Freedom of Choice in Shakespeare’s King Lear

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Humans, like all creatures on the earth, have the privilege of the freedom of choice. There are two broad ranges of factors that affect the decisions a person makes. The first factor that affects decision making is internal and includes a person’s character and intellect. The second factor is external such as environment and interaction with other people. Naturally, each decision a person makes results in a repercussion of some degree, usually either helpful or hindering, and rarely inconsequential. The concept of justice is based on the fact that decisions are always followed by consequences. It strictly adheres to the rewarding of good deeds and the punishment of evil. King Lear, a play by William Shakespeare, is a grave tragedy that is a prime example of the Elizabethan conception of justice. Lear’s kingdom turns to chaos because of a break in the “Great Chain of Being” and restores to order when justice prevails. Its tragic labelling stems from the prevalence of death the just punishment for many of its characters. The deaths of Lear, Goneril, and Edmund are prime examples of justice prevailing for evil, and in Lear’s case unnatural, acts.

Lear’s ultimate fate is death. His early demise is a direct result of

breaching the “Great Chain of Being” which states that no mortal will

abandon his position in the hierarchy of ranking set by God. Lear’s

intention of abdicating his throne is apparent from the outset and is seen

in the following speech spoken during the opening scene of the play:

. . . ’tis our fast intent

To shake all cares and business from our age,

Conferring them on younger strengths while we

Unburdened crawl toward death. . .1

Evidently the splitting of Lear’s kingdom and abdication of his throne

is not an act of necessity, but an act toward easing the remainder of his

life. Lear’s disruption of the “Great Chain of Being” is in an unnatural

fashion because the abdication of his kingship is without dire or mortal

cause. The method of passing down his land to his heirs is also unnatural,

as seen in the following excerpts:

. . . Know that we have divided

In three our kingdom. . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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