Into the Storm

The second scene of the third act of this play is to me the most powerful scene in the play. It is directly following Lear’s dismissal by his daughters Goneril and Regan, who refuse to lodge his men and turn him away from their doors, sending him, bare, into a terrible storm. Lear wanders in the storm for a while on his own, accompanied only by his fool and his thoughts.

This scene is so important because it is the scene in which Lear’s full mental breakdown occurs and it is beautifully rendered by every aspect of the scene. Firstly, he is accompanied only by his fool. This is a very important detail to recognize, especially following the controversy over Lear’s knights. Gonreil and Regan refuse Lear his usually knightly company which makes Lear feel important and powerful, keeping him grounded in his world, but removing that and replacing the 100 knights with a single fool changes Lear’s world. Instead of being surrounded with company that respects and obeys him, he is accompanied by an influence which exacerbates his mental decline; his world is now one of nonsense.

This is supported by the storm activity raging outdoors. The storm is acting as a metaphor for Lear’s mental state. Completely blindsided by the rejection of his daughters, Lear’s entire world is rocked and sends his mind into a confused flurry of rage. In 3.2 lines 4-6 Lear cries, “Your sulphurous and thought-executing fires/ Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts/ singe my white head!” Lear here is comparing the ripping thunder to the thoughts of his daughter’s betrayal that burn and flash in his mind.

Another example of how Lear’s insanity is represented is in the way he speaks and thinks. In 3.1 Lear is quoted as saying that he, “Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea/ Or swell the curled waters ‘bove the main” (5-6). This speaking in unnatural inverses emphasizes Lear’s waning grip on the world as he knows it, requesting a world of impossibilities.

Finally the Fool in the end of 3.2 leaves us with a little wisdom. He tells of a world in which sociotal and natural norms are inverted and tells that the kingdom of Britain will then know confusion. What I think the purpose of this is is to highlight how this mental breakdown applies only to Lear. His world has been changed and he is now in a state of extreme mental unrest, but it only effects to him. Though it may seem to him that the world is changed, it is not; it is only his understanding of it that is. The Fool says that when these impossible things happen (which effect society rather than individual), then will the entire country know confusion, but due to the deep-rooted nature of these norms, these changes will never occur, and Britain will persist.

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3 thoughts on “Into the Storm

  1. Jacey Lawler

    I enjoyed reading your “Into the Storm” post! This scene is so fabulously written and filled to the brim with great imagery. The chaotic state of Lear’s mind paired with the fury of nature was brilliantly planned by Shakespeare. It easily conveys to the audience just how altered this king has become. I thought your point on the replacement of Lear’s 100 knights to his single Fool was super. I had not really considered that exchange made by Shakespeare and the significance it has. It really does say a great deal about Lear’s condition. The antithesis of a fool and knight is truly interesting. The “unnatural inverses” lines popped out to me as well. It is greatly descriptive and conveys how utterly distraught the king is. In such a visually stimulating scene, a hopeless Lear desires destruction and believes nothing can help him

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  2. Darya

    This post is very insightful into what happens during the storm scene of the play. I especially enjoyed the line about how Lear walks off into the storm, "accompanied only by his fool and his thoughts." The fool himself serves as the king's thoughts and in many cases reveals to Lear things that weren't apparent to him before.I also think that the way the King's words toward the storm were representations of his insanity and loss of grip on the world was beautifully done. The storm's wildness is the king's loss of control of his mind. Also, the replacement of the King's knights (sense of manlihood) with the fool (his brooding thoughts) is a great comparison as to what he has lost and what he was left with.

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  3. Timothy

    I very much agreed with your post. It is able to get at the way that Lear, already starting to come apart at the seams, falls completely into madness which is at the same time represented by storm and caused by it. The fact that the only company that Lear has at this moment is his fool, clearly shows how this inversion is a cause of his mental decline.

    Reply

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