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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 progression of terrible events makes both the characters in the play, and the readers question whether or not there is justice in the play, hence in the world.

The play raises the questions, who is responsible for what happens in the world and ...view middle of the document...

In fact, he says that Goneril and Regan’s death ‘Touches us not with pity’. However, after the death of Cordelia, Albany, the believer in justice also is in doubt to whether or not there is justice in the world. Lastly, according to Edmund, people cause their own downfall. In fact, after his fight with Edgar he admits that he has once again found his place at the bottom of the wheel of fortune, which shows that he, as an illegitimate son belongs at the bottom of society.

Towards the end of the play, the reader can notice that the evil characters are punished for their sins. Edmund, Goneril, Regan and Cornwall all die at the end of the play. Gloucester too pays for his sins, even though he is punished in the cruelest manner possible. He pays for his adultery, by having his eyes plucked out. King Lear is also punished throughout the play for being blind enough to believe Goneril and Regan’s words, rather than Cordelia’s sincerity. Like Cordelia, he is punished by being banished and humiliated. He is further punished by having to suffer madness. However, Lear’s worst punishment is having to see Cordelia’s death, hence this really does make him a man more sinned against than sinning. On the other hand, good characters like Edgar are rewarded, in this case, Edgar is titled as the new king of Britain. Therefore, order is restored in Britain. All of this makes the reader agree with Edgar and Albany that that the Gods are just, and that people get what they deserve. However, the reader cannot conclude that easily that there is justice in the play. This is because good characters like Kent, foresees his death. In addition, Gloucester and Lear’s death make the reader wonder whether or not they deserved such punishment. However, it is the death of the innocent Cordelia, which makes it hard for the reader to conclude whether or not there is justice in the play. After the death of Cordelia, Albany the believer in justice too is in doubt whether people really get what they deserve. All of this makes it difficult for the audience to tell which of the evil or good characters triumphs in the end.

Critics of ‘King Lear’ too tried to answer the question about the theme of justice in the play. A.C Bradley argues that in a tragedy like that of ‘King Lear’, characters cause their own downfall. He says the wrong that King Lear did to Kent and Cordelia is repaid with extreme...

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