeare’s tyrannical fathers ... value pride in their familial authority and social image over their children’s feelings.” (7). This pattern of valuing authority would surface through the fathers in positions of power across almost every Shakespeare play. And it’s this authority and desire for control that has drastic affects on the parental relationships of these men. This thesis aims to explore and examine four of the father-‐daughter relationships found within Shakespeare’s plays. Looking at reasons for control, the connections between father and daughter, and types of reconciliation, I hope to gain a better understanding of how fathers with power interact with and treat their daughters, as well as how those daughters respond. Ultimately, I believe these father-‐daughter relationships fail unless the father undergoes some sort of transformation that helps him see the damaging control he tries to extract from his daughter or daughters. Only once this occurs are they able to have a healthy and happy connection with their daughters. As we look at each of the four plays and their pair of parent-‐child connections, we see how these various relationships provide an inside look at control, forgiveness, and transformation within these four Shakespeare plays.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Historical Background -- A Midsummer Night’s Dream -- The Tempest -- The Winter’s Tale -- King Lear -- Conclusion -- Works Cited.