For the number of times the characters acknowledge and lament Fortune and her power, they sure spend a lot of time trying to circumvent her justice. Challenging Fortune is like challenging nature; foolish, futile, and inevitably resulting in destruction.
In our study of previous plays, we discussed how younger brothers and daughters got the short end of the stick when it came to inheritance. If you weren’t lucky enough to be the oldest son, you probably weren’t very lucky at all. The opening of King Lear presented the audience with the false hope that the daughters would be lucky enough to inherit their father’s fortune, and would each be able prosper in their own right. However, instead of accepting what Lear allotted to them as their fair share, Regan and Goneril become greedy and selfish, attempting to deceive one another. At the start of the play, these two sisters were willing to declare their love for their father in order to receive their rightful inheritance; towards the end of the play, they were pitted against one another in their fight over Edmund, and both end up dead. I believe this was Fortune’s way of executing the justice they were not willing to accept from their father, and punishment for their cruel treatment of Gloucester.
Similarly, Edmund attempts to circumvent the laws of inheritance by tricking Gloucester into thinking ill of Edgar. He wouldn’t have necessarily been somehow granted inheritance had he acted nobly, but it might have saved him from an untimely death.Edmund expresses regret after Edgar says, “The dark and vicious place where thee he got/ Cost him his eyes,” (5.3.171-72). Edmund replies, “Thou hast spoken right, ’tis true; The wheel is come full circle! I am here,” (5.3.173-174). When characters think themselves to be powerful enough to take the law into their own hands, to outwit Fortune, that is when they are struck down. A human’s belief in invincibility and their desire to seek more than they’ve earned often results in their own downfall.