Read Shakespeare’s ‘Thou, Nature, Art My Goddess’ soliloquy from King Lear below with modern English translation and analysis, plus a video performance.

‘Thou, Nature, Art My Goddess’ Spoken by Edmund, Act 1, Scene 2

Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th’ legitimate. Fine word- ‘legitimate’!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

‘Thou, Nature, Art My Goddess’ Soliloquy Translation

Nature was his guide and it was her laws he followed. Why should he have to put up with the stupidity of convention and let the idiosyncrasies of an old fashioned society deprive him of his rights, just because he was some twelve or fourteen months younger than his brother? Why should he have to carry the stigma of “bastard”; why should he accept that he was inferior? His body was as compact, his mind as intelligent, and his figure as good as the son of his father’s legal wife was. Why did they brand people like him with the word “inferior”? With inferiority? Bastardy? Inferior, inferior? – They had stronger constitutions and were more red-blooded as a result of the lust and passion that accompanied their conception than a whole tribe of fops conceived between bedtime and morning in a boring, tedious matrimonial bed had.

So, legitimate Edgar. He would have his brother’s inheritance Their father loved the bastard Edmund as much as the legitimate Edgar. Fine word, “legitimate”! Well then, legitimate brother, if this letter proved effective and his plot succeeded, Edmund the bastard was going to oust the legitimate. Grow! Prosper! Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Watch ‘Thou, Nature, Art My Goddess’ Soliloquy Performed

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4 replies
  1. Pam
    Pam says:

    I liked the “translation” very much. While I got the idea from the original, sort of, the modern English confirmed and deepened my understanding and made me delighted.

    Reply
    • anon
      anon says:

      I actually hated the translation. It was very poorly done. It wasn’t translated properly. Edmond was not referring to himself in the third person, yet this is in the third person. The translation is a reiteration, and is sub-par. Definitely had the ability to be much better.

      Reply
  2. William F P
    William F P says:

    Oh! Dear.
    I thought this very helpful for anyone seeking a quick resumé or wishing to confirm their understanding. The writer should be praised for her/his clear explanation as well as the selfless generosity of the effort.
    So thank you!
    Concerning the missing ‘analysis’ I would have thought such would be a matter of personal musing – particularly with a seemingly straightforward message. Or is it more enigmatic? Or ‘generalisable’?
    The state of humanity; the body politic; the Man and his greedy machinations; morality and concern for others…the environment, of course, the food chain and our treatment of Nature (ironically!) And so on and on – these examples but a few facets of a multiple coruscation.

    Nature versus (and firmly outside of) the ordered Farce of mankind’s pride and ‘Order’.

    I imagine several lengthy tomes could be written on the subject! (which wouldn’t really fit here would it?)

    Again, many thanks.

    Reply

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