Works of literature are designed to address varied societal matters and express authors'
attitudes regarding the same. Readers or audiences of different literary works attain a glimpse of
various societal concerns through their interaction with respective works, and this helps them to
build a perspective using the gained knowledge as a basis. The nature of family relations is one
of the key themes that has been considerably addressed in distinct literary works over time.
Shakespeare looks at this theme considerably in his famous play Hamlet, expressing loyalty,
respect and trust as the main values that family members ought to uphold for a family to survive.
Similarly, The Lion in Winter, authored by James Goldman, also covers these family aspects
through its plot. Both works express how the presence of these values influence the survival of
any family, exhibiting the adversities that come with the lack of these values. This paper offers a
critical comparison of how these values of family survival are depicted in The Lion in Winter and
Hamlet is an incredible play by William Shakespeare that recounts the life of Hamlet, as
he strains to avenge his father's death. Hamlet is the son of King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude.
His father has been murdered, and not so long after his Uncle Claudius takes on the throne, and
marries the former Queen. Hamlet is troubled by the union between her mother and Claudius and
acts in melancholy, which also triggers the couple to spy on his actions using his two closest
friends. King Hamlet’s ghosts appear to Hamlet, informing him that his uncle is responsible for
his death and asks Hamlet to take vengeance on him. At first, he is sceptical on the reality of the
ghost’s arguments, and he feigns madness to seek the truth about his father’s death. He organizes
a play reflecting on the undertakings of his father’s death, and Claudia leaves the room when the
moment of murder reaches. Hamlet interprets this as a sign of guilt and initiates his plan for
revenge. He keeps procrastinating his vengeance, and at the end, he dies alongside other
characters, including his mother, Claudius, and Laertes.
The first value that is perceived as critical the survival of any family is respect, which is
instrumental in building trust. The lack of respect and trust in any family makes it to digitigrade,
whereas the presence of these values is core to family’s unanimity. In Hamlet, characters in the
same family lack the value of respect towards each other, which alleviates the possibilities of
trust amongst them. Firstly, after King Hamlet is killed, Gertrude the former Queen remarries
within a very short period. She is married by the dead King's brother, Claudius. This move
demonstrates Gertrude's lack of respect for hid dead husband, and even his son Hamlet is
disturbed by the action. Benson perceives this condition becomes a factor for the family’s
disintegration (para 6).
Again, Shakespeare demonstrates the lack of respect to one’s partner and its adverse
implication through Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia. Hamlet becomes paranoid and less trusting
after her mother's marriage to Claudius. He starts perceiving women with a sceptical attitude,
and in turn less respect, including his lover Ophelia. At one point, Hamlet tells Ophelia to “get
thee to a nunnery”, and the term nunnery is another word for a brothel (Shakespeare 3:1:131). In
this light, Hamlet’s assertion is disrespectful to her lover, for whatever reason he says it. The use
of vulgar towards his partner is inappropriate and makes Ophelia feel hurt. It is one of the
reasons why Ophelia stops trusting in Hamlet and his love proclamations, and this greatly affects
At the initiation of the relationship, Ophelia is much respectful and even defends their
relationship. Ophelia tells her father “My Lord, he hath importuned me with love in an
honourable fashion" (Shakespeare 1:3:110-113). This shows that Ophelia acknowledges
Hamlet's love for her, respects him as a partner and wishes that her family could do the same and
it alludes to honorary notion of the era (Brannen 12). However, the play shows that respect has to
be two-way for a family to stand firm against any challenges. The mistrust that Hamlets holds
towards women makes him disrespectful towards his lover, and continued disregard towards her
ends their connection, and indirectly causes the eventual death of Ophelia and a definite halt of
their relationship (Hopkins 98). This relation shows that lack of respect in a family ruins trust,
and eventually leads to its breaking down.
Also, Hamlet insecure attitude makes him to constantly test every person around him,
before trusting them. He goes to the extent of testing his mother because he presumes that she
could be plotting against him. Hamlet confronts her mother directly, and rudely because he feels
certain that her mother could have been involved in the plot for his father’s murder by Claudius.
Hamlet’s attitude even scares her mother off, opting her to scream for help, and Polonius comes
to her aid. Hamlet panics and exclaims "how a rat" thinking it could be Claudius, and he stabs
him killing him (Shakespeare 3:4:29). When Gertrude tries to lecture Hamlet of his actions,
which she refers to as "rash and bloody", Hamlet rudely responds that it truly is rash and bloody
like killing the King and marrying his brother, indirectly accusing her mother to assess her
response (Shakespeare: 3:4:34). The Queen is shocked because she has no idea of what Hamlet
accuses her. The tone that Hamlet uses while addressing her mother shows how disrespectful he
is, guided by his anger over his father’s killing, and the perceived betrayal by her mother (Brooks
49). The encounter, therefore, showcases the lack of respect between children and their parents,
which is detrimental to togetherness in the family.
Lion in WinterWinter is set in 1183 during Christmas and recounts the experiences of
King Henry II’s family. The family is intended to gather for the celebration, which makes
Eleanor, the King’s wife to be released from prison just for the day. Alias, the King's mistress
discuss regarding the best-suited successor of King Henry II, with the King rooting for John.
Eleanor prefers Richard, the firstborn, and Geoffrey is nobody’s choice, making his chances for
claiming the throne minimal. Henry makes a deal with Philip to have his have sister Alias
married to Richard, to make him heir-apparent.
On the other hand, the three brothers are having a deliberation on who is best suited for
the throne, before their parents and Alias join them. The attitudes of Eleanor and the King are
precisely expressed, and Geoffrey feels left out. Geoffrey and John collaborate with Phillip to
overthrow Eleanor’s plan to have Richard being chosen as the heir. Later, Henry's plan to ascend
John to succession fails, and the King resolves to lock all three sons. Eleanor helps them escape,
and the play ends as she is heading back to prison, with no decision made on the appropriate heir.
The play also showcases the role of the influence of values of respect and trust between
family members for the unification or breaking of a family. Firstly, King Henry II is
disrespectful, as seen through his treatments of his wife, Eleanor. He commits adultery through
his romantic relationship with Alias, while still in marriage with Eleanor. This shows that the
King regards Eleanor lowly, despite being officially married to her (Goldman 54). The King
even discusses matters of throne succession with Alias, even though she is merely his mistress.
This aspect further accentuates the intense loathe that Eleanor is perceived with, seeing that the
King cannot hold such discussions with her. Eleanor reciprocates the action by refusing to
honour Henry desire for her give away the Aquitaine to John, thus disrespecting her husband's
directive. Henry also imprisons his wife in the dungeons, which is demeaning and humiliating as
well, especially for a king’s wife. Henry has no issue locking her up, as he even seems
unconcerned of her state. Eleanor is also disrespectful to her husband, seeing that she sleeps with
Again, the play tackles lack of trust among family members, through the distinct
interactions between characters. For instance, after King discerns of the distinct plots by his sons
to overthrow him, and acquire a chance for succession, he imprisons them. John and Geoffrey
lias with Prince Philip in an attempt to triumph over the plans of Richard and Eleanor, and
overthrow Henry. Henry’s reaction to his sons’ actions displays the lack of trust between the
sons, and their father. Also, the three sons are in constant battles and subplots as they try to be
selected for succession, or take the throne directly. These battles are characterized by lack of
respect, seeing that each is ready to go to all extents to win the succession to the throne. By
extension, these wrangles result in lack of trust, and everyone has to keep looking behind their
backs. This kind of livelihood undermines peace and development in the family, making the
Henrys’ to retardate at the same place over time. The family members cannot deliberate the best
way to resolve their differences, and thus the family id broke down subjectively based on one's
interests (Gale 68). Eleanor and Richard can get along, as John and Henry can, and Geoffrey is
left out, making the family divided into three groups, and this aspect is undesirable.
Typically, both plays exploit characterization, and the plot to showcase how the values of
trust and respect come in play in the ensuring that a family is not disintegrated, but rather stands
firm against challenges. Characters in both works showcase lack of respect to respective family
members, which in some cases contributes to lack. The lack of these values makes the families
dysfunctional and full of strangles. The above analysis thus shows that the lack of trust and
respect among family members detrimental to family unity and development. The assessment
thus challenges readers to embrace the virtues of trust and respect to enhance togetherness in
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Brannen, Jake. "Themes of Honour in Shakespeare's Hamlet Updated on February 28, 2018."
Brooks, Jean R. "Themes and issues." Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Palgrave, London, 1986.
Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for James A. Goldman's" The Lion in Winter". Gale,
Cengage Learning, 2016.
Goldman, James. The Lion in Winter: A Play. Random House Incorporated, 2004.
Hopkins, Pamela Lee. "Simulating Hamlet in the classroom." System Dynamics Review 8.1
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Hamlet. Cambridge University Press,