Filial ingratitude theme of King Lear


King Lear is a tragic play composed by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). It depicts the misfortunes of king Lear due to his wrong decision and the ingratitude of his two eldest daughters named Regan, and Goneril. Three is more than one theme in King Lear such as Blindness, Justice and power, Flatter, Lechery, Treachery, Insanity, and Regeneration, etc. Among all themes, filial ingratitude is described as the major theme of King Lear. 

More Notes: King Lear

In the play, we get a clear description of Goneril’s ingratitude. she drives king Lear from her home because of the outburst of her passion. when King Lear is thrown by his daughter he exclaims against filial ingratitude- 

“Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend.” 

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” 

When he sees Regan, he tells her of Goneril’s treatment of him, “She hath tied/ Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here, “But when his two daughters deprive him combine from their house he reminds them, “I gave you all”. Besides, when Lear was thrown from the palace a storm starts Lear rushes out into the dark and stormy night in a careless mood. But either Regan or Goneril makes any effort to save their father from the storm. He lives in the rough weather continuously on the ingratitude of his daughters. 

More Notes: Suggestions

In the farmhouse scene, where the King appears as mad. He thinks that he is a victim of his daughter’s ingratitude. He calls those present to dissect Regan, and asks, “Is there any cause in nature, that makes these hard hearts?”.And at the end of the play when Lear is recovering from his madness with Cordelia’s help, he recalls the cause of his problems and says, “your sisters have, as I do remember, done me wrong.”  

Similarly, Gloucester also suffers from filial ingratitude from his bastard son, Edmund. Thus, filial ingratitude is vividly presented here as the prominent theme in King Lear. 


Finally, we can say that through the presentation of the theme of filial ingratitude Shakespeare seems to convey that children are often ungrateful to their parents and old are considered burdens to the young though everybody should grateful to each other. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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