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Justice in King Lear

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King Lear Essay

Although some critics may debate and argue against this statement, I strongly stand by my belief that there is no justice in the play King Lear. Whether it be Cordelia's banishment, Gloucester's torture, or Lear's insanity, no character in this play is shown mercy. Then again, perhaps this is why William Shakespeare's works are called tragedies. Throughout his entire writing career, Shakespeare has been known to end all of his tragedies with death, injustice, and dramatic irony, and this story is no exception.

One of the most notable instances of unfairness in the play is shown through Lear's banishment of Cordelia. In order to determine how much of his kingdom he should leave to each of his daughters, Lear asks each of them to tell him in words how much they love him. Goneril flatters her father, and Regan praises the king like never before, but when it comes time for Cordelia to confess her love for Lear, she cannot bring herself to do it. In these well-known lines, she states, "Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love our majesty according to my bond, no more nor less." In reaction to Cordelia's refusal to act as a sycophant towards her father, Lear is caught up in a rage. He disowns Cordelia, denies her any inheritance, and virtually auctions her off to her two suitors, openly degrading her in front of these gentlemen because she no longer has a dowry to offer her husband-to-be. He does not stop to realize that Cordelia is the only daughter who truly loves him, and that Goneril and Regan are only taking advantage of the situation. Lear's treatment of his daughter further proves the expression, "Life's not fair."

Still caught up in this rage, Lear is approached by Kent, who attempts to bring Lear back to the reality that surrounds them. Kent defends Cordelia, and begs Lear to reconsider. Lear, however, entirely ignoring the years of loyalty his friend has shown him, curses Kent, and orders him to leave the kingdom in six days, to be met with certain death upon his return. Kent, only trying to protect the King and help by bringing Lear back to his senses, is now forbidden from Lear's presence and cannot aid the king at all.

At the climax of the novel, the greatest injustice of all is committed. Gloucester follows his heart and sneaks out of his castle to find the insane Lear and lead him to safety. Once Regan and Cornwall receive information concerning Gloucester's actions, they capture him upon his return to the castle and torture him. Regan curses him as she plucks out tufts of his beard, and Gloucester is virtually taken prisoner in his own house. As he screams in agony, Cornwall plucks out Gloucester's eyes, as Regan coaxes on the evil that is taking place. This fails to show any justice, and seeing what befalls Gloucester because of his righteous actions is not very encouraging for any other characters to do the "right



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