King Lear Justice vs. Mercy
“Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just” were words said by Blaise Pascal (1623-1663). If mercy was really that important, a great mind like Blaise Pascal would have inserted “mercy” in his quote. Justice is by far the most critical component of society in the King Lear universe. Mercy is only valid on individual basis, when the assailant actually learns from their mistakes. If we think that by forgiving constantly that the perpetrator will stop committing crimes, then we are sadly mistaken.
Criminals in Shakespeare’s King Lear must be punished justifiably, for their evil behavior. Only justice and great power can attempt to restore the order of King Lear’s kingdom ruined by the dictatorship of Goneril and Regan. Even if Regan was forgiven for her crimes, she would continue her sinister ways. She is the most evil person in the King Lear universe; her thirst for total power through corruption has no end. She even goes on to the extent of double crossing her sister Goneril. She plots on having Edmond for herself and ordering that Gloucester be killed.
As if gouging out his eyes was not enough: “My lord is dead; Edmund and I have talk’d; / and more convenient is he for my hand. / Than for your lady’s: you may gather more. / If you do find him, pray you, give him this; / And when your mistress hears thus much from you, / I pray, desire her call her wisdom to her. / So, fare you well. / If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor, / Preferment falls on him that cuts him off” (IV v 32-42). Regan has no morals or feelings. Knowing that her husband just died, she is already seeking another husband.
She also has no mercy towards Gloucester. Due to the lack of justice, Regan continues committing great crimes. Only until she is poisoned by her own sister, a harsh justice is finally served upon her. In Regan’s case mercy is not an option, Justice is the only way. Justice needs to be necessary to properly punish people. Cornwall ends up finding out how swift justice can be. When he uncaringly cuts the eyes out of Gloucester, he thought that nobody would dare stand up to the injustice he committed.
He was sadly mistaken when a humble hireling ends up delivering a fatal slice to his body. Albany was strikingly surprised on how instantaneously justice was brought to Cornwall as if it came from a higher being. He states: “ You justicers, that these our nether crimes/ So speedily can venge! But O poor Gloucester! / Lost his other eye? ” (IV ii 88-91). Albany agrees with the god’s form of justice brought forth to Cornwall. Sometimes Justice comes very quickly, that was the case for Cornwall.
Occasionally it takes longer for others to receive justice, but sooner or later justice will be served. Infrequently, individuals who attempt to achieve justice might falter. This transpires when Cordelia, with the help of the French army, intend to bring justice to the corrupt rule of Regan and Goneril. All Cordelia wants is justice and to see her father obtain his kingdom back. Cordelia states: “Tis known before; our preparation stands/In expectation of them. O dear father/ It is they business that I go about; /Therefore great France/My mourning and important tear has pitted. No blown ambition doth our arms incite, / But, love, dear love, and our aged fathers right: / Soon may I see and hear him! ” (IV iv 25-32). Cordelia is willing to go to any extent for justice, even if it means going to war against her sisters. The French army eventually loses the battle, but at least they made the effort to bring justice. It is far more superior to fight for justice, then to stand by and do nothing. Justice and power must work together to bring order to a chaotic world. In our everyday lives we see injustice all over the globe.
Currently, there are major protests all over the world by the “occupy wall street” movement. Their main goal is to achieve justice for the citizens of the world that are being mistreated by big corporations. This is similar to the King Lear universe. The people represent King Lear while the corporations are Cordelia and Regan. If society constantly showed mercy to great injustice, it will be prone to total collapse and dictatorships. Thus, Justice reigns supreme. Mercy is futile. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. “King Lear”. London: The Arden Shakespeare, 1997.