‘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 there and is very real, but that she is not willing to flatter her father for her personal gain. She tries to show him the error of his ways by asking her father how it is possible for her sisters to have husbands if ‘They love you all’. However, Lear’s short temper and lack of reason makes him blind to these truths and so he still banishes Cordelia. In this way Cordelia is unjustly treated, as Kent, one of Lear’s most loyal and trusted friend tries to point out to his leader. Kent warns Lear to calm ‘This hideous rashness’ and adds to the theme of sigh, or lack of, when he tells Lear to ‘See better’ and invites him to look towards his trusted nobleman for good advice. However Lear is unable ...