"King Lear" shows that evil is a self-consuming passion. Discuss.
King Lear shows that evil is self-consuming by working out its consequences in detail. Lear is a foolish old man who is susceptible to flattery. Thus, when Regan and Goneril play up to his weaknesses, he considers them more filial than the honest Cordelia. He responds by wickedly depriving Cordelia of her just portion. This creates the situation in which Regan and Goneril can mistreat Lear. Gloucester parallels Lear by trusting the wrong child, and suffers the symbolic fate of being blinded.
Nevertheless, Regan, Goneril, and Edmund are all destroyed as a result of their evil. Regan and Goneril quarrel over Edmund to their own ruin. Cordelia, who has arranged a French invasion of England, ends up captured with her father. Edmund is finally killed by his legitimate half-brother Edgar, but not before Cordelia is executed. The shock of Cordelia's death kills Lear, who thus reaps what he had sown at the beginning of the play.
As Edgar remarks (V/3/192-93), "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices / Make instruments to plague us." Each evil or questionable act in King Lear rebounds on its doer. Lear's blindness to Cordelia dooms him; Cordelia's arrangement of a French invasion results in her death; Gloucester's credulous trust in Edmund leads him to literal blindness and his eventual demise. Regan and Goneril turn on each other in a quarrel over the spoils, and Edmund's betrayal of Edgar is paid back when Edgar kills him.