Shakespeare plays The Tempest, King Lear, Othello and Hamlet portray both provocative and complex relationships between the parents and their children. The plays concentrate on the relationships between the fathers and their daughters. In the plays, the daughters are somehow rebellious because they are avoiding their fathers’ control and influence and chooses to live their own lives. According to the turn of events, this kind is a child transformation that is somehow challenging and could have psychological impacts on the parents and their children. In his works, Shakespeare concentrates mostly on family relationships and gender characteristics. For this reason, looking into the relationship that exists between the parents and their children is vital because it certainly represents a major concern within the society. Shakespeare’s reflection on the father-daughter bond revolves around adolescence and stage, traditional social customs, personality and male and female perspectives. In most of his plays, Shakespeare reflects on a widower bringing up an adolescent daughter, who is maturing to adulthood. This paper aims to delineate why Shakespeare focuses on a moment when the daughter leaves their father’s control and influence and how the transformation determines most of the changes that provoke an identity crisis.
The Tempest, King Lear, Othello, and Hamlet stories have relationships that involve a daughter and a father. The Tempest has Miranda and Prospero, King Lear has King Lear and Cordelia, Othello has Ophelia and Polonius, while Hamlet has Desdemona ana Brabantio. Focusing on the bonds exhibited between these children and their parents gives an avenue of understanding the characters of each daughter and the reason behind the trait. The relationships that are exhibited in these plays could either be conforming to the traditional norms while others seemingly challenge this form of parenting. Focusing on the plays would shed light on the complex and compelling relationships that exist between parents and their children (Callaghan 34). However, before embarking on analyzing the relationship between parents and their children, my essay will investigate how the parents and children lived in the Shakespeare era.
The way that children and their parents cohabited during the author’s time is likely to bring forth reasons for the bond between them. According to Stone, he believes that in the earlier days, the children were unable to have strong bonds with their mentors or guardians. Stone believes that the society during Shakespeare’s work was not able to elaborate on what led to the existence of weak bonds between parents and children, which made it difficult to elaborate on some of the emotional ties exhibited. Stone, for this reason, believes that the bonds were not sentimental, which contributed to sending most of the children to foster homes. However, fathers in the 16th and 17th centuries were different because they cared for their children particularly daughters with so much affection that there existed a psychological distance between them and their mothers (Callaghan 38). Or this reason, most of Shakespeare’s novels could have been influenced by instances of maternal deprivation hence the stories in most of his works
The relationship between a parent and a child demonstrated by Shakespeare in these plays is that of a male-controlled family model. In the plays, there are two young women Ophelia and Desdemona and they are seemingly under ill-treatment from society because society does not allow them to grow up. The two ladies have their differences but at the same time, they have several similarities. In Othello, a strained relationship between the father and daughter is experienced when Desdemona decides to marry Othello. Deciding to get married showed that she was willing to leave her father’s influence and control. According to Dreher, Desdemona’s choice to marry Othello somehow created an identity crisis for her and her father (Dreher 145). However, their conflict is realized at the beginning of the play and escalates as the play continues. According to the traditional model, a woman those days were supposed to be obedient, dutiful, silent and chaste. However, Desdemona defied all these odds and decided to get married. Typically, she has rejected the traditional norms, denied her family and chose her own life. Even though her father Brabantio loves her unconditionally, her decision tends to strain their relationship. She chooses to defy her father and the male-dominated stereotypes and marries someone her father never considered fit to marry. According to Frey, Brabantio’s dreams are shattered by Desdemona’s decision because it affects his health and makes him succumb to despair.
Desdemona’s story shows how a woman living in a male-dominated society has no choice. For this reason, she must make her own decisions to survive (Frey 134). His father, on the other hand, portrays an inseparable bond because according to him, Desdemona’s act was like a betrayal to him. Brabantio even moves to the senate hoping to stop the wedding but his deeds could be associated with a male-dominated society that makes women inferior because they cannot make their own decisions. Brabantio tries to convince his daughter not to get married because he still wants him under his power and influence. However, Desdemona has transformed from being an adolescent to a woman, which makes her shift her father’s roles to Othello. She chooses to continue obeying her father while under Othello’s influence, which illustrates the essence of traditional norms.
The strained relationship between Desdemona and her father has influenced her identity. The father describes her daughter as an obedient daughter, which shows that society is likely to accept her because her morals are not corrupt. She is a clear example of women living in male-dominated societies. Her decision of getting married makes his father see her like a disobedient child. Brabantio does not realize that Desdemona has crossed the adolescent stage, which makes him perceive her as “his little girl”. From this context, Brabantio does not understand her daughter’s transformation, which makes him act with rage. Also, the fact that Othello is a Moor also creates conflict in the relationship. It shows that since the 16th century, racism was present and it could be a problem that still presents itself to date (Parker 76). Even though there has been an increment in interracial marriages in the united states, the issue of racism seemingly started way back. Othello’s play, however, shows how women are moved by circumstances to conform to the static and fatal ideal of feminine behavior. For this reason, Desdemona does nit make a psychological transformation because she is forced by society to make her irrational decisions. She is tied by her emotions and ends up clinging to her childish loyalties or the traditional norms that make her submissive even to her husband Othello.
In Hamlet, the conflict between Ophelia and her father emerges after Ophelia is warned of falling in love with Hamlet. The stories are almost the same because Ophelia’s identity crisis is realized when the father prohibits her from marrying Hamlet. Throughout the play, Ophelia’s brother seems to convince her not to marry Hamlet. She realizes that the act shows how women do not have a say within the society. Laertes and Polonius tend to control every decision that Ophelia makes, which shows that Ophelia is also living in a male-dominated society like Desdemona (Dreher 156). In most instances, Ophelia submits and decides to obey what her father tells her. She even tries to control, which increases his power. Surprisingly, he does not respect her daughter’s privacy because she asks her to narrate her intimate encounters with Hamlet. She even hands over the love letters that Hamlet has written to her to portray obedience towards her father. Such instances show that the two fathers have not recognized that their daughters have grown from being adolescents to adults. The difference between the women is that Ophelia agrees to be controlled while Desdemona turns out to be rebellious. However, the two women are trapped in a male-dominated society, but their lives decisions could only be determined by the realization o growth from one phase to the other.
Conclusively, the plays Hamlet and Othello by Shakespeare could be the best in analyzing the relationship that at times exist between the parents and their children. The daughter shows how they responded to the situations that they were subjected to by their parents. Both Desdemona and Ophelia are willing to move out of their father’s power ad influence but the circumstances around them determine their next move. The plays show that fathers are not ready to release their daughter to enjoy the next phase of life because they still perceive them as children. However, the daughters are forced to make choices of commitment to marriage, which makes the fathers realize the crisis of their middle lives. They are entangled on their roles as of late adults, which is to ensure that their daughters are in good hands. However, they are forgetting that their daughters are at the crisis of their puberty period, which intrinsically awakes their sexuality and need for a man in their lives. Therefore, most of the conflicts arise when the daughters want to make their life decisions but still obey their fathers. Such instances are still prevalent within society but all children should be accorded the right of self-expression. Also, parents should understand that their children are likely to transform with agism which would entirely change the decisions they are entitled to make.