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Shakespeare's Moral Compass$
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Neema Parvini

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474432870

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474432870.001.0001

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(p.246) Chapter 8 Fairness
Shakespeare's Moral Compass

Neema Parvini

Edinburgh University Press

Fairness concerns itself with proportionality, not equality. It is a question of reciprocity – “just desserts”, what one deserves – rather than egalitarian distribution. This chapter focuses on how Shakespeare tends to depict feelings of unfairness as a key motivation for revenge and, if unchecked, a possible route to villainy, evil, and even societal collapse. This is because the desire for revenge fuels selfish or self-seeking behaviour – the antithesis of fairness – and thus unfairness begets unfairness. Human groups which lack any sense of fairness and in which individuals have become wholly selfish cannot flourish. I will focus chiefly on Richard III’s primary for motivation revenge, Hamlet’s refusal to kill Claudius when he is praying, the Duke’s pardon of Angelo in Measure for Measure, and Edmund’s motivations in King Lear.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Fairness, Jonathan Haidt, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Richard III, Hamlet, Revenge, Unfairness, Reciprocity

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