The Storm

Act 3 of King Lear is entirely set in this storm that encompasses all of the characters into this whirlwind of madness. The storm is what is equivalent to Lear’s current state of mind. The violent craziness that the natural world is suffering through because of this storm is reflective to what Lear himself is experiencing in his own state of mind. The storm is also prevalent in that it’s uncontrollable and powerful because not even a King could be protected from its power.

In likely the most famous monologue and section of the play Lear goes off against the storm (3.2.1-9):

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

Crack Nature’s molds, all germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man!”

The “cracks”, “rage”, and “blow” help for us to see the destructive power of the symbolic storm which, in turn, is symbolic of the destruction of the world made that way by the actions of human beings. By Lear cursing the storm and all its power, he finds he himself lacks power to challenge the storm and even lacks the power to fight his daughters treachery against him. Lear is no longer the great power he originally thought himself to be. He relinquished that power when he gave away his lands and power to his two treacherous daughters Goneril and Regan. By giving away this power, he had to make an adjustment in how to live his life way late into his life and it proves to be a feat that even he cannot cope with. He is now a political pawn in Goneril and Regan’s new reign of power being seen as little more than a crazed feeble old man who couldn’t possibly do anything to stop them.

Lear tries to challenge the storm and realizes his own frailty as a human being and how his humanity was altered through the power of being a king. The storm shows how little power he really has by being an overwhelming force he cannot control on his own. With the more power the storm produces, the more he realizes the diminishing power he himself is now living with. This storm, because of that reason, helps Lear reflect on what he has done by putting Goneril and Regan in charge and denouncing his one true daughter, Cordelia. The storm is showing the characters of King Lear, especially Lear, that the gods are angry with how each of them are doing a piss poor job of being proper human beings — banishing family, gauging out eyeballs, etc. It is noteworthy that this conclusion of the storm is not only indicated on behalf of the villains such as Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, but also in Lear’s initial treatment of both Cordelia and Kent in the beginning of the play. The storm is one of the greatest metaphors Shakespeare ever wrote in the way it perfectly captures the impending doom each character has wrought.


One thought on “The Storm

  1. mahorsfall

    Comparing Lear’s abdication of the throne and utter loss of power to the turbulent and uncontrollable nature of the storm made your post an interesting and enlightening read! Your concluding paragraph connected the dots for me—the storm definitely served as a powerful metaphor and depicted the wild plot of the play very well. I liked your point about the storm actually helping Lear reflect on the consequences of his early poor decisions.


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