Nature in King Lear
In what is considered by many scholars as Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy “King Lear”, there is a triangular correlation between characters’ behavior and nature. Due to human behavior which breaks the accepted laws of nature two families are destroyed. Moreover, the disturbances in the human behavior lead to disturbances in nature. In this book, the author reveals the theme of nature by showing the damage Edmund and Lear cause when they break nature and its laws in a storm.
In the very beginning of the play Cordelia also introduces this theme of nature. When King Lear asked Cordelia how much she loved him, she responded “I love you according to my bond” which meant that her love to her father was based on the laws of nature. It is based on the same laws that Lear expects to be obeyed both as a king and a father by his children. However, according to Lear the love between father and daughter is an immutable legal bond and not a natural one. Lear perceives himself as a master of the natural world and when he disowns Cordelia, he swears by using words “the sacred radiance of the sun”, “through operation of the orbs” to disclaim all paternal care. In this context, Lear calls upon nature to attest his rejection of nature (natural father daughter bond).
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In the end of this novel Lear rejects the kind of nature that causes all things to love, hence disrupting harmony in the world. This is a total change in the way Lear understands nature. In Act 1 scene 1 Edmund is introduced asGloucester’s illegitimate son. According to nature Edmund will not inherit his father’s estate, since everything will go to Edgar, the legitimate son. Edmund will observe how his efforts to reverse nature will not pay off at last. According to Edmund, nature is the only force that can fight for him to get what he believes is rightfully his.
In Act 2 Edmund dupes Gloucester into believing that Edgar is a villain. This gives Gloucester a good impression about Edgar’s family loyalty that he reverses natural order declaring Edmund the new heir to the estate. Although Edmund later lies and fakes an agreement with his father, he wants to reverse the natural order. Edmund later sends Cordelia and Lear to prison thinking that he will be in peace. Nature in a play appears as an uncontrollable elemental force.
In this book nature stands for disruption and ferocity of order. Gloucester and his legitimate son demonstrated this. Besides his philosophy of “the lusty stealth of nature” Edmund explains nature further. In his description Lear observes nature through Goneril who describes his nature as predatory and rapacious. Thus, according to the play, being natural means acting according to the societal norms. It also means that having good character and being natural are inseparable.