Dividing in three his kingdom to give it away in the ﬁrst scene, Lear describes it not in terms of cities nor inhabitants, but as natural countryside: ‘shady forests and wide skirted meads’ (1.59) comprised of ‘space, validity, and pleasure’ (1.76). In the ﬁnal moments of the play the three-way division of authority is repeated, but now the kingdom is conceived as a sensible body: ‘[ALBANY] (To Kent and Edgar) Friends of my soul, you twain | Rule in this kingdom, and the gored state sustain’ (24.314-15). Whereas land can be divided with tools such a maps, a living body cannot, and the play closes with a real change in attitude regarding monarchial authority. Shakespeare had previously dramatized in As You Like It such movement from an objective and contemplative relation to the land to a sensible one in which it is apprehended ‘feelingly’. Duke Senior’s speech about the sweet uses of adversity – ‘counsellors | That feelingly persuade me what I am’ (2.1.10-11) – reﬂected upon bodily experience of the weather: ‘The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang | And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, | Which when it bites and blows upon my body’ (2.1.6-8). For aristocratic characters who normally are protected from the environment, these bodily experiences produce a conviction that the inanimate world itself is alive, that humanity can be found in nature: ‘tongues
mental attitude towards the natural world, one that might have persisted in Shakespeare’s time but was even then open to mockery. King Lear presents us with versions of this modern reaction and invites us to mock those for whom human affairs and the wider cosmos are inextricably bound together. However, it is also seems intent on making us reconsider this mockery and to see merit in the mocked view.