Justice is the quality of being a reasonable and unbiased party whenever it is needed. In a just and morally driven society justice presides over mercy as the greater essential need within a human civilization. In William Shakespeare’s King Lear it is shown how justice trumps mercy through the King’s loss of the throne, the God’s cruelty and the horrid treatment of Lear by his two daughters.
At the beginning of the play, King Lear’s loss of the throne is his responsibility and entirely his own fault. Lear had hopes to rid himself of the burden of the throne by giving away the power of his kingdom to the daughter whom he feels loves him most. When speaking with his three daughters, Lear inquires “which of you shall say we doth love [me] most” (I.i.49), both Regan and Goneril shower Lear with flowery words and exaggerated lies. Upon delivering these lies to their father, Regan and Goneril are both granted power over parts of Lear’s kingdom. When it comes time for Cordelia to express her love she speaks the blatant truth enraging her father with her love for him only going so far as to cover “[her] bonds, no more, no less” (I.i.92-93). Lear’s excessive pride and arrogance does not allow for him to accept the truth, thus causing him to “declaim all [his] paternal care” (I.i.113). Lear’s injustice towards Cordelia, his only honest and loyal daughter is proof that a civilization needs justice to be a functioning society.
Secondly, the God’s cruelty was thrust upon many people as they begged for justice. Lear asks “show the heavens more just” (III.iv.39) as he considers the nakedness and poverty in which “Poor Tom” lives. Lear does not understand why the God’s continue to allow his own daughters to treat him as horridly as they do, much the same as why they continue to leave Edgar (Poor Tom) naked and in poverty in the streets. As well, when Gloucester tries to commit suicide, Edgar convinces him that, while Gloucester sees it as an injustice, the God’s not...
Cited: Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Signet Classic: Penguin Group. 1998 (Revised Edition).
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