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Hanly, C. (1986). Lear and his Daughters. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 13:211-220.

(1986). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 13:211-220

Lear and his Daughters

Charles Hanly


The author reviews the works that have been written on Shakespeare's King Lear both from the literary critics and from a psychoanalytic standpoint. He proposes that Lear is more of a villain than has been appreciated, his villany arising from narcissism and from sadism. It is possible that Lear's villainy may have been overlooked because of a tendency to idealize the King and Father and to deny some features of father–daughter relationships. The opening scene of the play, in which Lear sets out to divide his kingdom among his daughters, is an essential feature of the play, not simply the deus ex machina that Coleridge and others have proposed. The scene establishes Lear as the narcissistic and sadistic father making unnatural demands upon his daughters. Lear's daughters are better understood as persons with human weaknesses, rather than as symbols, and the play can best be experienced as the tragic dilemma of a family rather than an expression of broader processes.

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