King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained
4
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.

Gloucester speaks these words as he wanders on the heath after being blinded by Cornwall and Regan (4.1.37–38). They reflect the profound despair that grips him and drives him to desire his own death. More important, they emphasize one of the play’s chief themes—namely, the question of whether there is justice in the universe. Gloucester’s philosophical musing here offers an outlook of stark despair: he suggests that there is no order—or at least no good order—in the universe, and that man is incapable of imposing his own moral ideas upon the harsh and inflexible laws of the world. Instead of divine justice, there is only the “sport” of vicious, inscrutable gods, who reward cruelty and delight in suffering. In many ways, the events of the play bear out Gloucester’s understanding of the world, as the good die along with the wicked, and no reason is offered for the unbearable suffering that permeates the play.