Can you explain the significance of the storm in King Lear?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The storm in King Lear serves a dual purpose. First, it is intended to show how Lear, a frail old man, has been rendered homeless by his two daughters. Second, the storm is intended to represent visually and dramatically the turbulent emotions that Lear is experiencing. He is not the least bit afraid of the storm or troubled by the cold and wet. His inner feelings are so powerful that he is indifferent to any physical discomfort. His conflicting emotions include rage, frustration, remorse, and humiliation. He expresses all these feelings in his soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 2. He also indicates that for the first time in his life he is beginning to realize how his most humble subjects feel. This is a lesson which he will continue to ponder on throughout the play because he realizes he is one of them. The storm eventually forces him to take shelter in a hovel with his Fool and Edgar who is pretending to be Poor Tom, a homeless lunatic. There they have a discussion of the wretchedness of human existence while the storm continues to rage outside. The fact that Lear is now inside and is communicating with others suggests that the worst of his wild frenzy has subsided and he is now becoming more resigned and rational.

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