Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw

By Lagretta Tallent Lenker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

In Care of Thee

“I have done nothing but in care of thee” (T, I.ii.16), Prospero assures Miranda, thereby reminding his daughter of his vigilant nurture. However, as demonstrated earlier, all of Shakespeare’s fathers are not equally selfless or solicitous, nor are those of Shaw. Conversely, in many of the dramas of both Shakespeare and Shaw, it is the daughter, presumably the least powerful member in the family hierarchy, 1 who assumes the parental role of nurturer, mentor, and guide, successfully teaching and sometimes even redeeming her powerful male parent.

Critics often acknowledge the daughter’s role as teacher and redeemer. Terry Eagleton, writing on Shakespeare, discusses a situation easily related to Shaw as well:

The woman-daughter is she who will always return, as opposed to the woman-mistress who always may not. For the father to submit humbly to the blessing of his female child not only refurbishes an otherwise stiff-necked patriarchy with a much-needed dash of “feminine” mildness, but provides a kind of “natural” alternative to the fetishism of commodities. The child, product of the father and signified of his signifier, assumes a relative autonomy over him but one of a beneficent kind . . . moreover, this inversion is in no sense a transformation, since the daughter manifests her filial duty in the very act of healing the patriarch. (103)

Eagleton correctly assesses daughters as the instrument of Shakespearean education and redemption (in a manner I would expand to include Shaw as well):

-121-

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