Do you ever read a book and question why the author is delivering the moral? I believe your answer is “NO”. As viewers, we tend to forget that the main role of a narrative is to draw its audience into exploring and questioning key aspects of its context. Today let’s consider if this statement, “a narrative’s main function is to question aspects of our world” is true by discussing, “in what what does Shakespeare question aspects of his context and how is this mirrored by Kurosawa’s Ran”. Throughout Shakespeare’s play King Lear and Kurosawa’s film Ran, the narratives draw their viewers into questioning and exploring the issue of a divided kingdom. In King Lear the breakdown of parent-child relationship results in a contested kingdom. Through the fathers’ realisation the importance of loyalty in creating a unified kingdom is affirmed. The same idea portrayed in King Lear is mirrored in Ran, hence demonstrating that same ideas can be portrayed in different context, culture and time period. King Lear was composed at the end of the Elizabethan Era when the monarch was King James I. Since King James I was the King of Scotland at the time, he united the unfriendly nations together. Similarly in Ran, Kurosawa explores the same ideas as the play.
King Lear questions the issue of a divided kingdom through the depiction of parent-child relationships. This is mirrored in Ran as both texts shows the fathers passing on the inheritance to their children by dividing their kingdom. In Act 1 Scene 1, Lear examines each of his daughter’s love towards him through the unreliability of their flattering speeches.
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Despite the speeches her older sisters make, Cordelia truthfully expresses her feelings towards Lear, “I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty / According to my bond; no more nor less.” The use of metaphor demonstrates that love comes with honesty. However, Lear is blinded by flattering and ignores the moral obligation of a parent, ultimately banishing Cordelia and disowning her as his daughter: “Here I disclaim all my paternal care / Propinquity and property of blood…” The use of accumulation and alliteration illustrates Lear’s anger, and therefore his blindness to Cordelia’s sincerity and showing the detached bonds between Lear and Cordelia. This key event of banishing the youngest but the most loyal child is mirrored in Ran where Hidetora banishes Saburo because he disagrees to Hidetora’s decision on the division of the kingdom. Saburo’s disobedience and insolent manner triggers Hidetora to banish him, in the scene Hidetora proclaims “I cut the bonds between us!”. In this full shot the positioning of Hidetora standing up and Saburo sitting down shows that Hidetora has the power as he is lowering down at Saburo. In Saburo’s line “I’ll tell you. What kind of world do we live in? One barren of loyalty and feeling”, the use of a rhetorical question delivers Saburo’s opinion on how foolish Hidetora is to pass on all the authority of his land to his oldest son, Taro. Thus, in King Lear parent-child relationships relate to the contextual issue of a contested kingdom, and this idea that a child’s honesty and respect can in fact cause broken bonds is mirrored in Ran.
Lear and Hidetora’s realisation of their faults highlights the importance of loyalty in creating a unified kingdom and family. In this way, Shakespeare encourages loyalty to the monarch. In King Lear, Act 1 Scene 4, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child! Away, away!”, the use of animal imagery and the repetitive use of exclamation marks and “away” delivers the huge shock Lear has received after discovering Goneril’s true nature. In Act 4 Scene 7, Lear’s tone of desperation and despair in “You must bear with me. / Pray you now, forget and forgive. I am old and foolish.” emphasises his late realisation of his flaws after being betrayed by his disloyal children. He comes to value Cordelia’s loyalty and his error in dividing his kingdom. Similarly, this idea of a father realising their faults after being betrayed by their own disloyal children is mirrored in Ran. Hidetora’s sons, Taro and Jiro, attack the third castle in order to kill their father and his soldiers. The long shot of the burning castle allows the viewers to clearly see the process of the loss of Hidetora’s power and the use of primary colours red and yellow symbolises the violent acts of the sons. In the long shot where Hidetora reunites with Saburo, “I have so much to say. When we’re alone and quiet, we will talk, father to son. That’s all I want.”, the repetition of “we” and the relationship that Hidetora describes as “father to son” expresses how much he has reflected on his actions as well as emphasising his love towards his son. Conclusively, the two father figures’ realisation of their flaws causes them and therefore the audiences to question the division of the kingdom as their realisation restores bonds with their loyal children.
In summary, Shakespeare demonstrates the importance of a united kingdom in his context of political uncertainty and Kurosawa mirrors this idea in Ran. In both texts the exploration of parent-child relationships and the two fathers’ realisation of their faults in banishing their loyal children ultimately shows the negative effects of disunity and disloyalty. Therefore, both texts demonstrates the same idea through the differing context, culture and time period and we can agree to this statement “a narrative’s main function is to question aspects of our world.”