This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

How Does Shakespeare Explore The Theme Of Justice In King Lear?

1954 words - 8 pages

How does Shakespeare explore the theme of ‘Justice’ in King Lear?

It is often assumed that the role of ‘Justice’ within a play is to serve as the source of goodness and anti-thesis of suffering, however in ‘King Lear’ Shakespeare utilises the theme of Justice to portray powerful messages, providing not just a contrast to the deterioration within the play but an explanation for the anguish witnessed.

The notion of ‘Poetic Justice’ or deserved retribution is arguably denied by Shakespeare in ‘King Lear’, revealing the dangers of ‘unnatural evils’ and their far reaching consequences through its absence. The uncomfortable dramatic irony throughout Gloucester’s journey to his attempted ...view middle of the document...

However it can be argued that this sense of catharsis is dependent upon the ideals of contemporary Jacobean society and therefore limited for a modern audience. In the original King Leir, the sisters villainy is evidently a function of the plot, yet Shakespeare chooses to define the sisters’ resistance to their father in terms of gender and sexuality, repeatedly using words such as ‘womb’, and ‘fertility’. For a modern audience this turns Goneril and Regan’s actions into a defiance of patriarchy and reduces the strength of their characterisation as villains. Nevertheless, all cathartic satisfaction and sense of poetic justice is shattered by the image of Lear carrying Cordelia’s body, as Edmunds recantation of orders comes literally too late for Cordelia, the audience is made aware of the momentum that has been generated by ‘evil’ in the play and the spiralling effects of its consequences, despite the cathartic death of its source. Cordelia shifts the dynamic of the play through the forgiveness she shows her father. Crying ‘No cause, no cause’ she refuses to take advantage of Lear’s wrongdoing and in responding ‘I am, I am’ she identifies simply as Lear’s daughter, rejecting the pride and hubris witnessed in the other characters: she introduces a new found promise for harmony, paralleled by the second ‘I am’ being added in the Folio version to balance the meter of the line. Thus, the contrast of Cordelia’s ‘heavenly eyes’ and her sudden death makes the spectacle of suffering in the play overwhelmingly suffocating; it appears there is no escape for any character from the ‘hamartia’ of others as Shakespeare utilises Poetic justice, or rather injustice, to create a tightly packed sequence of events, establishing King Lear as a tragedy according to the Aristotelian criteria.

Utilising the theme of Divine Justice Shakespeare establishes Lear’s madness and suffering, an addition to the original source, ‘as not so much a breakdown but a breakthrough’, in the words of Kettle. The image of Lear ‘shut out’ in the storm at the hands of the ‘unnatural hags’ was particularly unsettling for a Jacobean society that believed Kings were divinely appointed: the notion of a King being ‘killed for sport’ was almost blasphemous and certainly treasonous. It is in this context that Shakespeare presents the nature of the storm as a journey that shatters Lear’s ‘little world of man’ enabling him to discover ‘humanity’, affirming the presence of divine justice in the bleakest of worlds for an audience that believed all Kings deserved good. The necessity of Lear’s ‘breakthrough’ is hinted at by Cornwall, his simple comment ‘he leads himself’ contains a double meaning, linking Lear’s strong-willed nature and his lack of subjects/power to suggest Lear’s hamartia is a sense of delusion and blinding pride. It is clear to see therefore that Lear’s ‘rupture of Propinquity’ upon dividing his Kingdom was a mistake born out of his greatest flaw and thus, according to...

Other Papers Like How Does Shakespeare Explore the Theme of Justice in King Lear?

Ways Shakespeare Presents Madness in King Lear

687 words - 3 pages Another way Shakespeare presents change in Lear’s identity is through the use of mental derangement. At the beginning of the play he is sane but mad. We can see this through Lear’s absurd decisions to decide the next rulers of the country with a ‘love test’. The self-inflated dignity of Lear. Has caused him to place the future of 8th century England in jeopardy in exchange for a mere few praises to affirm his status as king. A king is

I Will Discuss How Janice Galloway Uses Conflict To Explore The Important Theme Of Fear In The Short Story Fearless

1053 words - 5 pages this perspective we can see that what Fearless represents is a threat even into adulthood. By choosing such a non-linear method to show this conflict, Galloway succeeds in conveying her theme of threat against women by aggressive men. At the end of the story the adult author says 'I still hear something like him' referring of course to what Fearless represents. This shows how much he has touched and instilled the threat of fear, into her life.The

The Importance Of A Parent Child Bond In King Lear

1147 words - 5 pages with his father together in the end, another lesson Sir Shakespeare has taught his audience.Shakespeare taught his audience valuable life lessons through his playwright. The greatest gift of all is not the status we hold in society or the wealth we share among our thrown but the relationships we cultivate. Without the people in our lives we cannot explore new experiences or evolve. The people, who raise us, create us through how they nurture us

Explain How Far Act 1 of ‘King Lear’ Exhibits Features of the Tragedy Genre

1301 words - 6 pages Explain how far Act 1 of ‘King Lear’ exhibits features of the tragedy genre. King Lear is among the most complex and contradictory of Shakespeare’s works. While the play has no single character with the intellectual or sensual appeal of a Hamlet, Falstaff, Cleopatra, Richard III or even a Rosalind, it treats in the most vivid and dense language a vast array of problems. The tragedy’s cumulative effect is deeply troubling and, in its own fashion

How Does Friel Use Language to Explore Conflict in the First Act?

1502 words - 7 pages How Does Friel use language to explore conflict in the First Act? Friel’s Magnum Opus centres on the theme of, its difficulties and inconsistencies. It explores the problems, which arise within language, its relevance its application and the distancing of language, thought and meaning.   Communication would seem at first sight to be straightforward, for Sarah can explain the whereabouts of the missing Hugh by a series of mimes. But Manus

Essay On The Redemption Of King Lear

1797 words - 8 pages The Redemption of King Lear?        Shakespeare’s play, King Lear is quite renowned and the folly of the ancient King is a great example of how not to handle family relationships. The question has been proposed  if King Lear is redeemed when reunited with Cordelia. King Lear does achieve a kind of redemption when he is reunited with Cordelia in Acts IV and V of the tragedy.  What kind of

Redemption in King Lear

673 words - 3 pages recognition of how wrong he was is something which the old Lear, the Lear from the beginning of the play would never have shown. He explains to Cordelia that while her sisters have no reason to hate their father, that she does, and in some ways she should. Cordelia, however, was always the mature, loving daughter she always was, and responds with, “No cause, no cause” (126, 75), signifying that he is still her father. The natural order of things still

How does J.D Salinger use the character of Holden Caulfield to explore

2574 words - 11 pages How does J.D Salinger use the character of Holden Caulfield to explore the issues related to growing up? ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was written in the late 1940’s and first published in a magazine in 1947. The novel is like a bildungsroman but only consists of two and a half days in the life of a 17 year old boy called Holden Caulfield, although he argues that the book is not about his “lousy childhood”. Holden seems to be very conscious

How Does Harper Lee Use Minor Characters In To Kill A Mockingbird To Explore Some Of The Main Concerns In The Novel?

1011 words - 5 pages How does Harper Lee use minor characters in To Kill a Mockingbird to explore some of the main concerns in the novel?-----------------------------------Harper Lee uses minor characters in a variety of different ways to help explore and expose some of the main concerns brought up in the book, ranging from strict town morals, justice, all the way to racism and death due to racism. I have chosen to outline some of the ways in which Harper Lee uses

"Winter" By John Marsden. Discuss The Theme Of Personal Growth In The Story. How Does This Affect Winter?

1060 words - 5 pages personal growth the main theme in this book. The events started by Winter coming home, end happily, as does the her own path of personal growth and development. Through being able to make new relationships, trust others and move on, Winter grows from a rather sad and grieving being to a person ready to move on and live a new life in Warriewood. Bibliography: Marsden John, 'Winter', Publisher- Scholastic Published Date- 2002

Motiff of King Lear

676 words - 3 pages One of the primary themes portrayed in "King Lear" is the harsh effects of betrayal by one's loved ones. Incorporated in this message is the fact that such betrayal can be avoided with sound judgment and temper, and with patience in all decisions. Shakespeare uses the motif of madness to aid in this message. Anger and insanity are coupled to illustrate the theme, and they both cloud the judgment of characters in various ways. A contrast

Related Essays

Justice In King Lear Essay

1217 words - 5 pages Vassallo Claire English Tutorial – King Lear At the end of King Lear the evil characters die a violent death, but so do the good ones. What does the play say about human and divine justice, or its absence? There are many evident themes in Shakespeare’s play, ‘King Lear’, but perhaps one of the most prevalent relates to the theme of justice. ‘King Lear’ is a brutal play, filled with human cruelty and awful disasters. The play’s

Justice In King Lear Essay

1547 words - 7 pages motive of Lear’s epiphanies is compassion – and in this sense, Justice to Shakespeare is compassion: not the will of God nor natural law nor artificial construct, but common sympathy and humility. King Lear enters to fanfare in Act I. Acting from senility combined with a false belief in his own superiority escalated by decades of dictatorial rule, Lear declares a love contest among his three daughters to determine she who ‘loves him mostâ

Explore How Religion Is Presented And Developed In Richard Ii And King Lear

857 words - 4 pages ‘cross’. His followers have ‘washed their hands’ of Richard just like Pilate did when he pardoned Barabbas instead of Jesus. The reader can see that Shakespeare has done this to liken his situation to Jesus’, to show his divine powers. Unlike Richard II, King Lear was set before Christ so there is no definite references to God or to Christ. However the characters look for Gods in times of need or when things go wrong. In Act 2, Scene 4, Lear

King Lear, By Shakespeare Essay

1399 words - 6 pages some of the very darkest moments in his life.” By going through the agony due to his own ignorance, Lear develops into a king with integrity and honor. When the King is kicked out of his own kingdom he is ironically led by is Fool. Despite the fact that he is just a court jester, the Fool teaches Lear invaluable lessons, while also providing comedic relief to the play. Shakespeare has the fool speak truth and aphorisms to Lear, yet Lear does not