Some of Shakespeare's most memorable male characters, such as Hamlet, Prince Hal, and Edgar, are defined by their relationships with their fathers. In Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare, Fred B. Tromly demonstrates that these relationships are far more complicated than most critics have assumed. While Shakespearean sons often act as their fathers' steadfast defenders, they simultaneously resist paternal encroachment on their autonomy, tempering vigorous loyalty with subtle hostility.
Tromly's introductory chapters draw on both Freudian psychology and Elizabethan family history to frame the issue of filial ambivalence in Shakespeare. The following analytical chapters mine the father-son relationships in plays that span Shakespeare's entire career. The conclusion explores Shakespeare's relationship with his own father and its effect on his fictional depictions of life as a son. Through careful scrutiny of word and deed, the scholarship in Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare reveals the complex attitude Shakespeare's sons harbour towards their fathers.