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Good Vs. Evil Divine Justice in King Lear Essay

The play King Lear displays betrayal, deceit and . These three components are all familiar in classic Shakespearean tragedies. King Lear features betrayal by various characters in the play. These characters devastate and, in some instances, end the lives of other characters in the play. However, the characters that betray and deceive are eventually destroyed by their many lies and evil actions. With their self-devastation, a sort of divine justice is served. Divine justice is served when the wrong doings of a man or woman catches up to them and they are dealt a penalty for their sins.

This sort of justice cannot be given by a court or social order. Only fate can deal such a hand. In King Lear divine justice must be faced for the betrayals one man has played. The man is Edmund. Edmund is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester and his betrayal runs deep in the play. Divine justice is served when Edmund is slain by his half brother Edgar in this classic good vs. evil fight. Divine justice is a result of people doing things in conflict with the natural order of the universe.

When a violation occurs, a divine power must reconcile the evil or unnatural act. In King Lear, Edmund violates natural law and he is faced with . Edmund is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester and brother to Edgar. Unlike Edmund, Edgar is the legitimate son of Gloucester and Edmund s him for it. The motive for the evil acts Edmund commits is because of his for Edgar and his greed for power. Edmund’s first betrayal is to his brother. Edmund makes their father believe that Edgar is plotting to kill him.

Edmund thinks this is the best way to get rid of Edgar. Readers in the time of Shakespeare believed heavily in good and evil and the idea of divine Justice. The people believed that if one were to go against nature or, the natural order, it created an imbalance then justice had to be paid by a divine power. Edmund believes that the stars and the moon, which represent the higher power has nothing to do with what happens here on earth. Edmund displays his hatred of the gods and people who believe in them when he says.

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and erers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on:” ( Act. 1 Scene 2. Line 113 – 121) This Quote tells us that Edmund is a cynic and even an atheist.

He admits that he is a villain and he is not scared of a higher power. Because of the time period in which King Lear was written, and the ideas of fate and divine powers, it would be likely that a reader of that time would recognize Edmund as a real evil person and that the evil he commits will be punished by the divine. It seems that Edmund is doomed from the very beginning because his violations of natural order by plotting to kill his brother and by his contempt for the gods. Edmund continues to plot against his brother and Edgar runs away and becomes a Poor Tom, which is an insane beggar.

Edmund’s second violation of natural order, which will result in punishment, is the betrayal of his father. The betrayal of Glouchester, his father, begins with a note from the French that tells of the invasion of England. Edmund tells the Duke of Cornwall about the letter and the Duke pulls out the eyes of Glouchester because he is a so-called traitor. These two acts of evil result in divine justice. In the play divine justice is seen in the battle between Edgar and Edmund. A classic good vs. evil fight will give Edmund his divine justice. Edmund is confronted by the brother he betrayed and is killed.

However, before he is killed Edmund says something to Edgar that tells us that he realizes his fate and that his wrong actions have come back to face him when he says ” Thou has spoken right. ‘Tis true. The wheel is come full circle. I am here. “(Act. 5, Scene 3, Line 199-200). The “wheel” Edmund refers to is the wheel of fortune. All his betrayals have come full circle and it is now time to be judged. As Edmund dies the reader sees divine justice being served. Although Edmund was slain by the brother he betrayed and, not by a bolt of lightning from above, we still see divine justice being served.

Divine justice does not come in a single act; it comes in the course of fate or destiny. It is perfect how the good son kills the evil son and England is saved. The perception is that had Edmund won, England would have fallen into chaos and, when Edgar won, it was like a new England was formed out of the chaos of the unnatural evil Edmund had created. Divine justice is so important Lear and all stories because it ensures the triumph of good over evil. The battle is long and always a struggle, but thanks.


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