Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
Representations of Nature in Shakespeare's King Lear Sarah Doncaster The concept of Nature in Shakespeare's King Lear1 is not simply one of many themes to be uncovered and analysed, 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 The use of imagery in william shakespeares king lear 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 legitimise 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 analyse 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 inhe 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 importance to his continued reign.
By connecting the notion of the Divine to Kings, James I is legitimising his power through naturalisation, the very fact that James I felt it necessary to reiterate this concept in parliament suggests that it was a social construct, not a natural fact, designed to legitimise and protect the interests of the monarchy.
The concept of 'the Great Chain of Being' follows on from the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and again legitimises the actions of those holding power.
William Shakespeare (26 April – 23 April ) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. To sum up, imagery plays an important part in “KING LEAR”.The Play is a complex work and makes use of imagery effectively to convey the themes, and to give poignancy to the action. The disruption caused by Lear’s initial inability and refusal to “see better” is reflected in the images of darkness, animalism and disease.5/5(2). One element of imagery in use in King Lear is that of nature and of what is natural. The significance of this imagery relates to Shakespeare's theme of the good and bad sides of nature and of that which is natural. In typical Shakespeare fashion, both sides of nature and the natural are examined and exposed.
For if by 'nature' everyone and everything has its place, and knows its duties and obligations to that place, then the status quo is maintained and those that hold the power cannot be questioned.
Shakespeare belonged to a world where notions of man, his nature and his place in the universe were an amalgamation of both Christian and pagan philosophies. According to Reese, 'it provided a cosmological system which, though complicated, inconsistent and even uncertain in its details, was definite in outline and purpose, and its core was the assurance of the unity and intimate correspondence of the whole of God's creation.
The fundamental principle of this universe was order, with God at the head of his hierarchy in the heavenly realm, and man, who was created in God's image, at the head of the physical world, with Kings at the head of the state. This belief in the social order stemming from the natural order is an important concept to grasp when examining the idea of nature being utilized to maintain the status quo.
Closely associated with the belief in an ordered universe was the concept of nature as a benign force in the universe.
Nature in this sense was a principle of order linking all spheres of existence in their proper relationships. Reese suggests that 'the endlessly recurring correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm, was the most significant of the symbols which proclaimed the order and unity of the world, for it proclaimed at the same time the special place which man occupied in the universal scheme'.
If we accept the proposal that the Renaissance 5 concept of nature was socially constructed, then we can understand the necessity of representing disorder breeding disorder, because it reinforces the need to conform.
It was thought that unity was easily displaced because disorder in any part of the universe causes disorder in its corresponding part.
This interdependence of man and nature is a theme, which is explored in Lear; men are never represented in isolation, but always in relation to the divine hierarchy, the physical world and the world of animals. Once the concept of correspondence between man's nature and the natural world is understood in terms of legitimising the social order, it becomes easier to contextualise the actions of Lear with the almost constant references to nature.
The tragedy of King Lear stems from Lear's attempt to subvert the 'natural' social order by relinquishing his crown to his daughters. Once disorder is initiated by Lear's revocation of his powers and rights as King, disaster in corresponding hierarchies follow.
Lear's relinquishment of his power is in direct opposition to the concept of the Divine Right of Kings.
According to the laws of nature which as I have proposed were socially constructed it was impossible for Lear to stop being a king, because that was his rightful position by divine ordination and in fact throughout the play he is still referred to as the King, even though he has divided his crown.
Also Lear is unable to stop seeing himself as the King, which can be seen from his banishment of Kent, soon after he has relinquished his powers: Hear me, recreant, on thine allegiance, hear me: That thou hast sought to make us break our vows, Which we durst never yet, and with strained pride To come betwixt our sentence and our power, Which nor our nature, nor our place can bear, Our potency made good take thy reward.
Aside from the natural position of Kings the natural social order can also be seen in terms of power relations between characters: King over subjects, fathers over daughters, husbands over wives.
This naturalisation can be seen as being represented by the character of Lear. He possesses his daughters, because according to the Great Chain of Being he presides over them, therefore it is only 'natural' that they should proclaim their love for him.
This is an important concept in a society where women are considered to be the property of men until they get married and then they become the property of their husbands.
Although Cordelia could be said to be disobedient by not fulfilling her father's wishes, and this in itself could be taken as a subversion of the social order, I feel that her loyal and loving behaviour towards her father, despite being banished from both his kingdom and his love, is in itself affirmation of the social order.
It is Lear's actions that bring about the tragedy, not Cordelia's and this is important to bear in mind when evaluating the importance of Cordelia's disobedience.
Lear's power and its intimate connection with nature is shown at its height when he discovers the treachery of Regan and Goneril and as he releases his anger at them, whilst refusing to weep, the stage directions tell of a 'storm and tempest'11 which can be interpreted as the heavens responding to Lear's rage.Imagery of Blood in William Shakespeare's Play Macbeth In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare uses blood as a symbol throughout the whole story to show the different emotions and themes within the context of the play.
The concept of Nature in Shakespeare's King Lear 1 is not simply one of many themes to be uncovered and analysed, 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 .
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Explore the different symbols and motifs within William Shakespeare's tragic play, King vetconnexx.coms and motifs are key to understanding King Lear as a play and identifying Shakespeare's social and political commentary..
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