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Justice In King Lear English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 963 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The play, King Lear was written by William Shakespeare, a famous English playwright. He was good at characterization. In this story, King Lear divides his kingdom into three parts and decides to give them to his three daughters. Goneril and Regan, the daughters that are good at flattering are in favor of King Lear and got all of the power, while Cordelia is disowned, just because she is honest and does not know how to lie. However, after Goneril, Regan, and her husband, Cornwall, take over all the power, they rebel against the King, who has already given his power away. They kill people who support King Lear. Gloucestor, one of King Lear’s loyal noblemen tries to help him but fails, because his dishonest son Edmund betrays him, while his loyal son, Edgar is framed. Throughout this play, there are no signs of justice. When they are alive, the evil group of people does whatever they want, without anyone stopping them. Although the evil all finally die, the innocent people die as well. The ending of the evil are not worse than the good people, but the good people only suffer more.

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Gloucester tries to help the king but his son, Edmund sells him out. As a punishment, Cornwall gouges out his eyes and abandons him. Although Gloucester’s slave tries to stop him and fights against Cornwall, he is killed by Regan from behind. Gloucester tries to protect the king, but is rewarded with blindness. The slave tries to protect his master, but is rewarded with death. Why does the god not stop this evil, and cruel act? Is the god not supposed to keep justice? One possible explanation is that the god is evil and cruel. He enjoys watching this bloody scene. Gloucester says, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.” (Page 202) With this type of god that does not care about human’s lives, there is definitely no justice.

King Lear, who kindly gives his kingdom to his daughters, when the storm comes, cannot find a roof over his head. If there is a god who promotes justice, is this what a kind father deserves? King Lear says, “[To Nature] But yet I call you servile ministers,/ That will with two pernicious daughters joined/ Your high engendered battles ‘gainst a head/ So old and white as this. Oh, ho!” (Page 148) This probably means that either there is no god, or the god is terribly cruel.

Edgar, whose father mistreats him, and whose brother frames him, accuses him of a crime he has never done, is one of the few lucky characters that survives through the play.

All of the other innocent characters are dead at last, except for Edgar. Perhaps it is his luckiness that blinds him; Edgar believes the god is just, unlike others. He says, “The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices/ Make instruments to plague us.” (Page 294) In addition, he believes that we must “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.” (Page 310) These beliefs obviously do not correspond to the plot of the play. If the god were just, Edgar himself would not have gone through all of these troubles. He would not need to disguise as a beggar and hides for so long. A just god would not allow this to happen. Furthermore, how can we “speak what we feel” when Goneril and Regan, the liars, get all of the power, while Claudelia, after expressing her true feelings, is abandoned?

Shakespeare shows that there is either no god, or the god is cruel. The world is filled with misfortune. Good people and the bad people both die, but the good people just need to suffer more. Why do we need to be good then? It seems the life of liars and traitors are better!

Justice is the principle of moral rightness and equity. It restores order and prevents chaos; it leads to safety and peace. Justice is overwhelmingly important, because a world without justice would be much disorganized.   However, achieving justice is not a simple task.   William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a brutal play, filled with human cruelty and madness.   It starts with the state of order and control and ends in meaningless disaster and chaos. The play’s series of terrible events raises an obvious question – is there any possibility of justice in the world, or whether the world is fundamentally uncaring or even hostile to humankind. 

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a)   In Shakespeare times, society believed that if people are not punished for their crimes, they will go to commit them.   Justice is an imperative tool to keep the civilization safe and orderly.   Without a system of justice, society would fall into the anarchy, filled with pain and violence.   The quality of life would be poor and people would live in fear and uncertainty.   The shocking violence of Act 3, where Cornwall and Regan blinded Gloucester, is an example of brutal and cruel act, for which Cornwall and Regan should be severely punished. Some people use their power in a wrong way, and commit crimes because they want even more power that they already have.   The blinding act marks a turning point in the play, because some actions like cruelty, betrayal, and even madness may be reversible, but blinding is not. Gloucester reflects the profound despair that drives him to desire his own death, after being blinded by Cornwall and Regan, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport” (4.1.37-38). More important, he emphasizes one of the play’s principal themes, the question of whether there is justice in the universe. Gloucester’s philosophical musing here offers an outlook of miserable despair, he suggests that there is no order in the universe, and that man is incapable of imposing his own moral…


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