King Lear – Seven Deadly Sins

Table of Content

King Lear: The Seven Deadly Sins The Seven Deadly Sins In the play King Lear Shakespeare demonstrates the tragedy that can occur once humans allow themselves to be taken over by any one of the seven deadly sins. Greed The sin of greed is perfectly exemplified in the character of Edmund. Throughout the play Edmund’s greed is the motivating factor behind all of the decisions that he makes. Edmund, as the illegitimate son of Gloucester plots against his brother in order to obtain his inheritance completely ignoring all familial responsibility in the pursuit of land and money.

At the beginning of the play you see that he merely wants to take his brother’s inheritance but as greed gets the better of him he begins to plot against his father as well and gets him arrested for treason so that he can not only gain his brother’s inheritance but also his father’s land and money as well. Not only is Edmund greedy in terms of wealth he is also greedy with women. It is implied that Edmund had relations with both Goneril and Regan, he couldn’t choose one so he decided to have them both. As proven through Goneril, Regan and Edmund’s deaths, avarice continues to fuel a person towards their own ultimate demise.

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Through the character of Edmund, Shakespeare develops the idea that if humans allow greed to creep into their minds they will eventually develop a thirst for possessions that cannot be quenched thus resulting in the loss of everything. Lust Lust is very evident in the characters of Goneril, Regan, Edmund and Gloucester, Goneril especially falls victim to the sin of lust through Edmund. She lusts after him and in doing so alienates herself from her sister who becomes her rival for Edmund’s attentions. Goneril’s lust is quite evident because she cheats on her husband to satisfy her lustful nature.

It can also be proven that Gloucester was once an impious man as well. In the opening scene of the play he is bragging about his lustful appetite to Kent as he discusses Edmund’s illegitimacy. He may have passed this trait onto his son Edmund, who lusts after both Goneril and Regan thus creating a messy love triangle. A lust for power is also displayed through Goneril and Regan as they reject their own father in favour of material possessions and power. Wrath At the beginning of the play King Lear denounces Cordelia as his daughter in a fit of rage.

He has this reaction simply because she refused to flatter him and speak exaggerations of her love for him. As his favourite daughter, Lear was expecting Cordelia to shower him with compliments and praises like his other two daughters and when this did not occur he was overwhelmed with fury and denounces her as his daughter. Lear also falls victim to wrath once he realizes what his other two daughters have done to him. “I will have such revenges on you both, That all the world shall–I will do such things,– What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be The terrors of the earth.  (2. 4. 305-9). In this quote Lear reveals the wrath that he wishes to inflict on both of his daughters for deceiving him and rejecting him after he gave them everything he had. King Lear’s wrath is fueled by his daughters’ betrayal. Lear never actually did proceed to inflict his wrath upon his daughters but he did however have every intention of doing so if given the opportunity. Sloth The entire play is built around one man’s laziness. As the play commences one may question why Lear would decide to prematurely give up his kingdom.

It is quite possible that he transferred his authorities before it was necessary so that he would be free to do whatever he wants and have no obligations or duties to perform. But as a direct result of Lear’s slothful nature and want to lead a carefree life his life instead becomes one filled with sorrow and grief. Shakespeare uses Lear as an example to illustrate that when a person decides to live a life of irresponsibility there will be consequences that follow. One could also suggest that Gloucester as well was lazy in that he took everything that Edmund told him at face value.

Gloucester never made the attempt to find out whether or not Edmund’s reports were well founded. Gloucester is too lazy to go beyond the superficial evidence that Edmund presents before him and in doing so he is too quick to pass judgment upon his other son. This laziness also leads to his demise, much like Lear’s. Gluttony Gluttony is evident in the character of King Lear as well. When he first arrives at Goneril’s castle he immediately calls for dinner to be made for him without any further delay.

Even when he is at somebody else’s home and he is guest he cannot wait for his food. He is impatient when it comes to being served his dinner. This is the only evidence of gluttonous behavior however. Pride King Lear’s fatal flaw that leads to his death is pride. Lear’s egoistical demand for total love from his daughters sets the stage for his downfall. At the beginning of the play Lear decides that it is the correct time for him to pass on his authority and divide his kingdom up amongst his three daughters and their husbands.

When Lear’s favourite daughter refuses to express her love for her father Lear’s pride takes a huge blow. King Lear’s arrogance overrides his judgment and prevents Lear from seeing the truth. Lear also struggles throughout the play with the fact that he is no longer in control of the kingdom. He does not want to face the fact that in dividing up the kingdom he lost his sovereignty as king and this is a major blow to his pride. It is this overwhelming pride that serves as a catalyst towards Lear’s ultimate demise. Envy The most envious character throughout the whole novel is Edmund.

Edmund is extremely envious of his brother Edgar. This is because Edmund is the illegitimate son of Gloucester whereas as Edgar is legitimate. This in and of itself is enough to illicit envy, but on top of this Edgar stands to be the only son that will inherit Gloucester’s wealth. Because of this envy Edmund devises a plan to lead to his father and his brother’s demise so that he can eventually inherit what he believes is rightfully his. Goneril and Regan also become envious of each other when they realize that they are both ying for Edmund’s love. Because of this envy Goneril proceeds to poison her sister to eliminate the competition. Her immense jealousy of her sister and Edmund’s relationship destroys her alliance with her sister and ultimately destroys herself as well. In conclusion, it can be said that if one allows even one f the deadly sins to work it’s way into their life it will ultimately lead to their demise. Shakespeare accurately portrays lust, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, greed and pride in his play, King Lear.

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King Lear – Seven Deadly Sins. (2017, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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