“If Justice is only relative, depending on a personal point of view, how can it be justice?” In the light of this comment, how do you find justice presented in ‘King Lear’?
During the Elizabethan era, it was a common understanding for goodness to triumph over evil. Nevertheless, in ‘King Lear’, many of the good characters such as Cordelia are killed, and good doesn’t overcome evil without some element of suffering –which asks a chief philosophical question, ‘the existence of divine justice’. However debatable justice seems to be, it is one of the prevalent themes in ‘King Lear’ as there are aspects found in the play and it is presented by the views of good and evil characters.
In keeping with this theme of female evil, is the notion that women are linked to ‘Eve’ from the Bible and are a source of evil, based on the event where Eve tempts Adam. The word ‘Evil’ can also be seen as the route of the name ‘Eve’.
The two sisters can justify their actions at the beginning of the play yet; the ultimate acts of evil are shown when their desire for power leads them to banish Lear from the kingdom, lock him out in the storm, and finally, lead his troops against him. After these cruelties he has suffered, Lear exclaims, “O, reason not the need!” depicting humans would be no different from animals if they did not yearn for more than the fundamental necessities of life to be satisfied or happy, such as power.
Shakespeare does not prolong Goneril and Regan’s death, no emotion is used to empathise with the two characters. Even Albany, Goneril’s husband, only responds to his wife’s death by suggesting to "cover their faces." Because the two sisters were becoming more wicked and manipulative as the play progressed, the lack of empathy to their death contributes to the idea that it was just for them to die and their death meant nothing to the characters or the audience.
Cordelia can be seen as a simple character or a symbol of goodness - making her interesting in what she stands for rather than what she is like. An example of this would be ‘altruism’. Cordelia stands for altruistic goodness; she tries to help Lear even though he has made no amends for his actions against her with no intent for personal gain. Cordelia excuses this behaviour by saying "No cause, no cause." Because of this forgiving nature, when she dies at the end of the play for no reason, the death of this blameless character erases the belief there could be justice.
Albany comments that “all friends shall taste the wages of their virtue, and all foes, the cup of their deserving,” suggesting that order and justice will triumph over villainy and cruelty. Yet, Albany’s suggestion does not seem true when the audience is confronted with Cordelia’s unreasonable death. Lear mourns over her body: “why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life and thou no breath at all?” In nature of this, the Gentleman questions if there should be justice, “Thou [Lear] hast one daughter, who redeems nature from the general curse which twain have brought her to,” because all the good people get killed, such as Cordelia.
However, the Christian representation of Cordelia’s death suggests you gain your reward in heaven. This way, goodness survives despite what you do to it and therefore, in killing Cordelia, goodness hasn’t been overturned.
In ‘King Lear’, there is a connection between Cordelia and the Fool. Lear comments that his “poor fool” is “hanged” linking the death of Cordelia and the Fool. He represents Cordelia’s goodness by trying to help Lear to combat his madness. The Fool does not follow any beliefs and ignores all form of justice and moral order so, doesn’t...