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Lightning and infertility in King Lear

February 23, 2021

Shakey Reviews

In the famous storm scene (Act 3, Scene 2), King Lear having been cast out of doors by his elder daughters, prays for a flood of cataclysmic dimensions that will drown the whole world:

Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples,drownedthe


and also a thunderstorm of such proportions as will not only destroy him: ‘singe my white head’ (3.2.6), but will also render the entire population sterile:

You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking


Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world,

Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once

That makes ingrateful man!


The flattening out of the world’s ‘rotundity’ could be construed as a curse upon pregnancy and fecundity, with the earth representing a pregnant woman’s body in this case presumably to be…

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