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Shakespeare's Representation of Weather, Climate and EnvironmentThe Early Modern 'Fated Sky'$
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Sophie Chiari

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474442527

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442527.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

‘The pelting of [a] pitiless storm’: Thunder and Lightning in King Lear

‘The pelting of [a] pitiless storm’: Thunder and Lightning in King Lear

(p.150) Chapter 5 ‘The pelting of [a] pitiless storm’: Thunder and Lightning in King Lear
Shakespeare's Representation of Weather, Climate and Environment

Sophie Chiari

Edinburgh University Press

King Lear (1605-06), where the vehemence of the old king’s defiant speeches is matched by the raging storm striking the heath, is what we may call a climatic play. If, in Of the lavves of ecclesiasticall politie (1593), Richard Hooker assumed that natural phenomena coincide with the voice of God, the playwright here questions the alleged divine origin of climatic manifestations in a dark and nihilistic vision of life. As Lear fights against the storm, superbly staging his own distress, he proceeds to an inverted exorcism, wishing he could destroy all forms of human life rather than recovering his mental sanity. This chapter argues that, influenced by Lucretius’ atomism, the play provides a truly epicurean vision of the skies makes an extensive dramatic use of the humoural and cosmological interplay of the four elements. Eventually, as gall invades Lear’s heart and eradicates both hope and tenderness, a disquietingly grotesque tonality pervades the tragedy and forces us to look at the title part’s internal turmoil.

Keywords:   King Lear, astrology, Lucretius, atomism, storm, thunder, lightning, apocalyptic imagery

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