Significance of Justice

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All civilizations require justice, the one fundamental requirement for any society. Nowhere is the value of justice portrayed more clearly than in William Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. King Lear is a cruel play, packed with human brutality and, seemingly, meaningless disasters. The lack of justice within the play causes these disasters. A society is often tempted to build its foundation on a simple concept such as mercy, but this simplicity is its flaw. On the other hand, justice is objective, which is why it is more important than mercy. First, not punishing people for their crimes is not an effective deterrent; they will just go right on committing these crimes. Furthermore, forgiveness often only benefits the forgiver by relieving them of anger, but does little to teach the perpetrator a lesson. Finally, commitment to justice is the only way to restore a situation to the way it should be. Shakespeare’s King Lear clearly portrays the fundamental societal truth that justice brings about proper resolution, whereas mercy is just a luxury that mankind can rarely afford; justice therefore is society’s highest value.
Justice is integral to society and only justice is a true deterrent to evil as it is required to punish people properly. In King Lear, Albany clearly points out the importance of justice when he is arguing with his rotten wife Goneril in Act IV. He says, “If that the heavens do not their visible spirits / Send quickly down to tame these vile offenses, / It will come, / Humanity must perforce prey on itself, / Like monsters of the deep” (IV ii 46-49). Albany speaks of the gods’ justice; without the gods interacting and bringing forth justice, everyone will turn on everyone else, and humans, “Like monsters of the deep” (I...

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...nt. Justice purges the world of evil elements and stops humans from continuing along a road of destruction. Forgiving people is a noteworthy concept when applied to individuals, but the sad reality is that mercy as a tool for societal control hardly ever works. Only justice can restore leadership and maintain the status quo, just as in King Lear where justice restored the best ruler for the people. Justice, not mercy, allows all of society to be safe and secure and go about living better lives. King Lear clearly shows us that justice is supreme. Mercy is a luxury that we can hardly ever afford. If society was based on mercy, it would fall apart. In order for civilized societies to continue to live in an ordered and supportive world, societies must thoroughly implement justice.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Toronto: Signet Classic Shakespeare, 1998.
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