It might be useful to view nature as `the natural order of the world' (and, perhaps, the universe). When one goes against the natural order, chaos will follow. Shakespeare has made this point clear in "Troilus and Cressida" where Ulysses predicts that once "the specialty of rule hath been neglected disaster will follow, for take but degree away, untune that string, and hark what discord follows" (I.iii). But what are the natural orders that were upset in King Lear? First, and foremost, King Lear divided his kingdom and stepped down from the throne. A king of divine right is king until he dies; by disinheriting the throne and relinquishing it in parcels to daughters, Lear upset the natural order of his kingdom. According to essayist Sarah Doncaster, "It was impossible for Lear to stop being a king, because that was his rightful position by divine ordination..." (Doncaster, p.3).
Lear continues to disrupt nature by not recognizing the natural bond of love between father and daughter. When Lear asks Cordelia how much she loves him (an unnatural question to beg upon a daughter), she responds by saying, "I love your majesty according to my bond" (I.i. 91-92). Cordelia, the only `true' daughter of Lear, is saying that her love for him is based upon the laws of nature and not unnatural trappings of `love words'. Lear's blindness and lack of wisdom regarding the true nature of his daughters is seen throughout the text with references to nature. Lear says to Regan, "Thy tender-hafted nature shall not give thee o'er to harshness" (II.iv. 69-70). In his conver...
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...sus the elements, the physical world of the universe. The storm is infinitely strong compared to man, and is of the moment only. It is pitiless, but innocent. It has no malice; it doesn't want to be anything else but a storm. The poor, bare, forked animal, man, on the other hand, has an infinite wish to be infinitely great, to become what he is not." (Auden, p.224).
In the end, Shakespeare is creating a tragedy of people who did not obey and respect the rules of nature and the order of man. By using nature, realistically and metaphorically, Shakespeare shows us the role nature plays in our lives. Violating natural law, trying to be and want what we are not, will ultimately lead to destruction. As Gloucester himself says, "Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects." (I. ii. 104 - 106).
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