Justice vs. Mercy

To be fair or to be just can be defined that one gets exactly what he or she deserves, not more, nor less. In King Lear, a play written by William Shakespeare, it can be easily observed that some individuals do not get what they deserve. Above all, forgiving someone is not always enough. Some individuals when forgiven for their crime without a punishment simply go right on to recommitting the same act again. Secondly, a sane individual who made his or her choice certainly has to be aware of the consequences that follow.

If the individual, being aware of such consequences still decided to commit a wrongful act, no mercy but justice should be served. Finally, mercy should apply only to specific cases, while justice is equal in front of all. Although both justice and mercy are both needed in intervals in order for society to function properly, in my opinion, justice not mercy is the essential fundamental value to civilized human life. In some cases, individuals do not stop when forgiven – they move right back to recommitting wrongful acts.

One that does not understand the wrongful of his doing will simply recommit the same crime or even move on to perform something worse, unless punished originally. Regan, one of Lear’s cruel daughters makes it seem like she does not have any limitations to her wicked actions. She pitilessly orders her husband Cornwall to rip out both of Gloucester’s eyes out of their sockets: “One side will mock another. Th’ other too. ” (III vii 72). Although later in the same scene Cornwall is killed by one loyal servant, Regan shows no remorse for blinding Gloucester nor for her own husband’s death.

Not punished for her actions, meaning she is yet again forgiven, Regan continues committing her evil deeds. As long as she gets what she wants, in this case Edmund, Regan will not stop at anything. From my perspective forgiving Regan by showing her mercy would be useless. Coming close to the end of the play, Regan is roughly punished when she is poisoned by her own sister Goneril. Only a cruel death was able to stop her. This serves to show that justice is the only solution to prevent individuals from recommitting acts of violence during which they are not punished for.

Moreover, it is not fair or just that an individual does not get exactly what they deserve. In the code of Hammurabi it was stated that if one gets his or her eye gouged out, one has a legal right to also gauge out the eye of his offender, or in some way obtain an apparent value of an eye. The offender must be equally punished – showing one mercy is simply not enough. This is demonstrated when Albany finds out from Goneril that Cornwall was murdered after he blinded Gloucester.

Albany declares: “This shows you are above You justicers, that these our nether crimes So speedily can venge” (IV ii 79-80). From Albany’s perspective, Cornwall committed a cruel act by blinding Gloucester, and for such actions must pay with his own life. An eye for an eye is essentially how Albany views the concept of justice and fairness. In front of his eyes and many other individuals who share the same opinion, justice has to be served. At last, mercy does not apply to every wrongful act, but justice is equal among all.

In Lear’s eyes Cordellia committed a wrongful act by not expressing her love to her father in the way he wanted her too. For eve such minor actions Cordellia was put still put under justice, was banished by Lear and denied the share of his land that she deserved. However after a long and difficult absence, when meeting Cordelia, Lear was expecting to be held responsible for his earlier actions, but instead she asks: “How does my royal lord? How fares your Majesty? ” (IV vii 44).

Cordelia forgave her father only after he learned the consequences of his actions – showing him mercy after he realized his wrong-doings and after receiving an equivalent punishment, is acceptable. However this can only apply to cases where individuals truly reached their moment of epiphany. Showing Goneril and Regan some mercy would of never helped because they never reached their moment of epiphany and for that had to pay the paid the bitter price of death. Justice is fair amongst all. One will only get what they truly deserve.

When making a decision regarding one’s punishment, a few things need to be considered. Is the person going to interrupt with society yet again and commit the same act of violence if simply forgiven and not punished? Does one deserve a punishment similar to his wrong-doings? Or does he simply deserve forgiveness since he already learned the consequences of his actions and served a punishment severe enough? We will always debate about the feelings and emotions that arise when judging one for his offenses, but we always should consider justice above all.