King Archetype

What is a King Archetype?

The king archetype character is not just a king but a combination of various masculine elements in the persona of the king. He is a supreme masculine archetype, demonstrating various chivalrous as well as other behavioral traits befitting for a king. The king not only commands respect and status but also earns it and demonstrates it through his character traits. He seems in control of his behavior, his kingdom, and his subjects, with full responsibility for the welfare of his subjects.

Types of King Archetype Character

  • Good King: Such a king archetype character is a good character who rules his kingdom kindly, keeping his subjects happy and prosperous. He is an epic hero as well and a representative of a civilization where he rules single-handedly but with kindness, honor, and bravery. These types of characters do not avoid sacrificing their own lives when it comes to some risks. Beowulf and King Arthur are such examples of good king archetypes.
  • Mature King: Such an archetype shows the character of a sovereign king who is responsible, mature, and wise. He acts wisely and takes care of not only his family but also his subjects. He feels connected to power through the public and shows his mercy, maturity, and kindness when required. He feels confident when it comes to showing his royalty toward any issue.
  • Shadow King: Such an archetype is a weak king who shirks from taking up the responsibility that a king should take, avoids the public good, and also blames others for his wrongdoings. Such a king wields authority with cruelty and barbarism. Such character archetypes are not only cruel but also use state apparatus very cruelly.

Character Traits of King Archetype

A king archetype has highly positive traits like that of his persona. He is not only a critical thinker but a wise fellow who takes action after thoughtful decisions and takes up full responsibility for his actions. He keeps his temper cool and his figure calm in the case of adversity and saves his public and subjects with responsibility. He faces adverse situations with grace and maturity and commands respect after earning it. The qualities of his self-consciousness, kindness, and mentorship always stay with him until he is no more due to his altruism and selfless fight for the great good of the public.

Negative Traits of King Archetype

Despite the positive qualities that a king archetype displays, sometimes a shadow king archetype displays negative traits. Even a good king archetype could have some of positive and some negative traits, but a shadow king has some other negative traits, or the balance tilts in favor of negative traits as follows.

  • Tyranny
  • Grandiosity
  • Dictatorial
  • Want blind obedience
  • Sacrifices public for his thrown and kingdom
  • Disloyal and egotistical
  • Megalomaniac or narcissistic

King Archetype Examples from Literature

Example #1

King Claudius and King Hamlet in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, is unique in the sense that it has both king archetypes. Whereas Claudius is a shadow king archetype due to his impression of being unjust, dictatorial, and tyrant, Hamlet is a mature and wise king archetype due to his impression of being a just, kind, and caring king. This is also because King Hamlet has the public endorsement, while Claudius does not enjoy this public support.

Example #2

King Lear in King Lear by William Shakespeare

Although King Lear is the example of a good and mature king archetype, he becomes weak and ignores the good counsel, the reason that his own daughters shun him when he gives them their due share, while the daughter providing him good counsel becomes the victim of his injustice. But he learns the lesson of appointing bad people as his counsel and suffers himself as well as his kingdom.

Example #3

King Henry V in Henry V by William Shakespeare

King Henry V, in the play of the same title by William Shakespeare, is an example of a good king as he is not only fearless but also committed to his public. He takes care of his public more than his feelings, the reason that he seems a good king. Also, his oratorical skills bring him on par with classical examples of responsible, wise, and mature kings. That is why he is placed on the list of the good king archetypes.

Example #4

Odysseus in Odyssey by Homer

The king of Ithaca, Odysseus, is an example of a good king archetype due to his royal qualities. He is not only kind, just, and brilliant, but also a great explorer and warrior. He takes care of his land, his people, and above all, his family. When he embarks on different expeditions, he also longs to visit his kingdom to take care of his family and the public. This epic hero often becomes a role model for the royal qualities of a good king.