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King Lear Justice Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #7

EDMUND
Th' hast spoken right. 'Tis true.
The wheel is come full circle; I am here. (5.3.208-209)

After the wicked Edmund is mortally wounded by his brother, he says "the wheel has come full circle" (once again, he's at the bottom of fortune's wheel). In other words, he suggests he got exactly what was coming to him. Is he right?

Quote #8

GENTLEMAN
[…] O, she's dead!
ALBANY
Who dead? Speak, man.
GENTLEMAN
Your lady [Goneril], sir, your lady. And her sister
By her is poisoned. She confesses it. (5.3.266-269)

Both Regan and Goneril get their just desserts for cruelty and scheming – Goneril ends up taking her sister, Regan, down and then killing herself, too. While there is no system of justice imposed on the characters in Lear, they end up imposing justice on themselves.

Quote #9

ALBANY
All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. (5.3.366-368)

Here, Albany explains why Edgar and Kent get to rule the kingdom – they're "virtu[ous]" so, they deserve it. According to Albany, everybody gets what they deserve. On the one hand, this seems to be true – Edmund is justly punished for ruining his father's and brother's lives, Goneril and Regan end up dead, etc.

But wait a minute. Wasn't Albany paying attention five seconds ago when Lear entered the room with the dead Cordelia in his arms?! Cordelia certainly didn't "deserve" to die, so what the heck is Albany talking about? This statement seems pretty absurd, wouldn't you say? Especially since the evidence of Cordelia's unjust and undeserved death (that would be Cordelia's lifeless body) is on stage, in plain sight.

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