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Themes

The excessive cruelty and portrayal of human suffering in the play make the world seem terribly unjust. Throughout King Lear, characters constantly appeal to the gods for aid but are rarely answered. The play suggests that, either the gods do not exist, or they are unimaginably cruel. King Lear seems to argue that it is up to human beings to administer justice in this world.

Questions About Justice

  1. What is the play's position on the existence of divine power and divine justice?
  2. When do characters pray to the gods? Are their prayers ever answered?
  3. Do any characters get their just desserts in King Lear? Why or why not?
  4. How and why does Cordelia die at the play's end? How does her death shape our understanding of justice in the play?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In King Lear, the gods either don't exist or, simply don't care about human suffering – suggesting that justice does not exist in the world.

The play suggests that the only way there can ever be justice in the world is when human beings behave justly toward one another.

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