After posting about Lord Capulet and having people argue back that he's actually a good guy, it seemed logical to post the next question : when does Shakespeare portray the dad (particularly the father of girls) as a good guy, and when is he a right bastard? Polonius and Ophelia are a rather obvious example of the latter. Although Polonius' fingers never itch, he doesn't think twice about dangling his daughter as bait in front of the potentially insane prince, just to please the king. And then there's the opening of Dream, where Egeus basically says of Hermia that she's his property, and if she doesn't do what he wants, he insists on the death penalty. But Dream is a comedy!
But what about the other side? When is the Dad the good one? How about Desdemona's dad? In the Capulet post I used Kate's father Baptista (from Taming of the Shrew) as an example of a bad one, but then I thought, maybe I'm really off base there. What does he do that's so wrong? Sure he basically sells her off to the first real suitor to come along, but isn't that what they all do? Wasn't he showing his concern for his oldest daughter by requiring that she be married off first, before her younger sister? I can't really see a selfish reason in that.
It just dawns on me as I type this that we have to include The Tempest, probably the biggest of the "father/daughter" stories. But where do we put Prospero, exactly? For the most part he speaks down to his daughter as if he's forgotten that she's not 3 years old. Most of his manipulations have more to do with his own plan than with her happiness. But somewhere in the middle he apparently changes, and then he's all about getting Miranda married and off the island. I think he's one of the good ones. Gruff, to be sure, but you don't survive alone on an island populated with magical creatures for long if you're not willing to zap them back every now and then.