Eco-Criticism In King Lear

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This paper argues that King Lear can help re-shape the emerging discourse of eco-criticism. The play’s focus on human dis-harmony with the non-human environment resonates with recent developments in ecological science like the ‘‘post-equilibrium shift’’. Shakespeare’s representations of dis-equilibrium in the storm scenes can correct eco-criticism’s reliance on pastoral and Romantic visions of harmony. The play’s emphasis on the way natural systems, especially the weather, disrupt humanity’s meaning-making capacities generates an alternative to dualistic notions of the selfnature relationship. By representing ecological instability and pluralized selfhood, King Lear reminds ‘‘green’’ readers how difficult and disorderly living in a mutable eco-system…show more content…
This body becomes uncomfortable and unintelligible. The story of the body in the storm exposes the difficulties of narrative representation in ecological crisis. The systems of meaning that circulate around Lear’s storm-tossed body include not just familiar structures such as Providentialism and empirical observation but also early modern discourses like humoral psycho-physiology, theories of the passions, and the influences of spirits that reside in air, earth, fire and water. The storm scenes doubly impose upon the king’s body, subjecting him to external forces that themselves represent his own internal passions. These scenes unsettle the meanings of and boundaries between human bodies and the world. Windy suspirations present a selfhood entangled with a hostile world. Lear’s final moments, in which he expires while searching for Cordelia’s breath, dramatize the centrality of moving air the Greek pneuma, which means both ‘‘wind’’ and ‘‘breath’’ in the creation of a coherent yet Mobile self. Expanding the familiar binary of scientific observation and supernatural control, the early modern plurality of ideas about the relationship between human bodies and the
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