Mercy In Shakespeare's King Lear

Good Essays
Mercy is defined as “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly” (Mariam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, 2015). One can observe the importance of this concept in William Shakespeare's famous play King Lear where mercy is intertwined throughout the plot. In the play, when mercy is being extended, people are thinking beyond their own needs, allowing everyone in a society to live together in harmony. Individuals are also able to change and stop their own actions more effectively than when they are forced to stop. Mercy also tempers harsh justice, thus preventing a cycle of violence and cruelty from continuing. Overall, mercy, rather than justice, is the key to civilized human life. Mercy is evidence that people are looking beyond their own wants and acting with other’s needs in mind. Edgar illustrates this after his father greatly wrongs him, when he still decides to disguise himself and “[become his father’s] guide,/ [lead] him, [beg] for him, [and save] him from despair” (V.iii.190-191). After all the hardships his father causes him, it would have been natural for Edgar …show more content…
This is demonstrated when King Lear expects to be held accountable for wrongly banishing his daughter Cordelia as he tells her he will drink poison if she has it for him (IV.vii.72), to which she replies “no cause, no cause” (IV.vii.75). He expects that, because he was so cruel to Cordelia, it would be just for her to have given him poison. However, doing what is fair is not always what should be done for civilized life, especially considering it would have accomplished nothing. If fire is fought with fire, nothing new or good will come of it, thus, maintaining a dangerous cycle in society that mercy can prevent. In giving him mercy, Cordelia saved this cycle from continuing to spin. Finally, mercy helps to break a cycle of harshness which justice

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Better Essays

    however, no matter what the original intention may have been. There are many examples in Shakespeare’s King Lear that expertly demonstrates that, although the goal may be aiming for improvement or progress, the end does not justify the means. In King Lear, one of the most famous quotes is said by the Duke of Albany, who is married to Goneril. After Goneril has driven away her father, King Lear, from her…

    • 1499 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Using detailed supporting evidence, discuss the significance in the play of ONE of the following. Deception. William Shakespeare's 'King Lear' is a tragic play of filial conflict, deception and loss. Characters Lear and Gloucester shape the story line due to their lack of insight which their children take adavantage of. These are the antagonists who decieve their fathers, to gain more power and status. Deception usually has negative connotations and one would expect the characters who use…

    • 1216 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    KING LEAR Often how individuals appear in front of other people is different from who they really are. They can show the love and loyalty to their masters so they can get what they really want. In the play King Lear by Shakespeare, the topic of blindness occurs often. The theme of blindness is demonstrated by the biggest mistake that King Lear makes, by the disguise of Kent, and by Gloucester’s trust in Edmund. The biggest mistake of King Lear when he divides his kingdom among his three daughters…

    • 838 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    King Lear believes that Regan will treat him differently from her sister, Goneril and will show him respect because he hopes she understands the “offices of nature, bond of childhood,/ [E]ffects of courtesy, dues of gratitude” (Shakespeare 2.4.202-3). He believes Regan is bound to him based on the natural order of family relations and hierarchy of power. However, there is a definite shift in power as Regan declines King Lear’s complaints against his sister, and in fact blames him. Regan dismisses…

    • 224 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    At their core, both Gloucester and Lear are initially open to accepting truths at their surface value only. Cordelia’s deeper love, is overshadowed by Lear’s acceptance of the valueless words of adoration from Goneril and Regan. Lear accepts his daughter’s words as truth of their love and Cordelia’s silence as evidence of her lack of affection for him. Likewise, Gloucester is quick to accept Edmund’s deceit. Gloucester's arrogance of power in their relationship ultimately is his undoing, in that…

    • 1104 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Alison Dew Explore the role of the fool in King Lear. In Elizabethan times, the role of a fool, or court jester, was to professionally entertain others, specifically the king. In essence, fools were hired to make mistakes. Fools may have been mentally retarded youths kept for the court's amusement, or more often they were singing, dancing stand up comedians. In William Shakespeare's King Lear the fool plays many important roles. When Cordelia, Lear's only well-intentioned…

    • 2246 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    and realistic outlook to be successful. Often, humans who act upon their uncontrolled, undirected whims of emotion folly into their own failures and even their demises. It is a failure to act rationally that leads to the tragic ending of Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. In the concluding Act V, all main characters of both plots die except for Albany and Edgar. The tragic ending is an inversion of the conventional development of justice in Aristotelian tragedies, where good triumphs evil with almost always…

    • 779 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Shakespeare, William eloquent play King Lear shows betrayal and loyalty. An apocryphal note being sent from one brother to another asking to take over, sister bilking giving up their authority, and a sibling not getting the recognition for their true loyalty. Therefore this play knows how to cause drama with the loyalty and the absence of loyalty. Right off the bat Edgar’s loyalty to his father gets questioned because of a forged note. Edmund, the younger son whom is a bastard, decides the only…

    • 492 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    The Perpetual Relevance of King Lear William Shakespeare was a playwright who created timeless tales. His works examined universal subjects that are relatable to by all of humankind. Although written centuries ago, countless themes explored in King Lear are still relevant in the contemporary day, including: delirium, misogyny, and sibling rivalry. Throughout history, human beings have struggled with mental illness. Shakespeare’s use of the theme is portrayed in King Lear as the eponymous leader faces…

    • 1473 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Representations of Nature in Shakespeare’s King Lear The concept of Nature in Shakespeare’s King Lear1 is not simply one of many themes to be uncovered and analyzed, but rather it can be considered to be the foundation of the whole play. From Kingship through to personal human relations, from representations of the physical world to notions of the heavenly realm, from the portrayal of human nature to the use of animal imagery; Nature permeates every line of King Lear. However as I intend to argue…

    • 2753 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays