This essay is very helpful for M.A. English students. shakespeare's masterpiece is his play King Lear. It is a part of study guide of King Lear
NATURE IN KING LEAR:KING LEAR is a play where all the aspects of Nature have been discussed. External forces of Nature are presented as teacher of human being. A close relationship between men and natural phenomenon is delineated in the play. As Wilson Knight says Humanity here is shown as kin to the earth and winds, and animals. On the other hand internal nature of humanity is discussed with the help of keen, profound and balanced observation in realistic tone. The word Nature has various meanings and interpretations. It has been used in different context, for instance, microcosmic, macrocosmic, orthodox and heterodox. With the passage of time ideas about nature have been continuously taking changing. The Greek employed the word Nature for macrocosmic (outer universe). Medieval people had the view that God created this universe where nature was favourable to men. But with emergence of renaissance, we find a great change in the concept of Nature. In neo-classical age, Pope and Johnson pointed out that God created this world and Nature was the reflection of God. But the Romantic era revealed Nature in a different way. Wordsworth accepted external expressions of Nature as his guardian; mother teacher, mother and nurse. Shakespeare in his play King Lear deals nearly with every aspect of nature. The play opens with the description of microcosmic nature (inside world). As the play opens, Gloucester and Kent have discussion on bastardy of Edmund. Before Shakespeare, church has described Nature as a power controlling mans affairs and this idea was appreciated by Elizabethan writers. In King Lear Shakespeare also presented the prevailing concept of nature with a. maturity and perfection. The Storm Scene is very significant in this respect. There is storm in external paraphernalia of Nature as well as in the internal human nature. Lear is discarded by his elder daughters and then faces a storm on a heath which leads him to the point where he realizes himself and the reality of life. In King Lear nature is presented as a great helper of man in the evolution of the development of personality. There are three gradual stages of improvement, uncivilized, civilized and ideal stage. Lear and Gloucester are uncivilized because they are unable to differentiate between appearance and reality. Lear considers Goneril and Regan as his loyal girls because their appearance deceives him. He maltreats Cordelia because he is unaware of the reality which is hidden in the behaviour of Cordelia. Gloucester also takes Edmund as his faithful son and Edger as treacherous, whereas the fact is completely against it. Then, they learn reality in the company of Nature. Now they start realizing the fact and are moving towards the civilized stage. In the beginning of the storm scene, Lear curses the entire world and then says: 1
I will be the pattern of all patience: I will say Nothing. A little further, he accepts his committed sin to some extent I am a man I More sinned against than sinning. No doubt, he is true in saying this but we feel that he still has not started blaming himself. In the next scene, he is on completely civilized stage. O Regan, Goneril! Your old father, whose fank heart gave all, O that way madness lies. Now he realized that it was folly to enjoy crown and leisure at the same time, to avoid responsibilities and miseries at the same time. Then at the end Lear becomes ideal and virtuous who wins our sympathies. Our hatred turns into love towards Lear. In the same way, Gloucester in scene I, Act IV on the heat, accepts the reality. In the blindness, he utters: I stumbled when I saw Ah, dear son Edgar The food of thy abused fathers wrath In the same way, Gloucester accepts another fact: As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods They kill us for their sport. Now he is humble, realistic and virtuous. He has realized mans position. He is remote form pride. In this way, Shakespeare has shown how a storm in the external nature affects mans personality. He has also described nature as a teacher in the evolution of mans character. Shakespeare depicts general human nature in King Lear at a broad level, in a realistic way with an admirable balance. According to Hobbes, man is bad, malignant, egotistic and proud. But Hooker declares that man is benevolent and sacrificial. Shakespeare being a realist adopts a middle way. He shows both, selfish and selfless nature in Lears and Gloucesters character. Edgar and Cordelia are virtuous, simple, innocent and sacrificial while Kent is representative of wisdom is human nature.
On the other hand, Goneril, Regan and Edmund stand for human nature which is described by Hobbes. They all are selfish and selfless. They are life like character because such people exist in every society. As the time presented in this play is pre-Christian, Nature also stands for pagan gods. In many places, the, characters call supernatural powers for help, calling them Nature or gods. In his famous soliloquy, Edmond says: Thou, Nature, art my goddess: to thy law My services are bound. While cursing Goneril, Lear invokes the powers, saying: Hear Nature, hear: dear goddess, hear. In the storm scene, Lear calls the forces of Nature as god: Let the great gods, Find out their enemies now. In short we can say that Shakespeare, by the art of characterization, has introduced his realistic, true and balanced concept of human nature as well as external nature.