Hamlet

Claudius and Lear: Familial Failures College

In an excerpt from Sir Robert Filmer’s The Natural Power of Kings, the defined paternal positions of father and king are inextricably synonymous. In the periods in which William Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and King Lear both occur, usurper of the throne Claudius and the psychologically waning Lear are both expected to engage in and practice these familial obligations: “As the father over one family, so the king as father over many families extends his care to preserve, feed, clothe, instruct, and defend the whole commonwealth” (McDonald, 284-85). While Claudius fails to preserve his paternal obligations to Hamlet and Gertrude by placing his own desires and ambition ahead of his inherited responsibilities, he does succeed politically in securing the safety of the state of Denmark by defeating England and peacefully evading war with Norway—but Lear falls even shorter that Claudius in his duties: he fails to act as a fatherly figure to his loving and loyal daughter Cordelia, he curses sterility upon later heirs, and fails to provide for the citizens of Britain by regarding nothing to be more important than his own apparent self-interest.

When it comes to Hamlet especially, Claudius evades his obligation to serve...

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