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Essay on An Analysis of Nature in Shakespeare's King Lear

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An Analysis of Nature in King Lear


The concept of Nature in Shakespeare's King Lear 1[1] is not simply one of many themes to be uncovered and analyzed, but rather it can be considered to be the foundation of the whole play. From Kingship through to personal human relations, from representations of the physical world to notions of the heavenly realm, from the portrayal of human nature to the use of animal imagery; Nature permeates every line of King Lear. However as I intend to argue, Nature in all of these contexts is a social construct, which is utilized in order to legitimize the existing social order.  In order to do this it is first necessary to draw a very brief sketch of the political and social beliefs of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages, whilst outlining my arguments for believing that Nature is a socially constructed concept. In light of these arguments I will then analyze the representations of nature in King Lear to show how the play can be seen as both a portrayal of and a contribution to the social and political beliefs of the time.

            It is well documented that both the Elizabethan and Jacobean age were not known for their unity. It was a time of change and upheaval, Elizabeth I never married and therefore left no heir to the throne, leaving her subjects to worry about who would succeed her, and what was to become of them; when James I succeeded her to become the first Stuart King, although he ended the war with Spain in 1604, he could not overcome the deep-seated political and financial problems that dogged the state. Therefore in order to overcome any debate on Kingship regarding legitimacy or efficiency the representation of unity and harmony between the state and Nature was of paramount impo...


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...oductory notes.

[3] Reese, M. M. Shakespeare his world and his work. London 1953, 1958. p458

[4] Reese p 460

[5] I am fully aware of the assumptions and problems, which arise from the use of this word, however I merely mean to imply the time frame, which I outlined earlier in the essay

[6] Shakespeare, W. Troilus and Cressida. Ed. Kenneth Palmer. The Arden Shakespeare. 1982. (1.3.78-110)

[7] King Lear (1.1.38-44)

[8] 1.1.169-173

[9] 1.1.213-214

[10] 1.1.110-115

[11] 2.2.472

[12] 1.1.8

[13] 1.1.18-19

[14] 1.2.1-2

[15] 3.5.17-18

[16] 2.2.455-456

[17] 1.4.254

[18] 1.4.299-300

[19] 2.2.323-324

[20] 4.2.41

[21] 5.3.84

[22] 4.2.50-51

[23] 5.1.57-59

[24] 5.3.320-321

[25] Foakes, R. A. (ed) King Lear The Arden Shakespeare. The Arden Shakespeare: third edition (1997, 2000) p15 introductory notes.


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