In the novel Caleb Williams by William Godwin, how is the concept of crime examined through the character Falkland? what does Falkland believe “crime” to be and to what degree does his belief involve a moral sense of right and wrong? Does the law act in Falkland's favor or against him?
In one sense, Falkland displays a belief in right and wrong being relative, meaning that what can be judged as right and wrong depends on a person's perspective. One way in which he portrays this is through his evident beliefs in the darker honor code Renaissance Italians carried out, such as the idea that duels and even murder are acceptable ways to redeem a person's lost honor. In Chapter II, we learn that Falkland was fond of the "heroic poets of Italy" and learned from the poets "love of chivalry and romance." Enotes editor Scott Locklear informs us that the Renaissance Italian poets he is referring to are those such as Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, poets who promoted duels, assassinations, and even war above classic Arthurian chivalry (eNotes, "Extended Summary"). In Italy, when Falkland is accused of seducing Lady Lucretia, characteristic of the heroes in his favorite poets' works, Falkland warns Count Malvese to avoid making hasty accusations, "the consequences of which may be inexpiable but with blood," which is to say that one may not be able to atone for making hasty accusations, or dishonoring another person, except by being killed, as in a duel (Ch. II). Hence, one thing that can be said is Falkland believes in a different honor code from others in believing one can redeem one's honor through killing another person, as in a duel; therefore, Falkland does not necessarily have the same beliefs in right and wrong that others do.
Later, we do see Falkland refer to his murder of Tyrrel as a "crime" and be tormented with what looks like feelings of guilt. However, we also hear Falkland declare to Caleb that "honour, justice, virtue, are all the juggle of knaves!" (Vol. II, Ch. II). He even further declares, "Justice! ... I do not know what is justice. My case is no within the reach of common remedies; perhaps of none" (Vol. II, Ch. II). If we remember his reasons for killing Tyrrel , which were fist Tyrrel's cruelty towards Emily and then Tyrrel's public humiliation of...
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