How are Lear in King Lear and Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream similar?

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I would agree with the other answer that neither Lear nor Theseus understand women. This arises because both men are used to being charge and haven't had to consider events or circumstances from another person's point of view. They have no memory of what it is like to be powerless or have their wills thwarted, so they can't understand how this feels.

Theseus, therefore, is blithe about how he will make it right with Hippolyta even though he took her by force and is forcing marriage on her. While Hippolyta seems to be giving in graciously to the marriage, we do know she is not in such a hurry as Theseus for it to occur. Likewise, Theseus seems insensitive to Hermia's desire to marry Lysander. Theseus is completely out of touch with reality when he insists to her that she should be molded only by her father's will and desires. It doesn't seem to occur to him either that she would disobey him and do what she wanted.

Lear, too, is out of touch with reality when he assumes, on the basis of verbal promises, that his two eldest daughters will continue to treat him with obedience and deference once they have his kingdom and power. He has so lost touch with the idea that his will could be thwarted that he can't imagine his daughters would ever cast it aside. He is also so out of touch with what has been really going on that he doesn't perceive Cordelia's genuine love and devotion to him.

Both rulers show that it is important to try to put oneself in other people's shoes and look at life, at least some of the time, from other people's perspectives.

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Both characters have bad relationships with their daughters and seek to control them. Theseus so wants Hermia to marry Demetrius that he would rather see her dead than marry another man. Lear banishes his daughter Cordelia when she does not fawn over him like her insincere sisters do. Both men are essentially all-or-nothing when it comes to children obeying their fathers. Even though their daughters are full-grown, they still treat them like children.

There is also the obvious patriarchal domination at play. Both are men demanding control over a woman's will. The law backs Theseus and because Lear is a king, he is allowed to do as he pleases regarding his children until he rescinds that power.

Both men come off as cruel in their indifference to what their children think. Theseus changes his mind later only because the Duke blesses the union between Hermia and Lysander after Demetrius decides he wants Helena instead. Lear realizes Cordelia was the only child of his who loved him all along after his older daughters abuse him, making him the more tragic figure of the two.

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Even though these two plays are very different, with King Lear obviously being a tragedy and A Midsummer Night's Dream clearly falling into the category of a comedy, the two characters of Lear and Theseus do have some similarities. This can be seen in Act I scene 1 when Theseus sticks to the letter of the law and supports Egeus in the case he brings to him concerning his desire that his daughter should marry Demetrius and not Lysander. Note what he says in the following quote:

For you, fair Hermia, look you arm yourself

To fit your fancies to your father's will,

Or else the law of Athens yields you up--

Which by no means we may extenuate--

To death or to a vow of single life.

Theseus, in this scene, is presented as a harsh, unyielding figure, who confronts a girl with no hope whatsoever concerning her future. This is very similar to the character of Lear in his treatment of Cordelia at the beginning of the play, although of course Lear is much harsher with Cordelia than Theseus is with Hermia. Note what Lear says to his daughter when she refuses to wax lyrical about her love for him in the way that her sisters have done:

Here I disclaim all my paternal care,

Propinquity, and property of blood,

And as a stranger to my heart and me

Hold thee from this for ever.

Both Theseus and Lear treat Hermia and Cordelia respectively in a way that shows their male dominance and also their complete lack of understanding about the situations that these heroines are placed in. Although Theseus changes his tune by the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is important to remember that both of these characters, at the beginning at least, display an attitude towards women that is rather callous and unfeeling.

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