King Lear is a tragedy whose entire action is triangulated around three great negatives: ‘nothing’, ‘no cause’ and ‘never’. Anticipating Donne’s description of death as ‘the most inglorious and contemptible vilification, the…peremptory nullification of man’, Lear traces the undoing of a king forced to recognise the ‘smell of mortality’ upon his own sanctified hand, just as it shows a man reduced to a mere ‘ruined piece of nature’. 

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