King Lear is a tragic playwritten by William Shakespeare. It is a play about the suffering of two families that are caught in a struggle of greed, lust, and cruelty which eventually results in extreme amounts of pain and destruction for all the characters. In King Lear, there is a circular relationship between the characters’ behavior and nature. That is, the destruction of the two families results from human behavior breaking accepted laws of nature, and the disturbances in nature result from the disturbances in human behavior.
Shakespeare portrays this theme by demonstrating the damage Lear and Edmund create when they break the laws of nature, and of course, nature itself in the form of the storm in King Lear. The idea of nature is first introduces by Cordelia in the very beginning of the play. When Lear asks Cordelia to tell him how much she loves him, Cordelia responds by saying that she loves him “acoording to my bond. ” (1. 1. 102) Cordelia mean that her love for her father is based upon the laws of nature and involobes the clearest recognition of her filial obligations.
It is this law which Lear himslef depends on when he expects to be revered and obeyed both as a king and as a father by all his daughters. Shakespeare demonstrates this idea when he points out that at a later point in the play, after Lear is treated horribly by Goneril, Lear expressed his conviction that Regan, unlike Goneril, knows better “the offices of nature, bond of childhood. ” (2. 4. 202) It is ironic that here Lear uses the exact same word as Cordelia has used before, that is, “bond” to describe the natural ties that he himslef broke before only to expect that they would be followed by his daughter, Regan when he is in a time of need.
However, Lear does not understand what Cordelia means when she says this, and is very upset as a consequence. At this point Lear destroys his natural family ties to Cordelia by breaking off her connections to his family. Here I disclaim all my paternal care, and property of blood. (1. 1. 125-6). Lear looks at the love between a father and daughter as an immutable legal bond rather than a natural bond of love. At a later point in the play, Lear finds that all that he has conceived to be natural is becoming unnatural; specifially, his daughter no longer acknowledge the filia duty and respect.
Lear himself realizes that his sufferings is due to the fact that he has mistreated Cordelia, and by that, broke that codes of nature: O most small fault/How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show/Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature from the fixed place. (1. 4. 278-81) Lear is basically admitting to the fact that he has distorted and twisted his fate by breaking the natural family bonds between him and Cordelia. Lear’s rashed actions represent a great violation of the law of nature, which from that point will lead to disrder and disaster throughout the entire play, and eventually the destruction and death of Lear’s family.
The second family that is discussed in King Lear is Gloucester’s family. In this family it is Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son who commits actions that disturb nature, and as a consequence, ruin himself and his entire family. Edmund’s self-revealing soliloquy at that beginning of 1. 2 reflects his views and opinions about the accepted laws of nature. Edmund rejects moral law and endorses the law of the jungle. This is pointed out by the fact that Edmund starts his solilquy by invoking the goddess of nature: Thou, Nature, art my goddess. (1. 2. 1) but Edmund’s final words are Now, gods, stand up for bastards! . 2. 23)
It is a well known fact that at the time King Lear was written, bastards were not considered to acepted under the natural laws of society, hence, one can conclude that the goddess of nature whom he invokes does not represent the traditional nature, which he refres to as the dull, stale, tired bed. (1. 2. 14) but animal vitality alone, which he refers to as the lusty stealth of nature. (1. 2. 12). Edmund views the accpeted laws of society as the plague of custom and the curiosity of nations (1. 2. 3-4) which means he sees the natural law as no more than artificial constraints imposed upon society.
Based on these opinions, Edmund manages to turn his father against Edgar, Gloucester’s legitimate son. Edmund accomplishes this by writing a letter that he presents to his father as his brother’s work. In this letter, Edmund makes it seem like Edgar is suggesting that he and Edmind turen their backs on their natural and holy bond towards their father and kill him. Edmund knows that by making it seem as if Edgar is the one that is goin to break the lws of nature, he will cause problems between Gloucester and Edgar, which proves that even Edmund is aware of the sognificant of the laws of nature, only he uses it against his brother.
Also, Edgar is made to inveigh against this police and reverence of age. (1. 2. 49) Respect, or reverence for age has its place in the accpted custom of those times, old age being revered as wisdom. Disrespect for age is held to be contrary to the natural laws. Much like Lear, Gloucester fails to see the true nature of his evil son, Edmund, and the true nature of his good son, Edgar.
Gloucester first addresses both sons as being equal: “but I have a son, sir, by order or law who yet is no deare in my acount. ” (1. 1. -20) but later on in the play Gloucester turns against his natural son, Edgar, and declares his illegitimate son, Edmund to be his natural boy. (2. 1. 98) As in Lera’s family, the natural laws are broken, both by Edmund, and to a lesser extent, by Gloucester, and as a consequence, the characters in this family are eventually destroyes as well. Perhaps the most critical aspect of nature in King Lear is the actual nature conditions that are provided by the motehr nature throughout this play, specifically, the storm. A storm is a disturbance in nature.
This disturbance in nature in King Lear results form the disturbing behavior of the characters, namely, King Lear. The storm symbolizes Lear’s insanity, that is , when natuer gets out of order it is illustrated in the form of a storm, and when Lear’s nature gets out of order, it is illustrated in the form of insanity. Before Lear actually loses his mind, he establishes a direct connection between the nature and his state of mind when he says “O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet Heaven! Keep me in temper. I would not be mad! ” (1. 5. -6) His invocation of Heaven is an indication of Lear’s acknowledgment of a higher power over man’s destiny, that is, nature.
This connection between the nature and Lear’s sanity gets stronger later on in the play. After Lear is virtually kicked out of Regan’s house, as well as Goneril’s, he is left wandering about in the middle of the storm, accompanied only by the jesting fool. This storm reinforcesthe effect of unparalleled fury, which represent Lear’s own “impetuous blsts and eyeless range. ” (3. 1. 9), and the threat to his sanity as he “Strives in his little world of man to outscorn/ The to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain. 3. 1. 11-12).
When Kent manages to find Lear, he tries to convince him to shelter himself from the storm. But Lear replies that, “This tempest in my mind/ Doth from my senses take all feeling else” (3. 4. 15-16). This is the first time that Lear makes a direct comparison between the storm outside and the storm in his mind, by saying that the because of the emotional storm in his mind, he is not bothered by the physical storm outside. And when Lear adds “In such a night, to shut my out! ” (3. 4. 20-21_ he is emphasizing the fact that the storm’s fury is equated with the unnatural treatment he has received from Goneril and Regan.
As opposed to the previous examples. In this case it is the human behavior that is affecting and disturbing nature. Throughout King Lear there are violation of the laws of nature. These violations of nature’s rules, specifially, Lear’s disclaming of Cordelia, and Edmund’s betrayal of his father and brother are the causes for the destruction of the characters, that is, the death of the two families. The process of disturbance in nature’s laws leading to destruction of human lives applies both ways. It is because of disturbed human behavoir, namely Lear’s behavoir, that nature is disturbed, which brings about the storm.
Shakespeare is basing his characters’ suffering on the fact that the characters in his play did not respect and obey the rules of nature. Perhaps by emphasizing the significance of the role that nature plays in human lives. Shakespeare is trying to increase the awareness of the people of his time to the importance of nature’s rules, and by that, remind them not to doubt and go against what is accepted for it might result in paing and distruction. Shakespeare accomplishes this through showing the readers the destruction of his characters that was rooted in their violation of the accepted rules of nature.