‘I am a man more sinned against than sinning’
In King Lear, do the characters get what they deserve?
The theme of justice is apparent throughout King Lear and in some cases we do see justice being served but we also many gross injustices within the play. This play is tragic because of the shocking and unnatural way that the essentially noble and decent characters are treated. The main character, King Lear comes to mind immediately when thinking about the theme of justice within the play, as there can be great debate on whether or not he deserved the harsh cruelty that he received from Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall.
When we are first introduced to King Lear, the audience is not given a good impression of him. He is shown to be immature and foolish in the way he deals with the passing down of his legacy to his children. The ‘Love test’ that he puts his daughters through would not be expected of a wise king and this act of folly paves the way for his downfall. He scorns and banishes his most loved daughter simply because she will not reduce herself to the level of a sycophant as her sisters had done. Cordelia tells us, ‘I cannot heave / My heart into my mouth’ which explains clearly that her love for her father is
For the play to conclude well, these evil sisters In Act 4, we see Gloucester having his eyes gouged out of his head by Regan and Cornwall. They explain that they are not looking forward to living with him through his "choleric years"tm if he continues with his "unconstant starts"tm. The play is as tragic due to the death of Cordelia as it is due to the protagonist, Lear. For this reason, I believe that Edmund did get what he deserved. We see a lack of justice in the opening scene where Lear takes on the role of the evil tyrant that his court is not used to seeing. His criminal actions are cold and calculated from the very beginning of the play, however it is understandable where his jealousy and hatred towards society as a whole as well as his father and brother comes from. Here we see the evil characters being unnatural once again. However, his villainy goes beyond the boundary of sympathy. Kent warns Lear to calm "This hideous rashness"tm and adds to the theme of sigh, or lack of, when he tells Lear to "See better"tm and invites him to look towards his trusted nobleman for good advice. Their deaths are well deserved in my opinion. Throughout the play, Edmund has plotted and acted against his own father and brother, using the evil sisters to get his way. In this scene the concept of justice is put into relief. The evil sisters give their father the option to reduce his following of knights down to none, or to leave their homes and fend for himself. We can see even from this early stage that their ambitious natures give them the potential to carry out terrible acts for their own personal gain. At the end of the play, both Lear and Cordelia die.