Shakespeare’s Worst Fathers

I didn’t want to do a Shakespeare Fathers list because I knew there’d be plenty of others doing the same thing.  That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it, though. Here’s one for Shakespeare’s Worst Fathers that we can use.

Since it leads with a picture of Lord Capulet (strangely blacking on John Leguizamo’s face, I guess to symbolize that he could be anybody’s father or something?), I thought that they were going to give him the #1 spot. They didn’t, but it was close.

I used to be on the “Lord Capulet is a horrible father” train, but over the years I’ve been convinced that he’s all talk.  For every scene we can point to where he’s the bad guy, there’s one where he’s the good guy.  He’s the one that suggests that maybe Capulets and Montagues can get along. He’s the one that knows Romeo has crashed his party, and not only lets him stay, but turns on his own kinsman Tybalt for getting everybody upset.  He’s the one that tells Paris that Juliet gets a say in who she marries.

True, that last one appears to be fairly empty when she doesn’t choose “correctly”, and true he does basically threaten to beat her, to throw her out of the house, if she doesn’t do what she’s told.  But does he actually do any of those things? Would he have, given the chance?  Or is it all talk?  Is that just the picture of a father with a temper who has never been spoken to that way before? He’s also the guy who was all, “Revive, or I will die with thee!” when he found her body.

Some of the entries on the list I can live with.  Leonato’s “Do not live, Hero. Do not ope thine eyes,” is pretty bad in my book.  I find it hard to allow him the “Sometimes we say things we regret” defense. That one’s pretty bad.

Shakespeare's Worst Fathers
Well, ok, that one was obvious.

The one that bothers me most is Prospero.  Worst fathers? Really?  The reason seems to be that he, like basically every other father in Shakespeare’s time, chose a husband for his daughter.  I mean, sure, he raised her entirely on his own for a dozen years while stranded on an island with magical creatures who weren’t necessarily friendly.  And he manipulated the veryforces of nature to cause a ship to land on their island to return her to the life she deserved.  He also used no magic to charm either Ferdinand or his daughter into the marriage.  On the contrary he chained up Ferdinand and put him to work to test his faith.  I think it’s hard to argue that he’s not one of Shakespeare’s best fathers.


3 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s Worst Fathers

  1. Leontes? Titus?

    Next rung: Lear, Egeus, Cymbeline, Northumberland (1 Henry 4).

    The over-controlling fathers are next tier, but they’re mostly well-intentioned and not purposefully cruel, putting their kids into danger, or threatening them with death. The first two, Titus kills Lavinia, and Leontes tries to have Perdita killed.

  2. Bardiac is correct with Titus. He sadistically murders two men (arguably justified), but the murder of his own daughter is just plain wrong.

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