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King Lear

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Lear: “O, reason not the need”: Nature and the Unnatural

KINGLR-JFY4S0

In Act 2, Scene 4, Goneril asks her father why he needs “five and twenty, ten, or five” men to attend upon him. When Regan one-ups her sister by then asking Lear: “What need one?” Lear’s response is:

O, reason not the need: our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life's as cheap as beast's: thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,--
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women's weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man's cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall--I will do such things,--
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth.

Lear’s recourse to the language of “nature” and the “unnatural” here makes a point of comparison between:

A

the gorgeousness of the natural world and the monstrousness of Goneril and Regan.

B

the sufficiency of the natural world and the surfeit of Goneril and Regan.

C

man’s material distinction from animals and Lear’s daughters’ resemblance to devils.

D

the logic of the animal world and the unreasonable demands that Goneril and Regan are making of their father.

E

the supernatural gift of patience and the unnatural thirst for familial revenge that Lear’s daughters are causing in him.