King Lear

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The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods Symbol Analysis

The Stars, Heavens, and the Gods Symbol Icon
In Shakespeare's time there was a particularly strong belief that order on earth depended on order in the heavens—or, as Kent puts it, that "the stars above us govern our conditions" (4.3.39). Celestial bodies are thus both a metaphor of order and a potential source of disorder, when they go awry. Multiple characters in King Lear make references to eclipses that have taken place; in Act 1 Scene 2 in particular, Gloucester attributes the chaos in Lear's court—the banishment of Kent and abrupt departure of Cordelia and France—to "these late eclipses of the sun and moon" (1.2.109). Edmund then mockingly takes up the theme of "what should follow these eclipses" (1.2.148). Later in the play, Lear and Gloucester both appeal to the stars and gods together as benevolent spectators of their sad plights, and as forces for justice. (E.g., Lear cries out in 2.4: "You heavens, give me that patience […] You see me here, you gods, a poor old man" (313-4).
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