Theme of Justice in Shakespeare’s King Lear William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear or simply KingLear is an acclaimed play written during 1603 and 1606. King Lear is Shakespeare’s signature tragedy since every character eventually ends up in bewilderment and succumbs to madness. Set in the era of Eight century B.C, this play is based on the mythical character of Leir of Britain, and tackles the theme of justice prominently. This paper is an attempt to explain the presence of justice as a significant theme in King Lear and the importance of its message in today’s scenario. It is evident from the very first scene that Shakespeare has attempted to highlight the ignorant attitude shown by the world towards justice. At the same time he has tried to portray that sometimes it is possible that good and honest people also bear the brunt of the wrong doers but ultimately it is the natural laws of justice that wins in the end. The first Act depicts both the above mentioned stances quite clearly when King Lear decides to disown his youngest daughter Cordelia just because she is honest about her feelings towards him. Let it be so. Thy truth then be thy dower.For by the sacred radiance of the sun,The mysteries of Hecate and the night,By all the operation of the orbsFrom whom we do exist and cease to be—Here I disclaim all my paternal care (Act I, Scene I, 110-115) (Shakespeare 18)This way truth becomes the reason behind the injustice done, and this indeed is how honest people are treated in today’s world. In King Lear there are several honest characters that are battered by their loved ones for being sincere and truthful such as Edgar and Kent. Kent is sincere towards the king but is never given due respect at any occasion because like any other ruler, Lear is also more interested in being flattered and hailed. Kent rightfully explains the importance of honesty and truthfulness in these lines:Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speakWhen power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s boundWhen majesty falls to folly Reserve thy state. (Act I, Scene I, 146) (Shakespeare 23). One point needs to be understood that in this play there is no prevalence of the conventional judicial system or moral values that is why justice is provided by nature and divine powers. King Lear realizes his mistakes only when he is misbehaved by the daughters he trusted upon and falls prey to his own misconducts. The storm scene is very important in this regard because it certainly shows that even if justice is denied by humans, there is definitely a bigger power keeping an eye on every wrong doing. King Lear asks God to punish his daughters because he is heart broken by their display of cruelty but he himself is thrashed by the storm and gets to wander in the uncaring weather and later gets imprisoned. Gloucester on the other hand realizes that it was Edgar who was sincere and this revelation is achieved only after he loses his sight. Edgar’s proclamation in the lines below explains that God always do justice and people should not lose hope.My name is Edgar, and thy fathers son.The gods are just, and of our pleasant vicesMake instruments to plague us.The dark and vicious place where thee he gotCost him his eyes. (Act V, Scene III, 4) (Shakespeare 331)This play is often rejected as the supporter of justice because every character either good or bad receives punishment in the end for example Cordelia. However, there is a deeper meaning lying in this particular event. Shakespeare has shown Lear cradling his dead daughter and later dying peacefully to depict that giving importance to honesty and justice is important to be at peace at any stage of life. Showing Edgar as the probable heir to the throne also proves that Shakespeare has tried to let justice prevail in the end. Justice does not only gets supported if the characters live a happy and prosperous life within this world, but attaining peace in the end is also a form of receiving justice. It is important to support the theme of justice in King Lear, because although the play do not provide a happy ending but manages to convey the message that justice must prevail at any cost and laws of nature should never be played with. In the era that this play was written, I-e in the seventeenth century, English renaissance was creating its path and people were opening up to the dogmas and doctrine of justified ways of life. That is why Shakespeare through this play tried to explain to people that prioritizing natural cycle and Christian laws is the right method for maintaining peace within the society. Although the play is set in the pre-Christian era, it depicts the importance of giving preference to justice in every civilized society regardless of the cultural orientation. A thorough analysis of the events and happenings of this play makes it clear that Shakespeare has deliberately tried to depict the importance of believing in the just ways of life, and has shown the outcomes of ignoring or manipulating the cycle of nature or doing injustice.Works CitedShakespeare, William. King Lear, ed. 9th, Vol. 5, Classic Books Company, 1972. 10-350. Print.
Theme of justice in King Lear