The family construct plays a large role in how the identity of Lear, Antigone, and Oedipus formed and evolved. All are impacted by religion, noble status, and family ties. Through family trials, Oedipus shifts from viewing himself as righteous to ignorant. Lear experiences an evolvement from King to a foolish, insane old man.
At the beginning of the play it is evident that Oedipus views himself as righteous. Oedipus had great allegiance to his family; this allegiance motivated the extreme lengths he went to escape his fate. Due to his families noble status he had access to a decent education which enabled him to initially solve the riddle of the Sphinx, ultimately making him prideful. Despite his blatant pride, Oedipus still has some humbleness. He is continually reminded of being abandoned by his birth parents on Mount Cithaeron due to the ankle injury that resulted in a limp; this humbles him. We are made aware of his humility when he’s faced with the discovery of his birth parents. “Break out what will! I at least shall be willing to see my ancestry, though humble. Perhaps she is ashamed of my low birth, for she has all a woman’s high-flown pride. But I account myself a child of Fortune,beneficent Fortune, and I shall not be dishonored”.
His new family construct in Thebes places him at the head of the house, ruling over his family and a kingdom. Oedipus believes himself to be wise and all knowing due to his family role and public title. Throughout the play Oedipus ignores numerous warning signs of his fate because of his arrogance. However, another contributing factor to his prolonged ignorance is the fact that he’s been lied to his whole life by family so it doesn’t cross his mind that he is wrong. After he realizes he has already fallen to his fate–killing his father and sleeping with his mother–his view of himself shifts from righteous to pure ignorant. He couldn’t see the truth, even when it was right in front of his eyes but this is partly his mom/wife’s fault for not telling him the truth. It is because of his shameful family construct with his wife/mother that Oedipus tears out his own eyes in an act of self-loathing. He also cannot bear to look upon his children who were born out of incest. He knows how detrimental their cursed birth will be to the children lives and weeps for, “the bitterness there will be in [their] lives, how [they] must live before the world”. Ultimately Oedipus’s family construct fosters his grand ego due to their title of royalty and through lies they contribute to his final self view of ignorance.
Throughout the play, Antigone embodies feminism, devotion, and family/religion over state. Expressed through her persistent strives to do right by her deceased brother, Antigone views herself as a heroines. Antigone believes that her act was courageous and deserving of “praise and honor for what i have done”. Antigone embodies feminism in defiance of her sisters acceptance of gender roles and her submissiveness to the oppressive ruling of men. Antigone doesn’t respect Ismene’s values that they are “only women” and “cannot fight with men”. In response to this, Antigone barrels through gender roles to pay respect to her family. The devotion Antigone exhibits to her deceased family is unwavering and she seems to value her life as lower than theirs. She is accepting of her impending punishment, wishing to, “lie down” with her brother in death, to be, “as dear To him as he to me”. In this act of rebellion against the state, Antigone is desperately seeking recognition and adoration from her brothers. The families religious ties have had a great impact on Antigone. Most children absorb the religious beliefs of their parents since it’s what they are raised around and it seems that Antigone followed suit. Antigone makes numerous references to the “eternal laws of Heaven” and makes it clear that this is the main drive for her actions. As a result of this, she sees herself and her mission as divine. She calls on heaven itself to “damn the hands that had done this thing [unbury her brother]” demonstrating the firm belief that her defiance against the state is divine. Her lack of self preservation could be a result of witnessing her father, Oedipus, fall to his fate after striving to do the right thing. She knows she is cursed by her parents crime, the “infection of all our family”, so no matter what she does, she will still fall to an ugly fate. Antigone’s recklessness also stems from the fact that she doesn’t have much to live for. Her parents are dead along with her beloved brothers causing her to be bold in the face of death and happy to, “see my father again, and you mother, and dearest Polyneices”. Antigone’s familial and religious ties causes her to view herself and her cause as divine but she also values her own life lower than theirs, ultimately leading to the tragedy of her death.
Before the tragedy unfolds, Lear views himself as King, embodying authority and commanding respect. Obviously his actual title in the kingdom is indeed, King. However, in addition to this title he also views himself as King in regard to the family construct. Lear’s single-dad status puts him at the head of the house with no Mrs. Lear to guide him and check his lack of rationale. His power is concentrated in the family so when it comes to raising his daughters he doesn’t have to relinquish control to anyone. He views himself as the sole winner of their love. Lear doesn’t have anyone as his equal, so no one can tell him when he’s wrong, leading him to be arrogant and believe he is always right. In his home he still expects to be treated as the King that he is, reflecting the royal family construct. When asking the pivotal question that begins the whole tragedy, he expects his daughters to respond like his subjects–in adoration and respect. The show of flattery he demands over actual devotion reveals his lack of substance. Since he views himself in such high standing, he can’t believe Cordelia would offend his ego in such a way and is outraged–causing him to react rashly. Goneril and Regan humor him, playing along with his game. The two sisters contribute to his faux sense of pride which eventually gets stripped from him. When he realized the praise he built his pride upon was false, he crumbles and goes mad. Lear also views himself as higher than women. Throughout the play he makes several misogynistic statements, referring to his daughters genitalia as “hell, there’s darkness…the sulphurous pit, burning, scalding, Stench, consumption!”. Lear seems to feel emasculated after his daughters “shake [his] manhood” so he blames the female gender as a whole for their alleged “promiscuity”. When giving away his kingdom to his daughters, one of the only things he asks is to keep the title KING Lear. He will not relinquish it because it’s how he identifies; eventually being stripped of the title embedded in his identity by his own family, causes him to lose his mind completely. Eventually, after losing his home and being robbed of his dignity, he sees himself reduced to the standing of beasts, begging the question, “Is man no more than this? Thou ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool…”. The abandonment and cruelty from Regan and Goneril and his own unreasonable acts against Cordelia thrust Lear from a King to a fool.
Familial influences all eventually led to the disintegration of how Oedipus and Lear viewed themselves.Both Lear and Oedipus are knocked off of their royal pedestal, falling to ignorance and irrationality, viewing themselves as fools in the end. Antigone is the only one who retains her self view throughout her story. She remains believing that she’s noble until her last breath due to how her family influenced her unwillingness to compromise.