Passage of the storm in King Lear Act III

Essay by lizb37A-, April 2004

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The techniques employed by William Shakespeare enhance a feeling of not only acrimonious irresolution but also of dithering misery. In shunning Cordelia, Lear generates a disruption in the great chain of being, causing both imbalance in his own mind and subsequent anguish upon himself. Feelings of both frustration with Lear and a sympathy for him inevitably come over the reader as they try to understand what Lear is suffering. Lear finds himself in a place of indecisiveness as he tries to decide the action to take in his tormenting situation. Vacillating between wanting to punish his daughters and desiring to forget about his circumstance, a tempest has begun to brew in his mind.

Shakespeare's use of both storm and animal imagery helps to develop the feeling of the unresolved desolation that Lear is suffering. As Lear roams about a desolate heath, a dreadful storm, powerfully but ambiguously symbolic seethes overhead.

Amidst a "contentious storm", there is also a "tempest in [Lear's] mind," that is in actuality worse than the elements he is forced to undergo. The storm, a physical, tumultuous, natural reflection of Lear's internal confusion, portrays his inner chaos and increasing madness. At the same time, the storm also symbolizes the overwhelming power of nature, which forces the helpless and incapable king to recognize his own mortality and human frailty and to develop a sense of humility, a trait he has never possessed before. Lear determines in his mind, that he would "meet the bear," of the physical storm before confronting the "filial ingratitude," of his daughters. Although the physical storm, what the bear symbolizes, it ferocious, wild, and untamed, Lear feels as if he has the option to go inside and receive shelter from it. However, there is nothing he can co to escape the ever increasing havoc...