theme of justice in king lear

The Theme of Justice in King Lear


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Justice is the balance between misfortunes and good fortune. It can be right or wrong depending on the motives and circumstances. We must look at the reasons they did it, balance all evidence and facts, and then decide on a punishment based on these. There are many types of justice in society, including criminal justice, legal, vigilante, natural, and divine justice.

King Lear, a play filled with human cruelty, and many terrible disasters, raises a question for the characters: Is there justice in the world?

You can choose from a variety of characters
King Lear’s plan to divide the country is clearly a bad idea. It is the gods, through divine right, who decides who will be next king or queen. It is clear that Lear should face punishment for his attempt to subvert the gods. He is then betrayed and loses all of his possessions.

Lear makes mistakes that eventually lead to his downfall as the play opens. His first words in the play are:

“… Give me the map. We are divided

Three is our kingdom, and ’tis the fast intent

To get rid of all worries and business in our age

We can confide in them to our younger strengths.

Unburdened crawl to their death …” Act I, Sc I Ln 38-41)

This is the first indication that Lear intends to hand over his throne. As a reward for his love test, he divides his kingdom and offers pieces to his daughters.

“Tell me, my girls!”

Which one of you will we say that loves us the most?

We may have the largest bounty.

Nature does the right thing with merit challenges

Many characters in William Shakespeare’s King Lear struggle with the idea of justice. The question of moral righteousness is prominently raised in King Lear. This would require that all crimes be punished equally.

But is justice served when certain characters’ crimes and punishments are in balance, but other characters have punishments that far exceed their crimes? While fair punishments can serve justice, King Lear shows that it is best to give the characters the right punishments. However, the knowledge and compassion gained by the character will have a lasting effect on their lives and make them a better person.

It is possible to accept that justice has been served for characters like Edmund, Cornwall and Regan, as their punishments fully coincide with their crimes. Edmund, the son and heir of Gloucester, is guilty of many crimes throughout King Lear. He also repeatedly displays disloyalty in order to accomplish his goals. Edmund is not only responsible for Edgar’s exile, but also for Cordelia’s death.

Edmund’s selfish, destructive and destructive actions cause the family to fall apart and lead to Cordelia’s innocent murder. After battling his brother disguised, Edmund’s death is greatly anticipated. Edmund dies as many believe he should. He caused pain to others, and so his death can be considered a fitting punishment.

Regan’s husband, Cornwall, isn’t a central character, but his actions like the gouging of Gloucester’s eyes, had a significant impact on the play. Cornwall’s cruelty towards Gloucester and disrespectfulness toward him is unacceptable. One of the servants raises his concerns and screams out how wrong it is.

Cornwall dies as a result of the actions of the servant. This supports the idea that justice is served, because Cornwall’s cruelty & inhumanity lead to his death. Regan and Goneril are Lear’s two oldest daughters. They are malicious and selfish characters who exploit Lear’s vulnerability. They lie about their love for Lear to get more land, but they exile him when he needs them the most.

Justice prevails once again because Regan’s and Gonerils deaths were the direct result of their coercive ways. Goneril poisons Regan from jealousy, and then Goneril stabbing herself. All of these characters are punished according to their crimes, but they don’t learn from their mistakes and cannot become better people.

Although many characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy were horrible and deserving of their punishments, there are others such as Lear or Gloucester who didn’t deserve the severity of their punishments. Lear is introduced in the play as a selfish man who values public displays and affection over honesty. He banishes Cordelia, Kent and other characters.

Lear is punished severely for his actions. He is banished from home, suffers madness and loses all his loved ones. Lear’s punishment seems harsh compared to Goneril and Regan, who are guilty of worse crimes but then die without having to admit it.

Lear doesn’t feel that he is worthy of his punishments. Therefore, he says: “I am a male/ More sinned than sinning” (III.ii.58 -59). Lear is not only subject to severe punishments, but also his death can be considered his final punishment. Another example of a man who is guilty of the greatest crime is to favor his son Edgar, a non-bastard. This crime is punishable by the gouging of his eyes. Gloucester is punished according to his crime, but not in an equal or appropriate manner.

He attributes this injustice to the gods: “As flies are to wanton boys, so are we to Gods.” / They kill them for their sport.” (IV.i.36–37). Gloucester’s actions were not worthy of the gouging of his eyes. Like Lear, Gloucester recognizes this and blames his punishments to the gods who he believes can arbitrarily affect the outcome of people’s lives. Despite the unfairness of these punishments, the characters had to accept them in order to improve their lives and the natural order.

Justice is more than just doing the right thing. It is also about moral righteousness. King Lear is the ultimate example of this. Except for Cornwall, Goneril and Regan, most characters in the play are made better by their sufferings. Edmund tried to save Cordelia and was deeply sorry on his deathbed. This is a sign that he has learned from his mistakes and attempts to correct them.

Lear and Gloucester suffer more than others characters. However, even though they are punished for a greater crime, justice is still served as they are moral and just. Lear becomes a just man when he declares, “Poor naked wetches, wherever you are/ That wait for the pelting from this pitiless storm/ How will your houseless heads, unfed sides,/ Your looped, windowed raggedness, protect you/ From such seasons as these?” O, I have ta’en/ Too little care of this!”(III.iv.28-33). Lear would not have realized the injustices he did as King if he hadn’t experienced his major downfall as a King and homeless man.

It can be assumed that Gloucester would not have realized the errors he made if his sight was not taken from him. He eventually admits to his errors and says that he stumbled when he saw. “Full oft’tis been/ Our means secures us, but our mere defects/ Prove that our commodities.” (IV.i.19-22). These characters endure their punishments, and although they ultimately die, they are a better person than Cornwall and Goneril.

Because they were sentenced to death, these three characters didn’t learn from their mistakes. Even though this was the most severe punishment, they didn’t have to learn from their mistakes. While justice can be done by doing the right thing, it wouldn’t mean that you have to accept your sins or die as an insightful and good person, even if that meant having to endure more.

King Lear’s death finally restores the natural order of the world from fair to perfect. Through the suffering and punishment some characters go through, this is possible. Even though some characters are subject to more suffering than others; justice is eventually served for all. For some, the restoration of justice has a greater impact on their lives. Justice prevailed in the end, and some characters can die as intelligent and good-looking people because of the service of justice.

Many characters in William Shakespeare’s King Lear struggle with the idea of justice. The question of moral righteousness is prominently raised in King Lear. This would require that all crimes be punished equally.

But is justice served when punishments and crimes are balanced for some characters, but punishments given to others far exceed their crimes? While fair punishments can serve justice, King Lear ultimately shows that justice is best served when the punishment exceeds the crime. This is because the character’s knowledge and compassion are unaffected by the crime.

The play’s examples of poetic or unofficial justice show that fallibility. Act V Scene 3, scene 3: Edgar challenges Edmund to a battle for the law. Poetry is also at work: Cornwall is killed and turned on by his servant, Goneril and Regan are destroyed in their jealous lust, and Oswald meets a difficult end. Lear and Gloucester are the most difficult questions about justice. Are they deserving of their punishments? Although some Shakespeare’s contemporaries thought blinding was the right sentence for adultery, Gloucester is very much in debt. Cordelia’s death is the most painful for Lear. Lear is not able to see the good in his judgment and their love relationship, even though it was too late.

King Lear It is also concerned about social justice. Gloucester appeals to the heavens for more equitable wealth distribution, while Lear examines the lives and experiences of the “Poor naked wretches” He didn’t pay much attention to III.4.28-36. Act IV is where Lear attacks corrupt members of the judiciary. He seems to mock himself and those who rule over others. “A dog obeys in office.

King Lear raises many philosophical questions. The most important is the existence divine justice. This idea was especially important in the Elizabethan era because religion played such an integral part of everyday life. People were told by religious leaders to expect they would need to answer to higher authorities. They expressed hope that good would prevail and be rewarded for their efforts. But King Lear shows that good cannot triumph without the suffering of honorable characters. Many of the great characters are dead at the end of the play, including Cordelia, Gloucester, Lear and Gloucester. The audience also hears Kent is about to die and that the Fool disappeared earlier, presumably to die. The evil characters are dead too, but the law of divine justice will determine their punishment. How then can the audience account the punishment and the, inevitably, death of the good characters in King Lear.

Lear makes a few poor decisions, including misjudging the sincerity and words of his daughters. But when he runs out into the heath during a storm, it seems like a cruel and excessive punishment. The same punishment that Lear suffers is also suffered by Gloucester. Another instance of divine justice being lacking is the plucking Gloucester’s eyes. As Lear has also made mistakes in judgment, Gloucester has made many errors in his judgement. However, the brutality of Gloucester’s blinding — the plundering of his eyes and crushing them under Cornwall — is certain to be more than any of the errors he may have made.

Lear and Gloucester suffer terrible mental and physical suffering for their misjudgment. However, before their deaths, both men are reunited to the child they had previously rejected. Although it provides little satisfaction for the audience, this resolution of the conflict between the child and parent may be considered an element of divine justice.

The audience has seen the rise of Edmund as a reward for his wicked machinations throughout King Lear. The duel between Edgar and Edmund in Act V is quite different to the traditional match for sports. The Christian tradition is full of stories about biblical battles between good & evil. Divine justice is an important part of trial by combat. The duel between Edgar & Edmund is a replay of this ongoing battle between good & evil. Edgar’s defeat to Edmund clearly signals the triumph of righteousness over corrupt. Both Edgar’s victory and his succession as King of Britain Lear points to divine justice.

Yet, Lear’s entry with Cordelia’s corps makes any notions of divine justice seem distant. The deaths of Edmund, Goneril, Cornwall, and Edmund have convinced the public that the gods can restore order to this chaotic universe. Cordelia’s passing raises questions about divine justice. A just god cannot account for the loss of her faithful and loving daughter.

Despite the tragic death of Cordelia, Shakespeare didn’t intend for his audience not to be confronted with the difficult questions that Cordelia’s death raises. The audience is expected not to forget the tragedy, but to wrestle with it. It is acceptable that Lear and Gloucester died. Both were guilty of serious mistakes in judgment. Despite both coming to terms with their complicity in the destruction they caused, the natural resolution was acceptance of their future, whatever that might be. Cordelia, however, is young and innocent. Cordelia is pure and good.

The play ends with the stage littered by bodies, some of them deserving of the death penalty, and others innocent victims of evil. His honest servant has destroyed Cornwall; Edmund is murdered by the brother he tried to usurp. Oswald, the obedient steward is also dead as a result of his own insatiable desire to obey. There is no simple answer to the question about divine justice. However, it seems that man should live as though divine justice exists, even though this may be a result of his wishful and rich imaginations.