Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw

By Lagretta Tallent Lenker | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Never an Innocent Relationship

Shaw’s John Tarleton wisely intuits that within the hierarchical structure of the patriarchal nuclear family, father and daughter relationships, although often tender and nurturing, are rarely completely innocent, rarely totally devoid of the need for ego gratification or the struggle for power. Shakespeare and Shaw also recognized this constant of our culture and even as the fathers and daughters in their dramas sometimes exploit their relationship for subversive reasons, so, in a somewhat different manner, the two playwrights also exploit this fictional relationship within their own plays for their own subversive purposes. Thus, although they frequently depict the father-daughter relationship as a site of education and even as a source of redemption, they also exploit this relationship to interrogate conventional attitudes toward gender, family, and society. Close inspection of their plays discovers subtexts undermining this quasi-sacred relationship, and the presence of these subtexts implies that both dramatists co-opt the supposedly transcendent bonds of familial love for a more temporal objective—the subversion of perceived authority. Given the strict climate of censorship in which both authors wrote, I suggest that the two playwrights’ decision to dramatize this apparently simple, natural kinship bond is, in reality, a calculated, yet subtle exploitation of the complex tensions endemic to the most basic of social institutions, the family. During the Victorian and early modern eras, therefore, the “family,” and particularly the father-daughter relationship, provided an ideal “cover” for debate on the politically and socially charged issues that contributed to the angst of both fins de siècle.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 203

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?