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Discuss the theme of justice in the play King Lear

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Introduction

Discuss the theme of justice in the play. We may feel that the outcome of King Lear is not entirely just, but it is in ways appropriate. All those who have sinned have certainly been punished. The play starts from the first scene with distributive justice. Originally it should have been distributive justice equally, as Lear announces that he has divided his kingdom in three and intends to distribute it among his daughters. But it ends up to be a justice based on merit as the daughter who says will love him most will get the greatest share. King Lear divides his kingdom where natural affection deserves it most and one can see this from the phrase, 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most?' Lear is supposed to be just but abuses of his justice as he banishes Cordelia and Kent as he fails to recognise Cordelia's and Kent's honesty and due to his misjudgement he loses power as has to face the ingratitude of his daughters. In Act four scene six, when Lear is in his madness, he is obsessed with social and moral justice. ...read more.

Middle

Goneril is suspicious of her sister and she is concerned that Regan will seek to marry Edmund. We learn that Goneril poisoned Regan, who complains that feels unwell. Regan eventually dies and Goneril kills herself. Cornwall gets what he deserves as he treats Gloucester badly. He is responsible for the most shocking act of physical violence- the blinding of Gloucester. At the end he gets what he deserves as he is killed by his own servant. Even with Oswald, justice is done. He is delighted to receive a reward from Goneril that he is ready to kill Gloucester when he comes across him in act four. At the end, the gods are just as he is challenged by Edgar and dies. Edmund is such an evil character that at the end he deserves what he gets. The Gods are just. One can say that Edmund is responsible for the deaths of he whole royal family : Goneril, Regan, Cordelia Lear and of his father's fate. Edmund is the one responsible for Gloucester's blindness and suffering and betrays his father to Cornwall. His own death is, as Edgar seems to suggest at the end, richly deserved. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lear is most concerned with his own mental state as he fears he is becoming hysterical with sorrow. He is affected physically, as if his daughters are attacking him for the inside. For Lear, his daughters are 'a disease that's in my flesh... a boil/ A plague -sore, or embossed carbucle, / In my corrupted blood.' This shows as if Goneril and Regan have wounded Lear and now are eating away his flesh. Lear's heart breaks 'into a hundred thousand flaw' and his mind disintegrates. When Lear regains some of his senses he still suffers as he says that his brain has been ,'cut to the brains'. The moment Lear reconciles himself together with Cordelia he is happy with her. Lear is away from Cordelia for such a long period and the moment he reconciles himself with her, Cordelia dies. One could say that there is some form of justice with Lear as in his imagination he dies with the idea that Cordelia still breathes. The ending is realistic as it shows that things in life do not turn out as we want, as sometimes life is unjust. Add to this, Shakespeare wants to bring out the notion of a tragedy, and generally in a literary work, the protagonist meets an unhappy and disastrous end. Aloysius Bianchi 6th Form (A) English ...read more.

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