The presence of evil in Shakespeare’s King Lear is opposed by the presence of human virtue, fidelity and self-sacrificial love.’
Discuss the conflict between good and evil in the play.
In King Lear, Shakespeare creates many conditions in which humans live in the world. The main characters in the play are used to portray Shakespeare's ideas of evil between the characters and in the world. Shakespeare presents the conflict between good and evil by carefully separating the characters into two groups in order to bring out different attitudes to life.
The conflict between good and evil divisions in King Lear lies in their opposed attitudes to what man is and therefore to his obligation in the society around him. These attitudes are understood in what the characters say and do everywhere in the play. For instance, the villain Edmund declares his Machiavellian character in a soliloquy. Edmund states:
“Thou, Nature, art my goddess;”
He speaks of nature as his guiding principle as opposed to the manmade customs by which society is ruled. This was a powerful and threatening statement for the Elizabethans. For them, the idea of society was of an ordered, divinely conceived organism which reflected the hierarchy and order of the rest of the created universe. Within society the bonds and obligations were divinely ordained. Therefore, Edmund diminishes all this by calling the society; “plague of custom”, holding them to be simply rules with which the weak group protects itself from strong individuals.
In the play there is a continuing conflict between man as ‘natural’ and man as responsible to some divine spiritual law. Shakespeare depicts the evil party, all behaving with direct, cold-blooded wickedness in the pursuit of their ambitions. Like Edmund, they take “nature” for their goddess. However, “nature” is not only the powerful, instinctive force that Edmund admires. It is also animal nature and throughout the play, Shakespeare uses this powerful bestial...