Legitimacy And Illegitimacy Essay

1857 words - 7 pages

Shakespeare utilizes a lot of family themes in most of his plays. Most of the family dilemmas he presents are directly correlated to disputes over power, whether it deals with sibling rivalry, parent rivalry, or some type of oedipal pairing. One of his compelling ideas surrounds the issue of legitimacy and illegitimacy when it comes to children and their parents. This dilemma continues to present itself in modern media, presenting a clear thematic imprint that describes a power dispute between the behaviors of legitimate and illegitimate sons, leading to the fate of the parent and the overall resolution of the work. Specifically dealing with Shakespeare’s play King Lear, and the latest Marvel film franchise surrounding the hero Thor, there is a direct correlation between the themes of these works and the presence of both a legitimate, and an illegitimate, son.
Shakespeare’s character Gloucester has two sons, Edmund and Edgar. Edmund is the illegitimate son, the result of Gloucester’s affair with his mother. Gloucester doesn’t let this idea rest, as even when he introduces his bastard son to Kent at the beginning of the play it’s mentioned. “Though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged” (I.I.21-24). Gloucester openly denotes Edmund and puts him in his place as illegitimate and unfitting to take his crown. Edgar, however, is the more beloved son, and is the next in line to receive the father’s land and power. This battle between legitimacy and illegitimacy is difficult, because other than the fact that Gloucester is married to Edgar’s mother, the two boys are considered moderately equal. Edmund argues this in his soliloquy in Act 1 Scene II, “Why bastard? Wherefore base? When my dimensions are as well compact, My mind as generous, and my shape as true, As honest madam’s issue?”. He believes it is unfair that just because of a technicality of birth Edgar gets the throne and he does not.
The movie Thor presents a similar dilemma. Thor’s father has another son, Loki, who is not biologically related to him or the mother. He is not technically an illegitimate child, because he was just found an abandoned infant, but he suffers a similar complex to Edmund. For these purposes he can be viewed as illegitimate because of his inability to take the crown naturally. Loki struggles with the idea that just because Thor is biologically related to the king he will receive the kingdom even though he is somewhat of an “oaf” (Thor 2), in Loki’s eyes. They both hold supernatural powers of somewhat equal strength, yet no matter what Loki attempts he realizes he will never gain the full approval or power that his father holds. Loki’s father even says to him, “Your birthright was to die as a child! Cast out on a frozen rock! If I hadn't taken you in, you would not be here now to hate me” (Thor 2).
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