The purpose of this research is to examine the dramatic impact of the parent-child relationships in Hamlet and King Lear. The plan of the research will be to set forth the importance of these relationships to the pattern of ideas in each play and then to discuss the means by and extent to which parent-child interaction drives the action of and the fate of all the characters in each play.
The complex parent-child situation at home initiates and drives the action of Hamlet, and Hamlet is the hub of parent-child relationships with his mother, his new stepfather/uncle, and the ghost of his father. Hamlet's emotional ties have been turned upside down. He compares Uncle Claudius unfavorably to the elder Hamlet, "no more like my father / Than I to Hercules" (I.ii). He does not understand how Gertrude could forget memories of the marriage with his father, which was plainly a love match. Gertrude "would hang on him, / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on: and yet, within a month-- / Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!" (I.ii). It turns out Hamlet's father was murdered by Claudius and that Hamlet must fix this evil by dispatching the new stepfather. But he is torn between action and thinking about consequences. His delay fosters many casualties and tragedies--including Hamlet himself.
The importance of the parent-child dynamics to the play is that they explain the psychological turmoil of all the characters. Hamlet's mourning of his father is criticized by Claudius, the new father, as "unmanly grief" (I.ii). Meanwhile, Hamlet obtains no comfort from his mother Gertrude. His entire experience of home and family has been disrupted. He sees his home as an unweeded garden and the marriage as incestuous sheets.
According to Freud, who makes parent-child relationships the focus of psychological theory, the action of the play turns "upon Hamlet's hesitation in accomplishing the task of revenge assigned to h...