Sin, Punishment and Redemption in King Lear

Topics: William Shakespeare, Bible, King Lear Pages: 10 (3955 words) Published: August 29, 2010
Asian Social Science

September, 2009

Sin, Punishment and Redemption in King Lear
Yujun Liu School of Foreign Languages, Qingdao University of Science and Technology Box 502, 69 Songling Road, Qingdao 266061, China E-mail: Financed by Qingdao University of Science and Technology. Project number: 08XA05 Abstract Holy Bible is the classic of Christian, having a deep and far-reaching influence on the thought and the everyday life of western people. The elements in Holy Bible were shown everywhere in Shakespeare’s tragedy: King Lear. This article aims to explore the essential propositions of Christian: sin, punishment and redemption as the clue, and analyzes the behaviors and fates of characters in King Lear. First, human beings are born with sins. The characters can not escape the deep-rooted original sin in human’s nature, committing different kinds of sins. Second, God is fair to everyone. The punishment follows their sins. The characters deserved their proper punishment accordingly. Owing to their different sins, some experienced kinds of sufferings; some lost their life; some will be tortured in the hell forever. Third, God punishes those who commit the sins, but he also saves those who die for justice, and forgives those who repent. Suffering is the road leading to being redempted. After those sufferings, people were saved. The religious ideas are widely used King Lear, further heightening the feelings of Christians, and preaching the lessons of punishing the evil and advocating the good. Keywords: Bible, Sin, Punishment, Redemption 1. Introduction William Shakespeare lived during the time of English Renaissance featuring humanism. And he is regarded as one of the most prominent representatives of this time. And a lot of books and papers studying humanistic elements have been cropping up all the time. However, Shakespeare and his works are also influenced by Christianity notably. Superficially, these two points of views seem to be in contradiction with each other. Virtually, humanism and Christianity are not a completely opposite Cultural system. The movement of Renaissance denied many aspects of Christianity, but the fact that the movement of Renaissance is deeply rooted in the hotbed of Christian Culture can not be ignored either. Therefore many spirits and ideas of Renaissance are the extension and development of inherent elements of Christianity under the new historical circumstances. So now it should be not difficult for us to accept the certain influence of religion on Shakespeare and his works. From 1601 to 1605, William Shakespeare created his four principal tragedies, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. For four hundred years, these tragedies have been sparkling with a peculiar beauty of their own, and have never failed to evoke pity or fear. How come they have achieved such everlasting effects? The reason is that Shakespeare endows them, especially King Lear, with some valuable religious qualities, which this thesis paper attempts to examine. 2. The influence of Christianity on Shakespeare and his works 2.1 The influence of Christianity on Shakespeare Scholars and critics of all strips have long conceded the importance of religious belief in the production of art, literature and drama. Yet how Christian was Shakespeare? This remains a disputing question for a long time. And it is still very disputing till today. The eminent critic Harold Bloom, author of the best-selling Shakespeare: The invention of the Human (Riverhead Books, 1999), argues that “Shakespeare seems too wise to believe anything” political or religious. According to Bloom, Shakespeare could not have any religious convictions and still remain Shakespeare. And Rev. Paul Murry, O.P., notes: “It would not, I think, to be helpful to characterize Shakespeare formally as a religious dramatist. 119

Vol. 5, No. 9

Asian Social Science

The fact is that he chose, by and large, to leave religion alone.”[1] As to Bloom’s...

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William Shakespeare. (1999). King Lear . New York: Bantam Books Zhu, Weiji. (1992). Christianity and Literature. Shanghai: Shanghai Bookstore.
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