While you are reading Shakespeare's tragedy "King Lear" (etext found here), learn this word list that focuses on Mother Nature and human nature. Here are links to all of our lists for “King Lear”: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, and Act 5.
"Impetuous" can also mean "characterized by undue haste and lack of thought" (a synonym for "rash"). This would make the battle between Lear and Mother Nature seem almost like justice because a rash man is being thrashed by a rash wind. But in the example sentence, the words "blasts", "rage" and "fury" connect to violence and to the idea of an impetus, which is a force that moves something (e.g. Lear's white hairs) along.
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea
Or swell the curled waters above the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury and make nothing of;
a large waterfall; violent rush of water over a precipice
A cataract can also be "a disease that involves the clouding of the lens of the eye"--this definition does not fit the example sentence, but the idea of dysfunctional eyes can be seen in this act with Lear losing sight of reality and Gloucester actually losing his eyes.
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples
separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
"Cleave" can be a tricky word because it has two meanings that are opposite of each other. The other meaning is "come or be in close contact with", which does not fit the example sentence because Lear is calling for lightning, which can separate oak trees, to burn his head. Once the cleaver of kingdoms and relationships, Lear now wants to be cloven.
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head.
relating to or involving slaves or appropriate for slaves or servants
Another definition of "servile" is "submissive or fawning in attitude or behavior"--this also fits the example sentence, especially when you think about the insults that Kent threw at Goneril's servant, but the chosen definition fits better because in a previous line, Lear calls himself a slave.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join'd
Your high-engendered battles 'gainst a head
So old and white as this.
"Vile" can also mean "morally reprehensible" but that definition does not fit the example sentence because Lear is referring to the hovel which, when he was a king and used to living in a luxurious palace, would've been nauseated at the thought of stepping foot in. But now that he's run away from his daughters and is out in the storm, a hovel seems like a precious shelter.
The art of our necessities is strange
And can make vile things precious.
dominance through threat of punishment and violence
Kent is personifying nature here by calling its roughness tyrannical, and he is expressing concern for Lear's physical safety. But the word "nature" in the example sentence refers to Lear's nature, which used to be tyrannical (because he was an absolute dictator) and cannot endure the tyranny of other forces.
The tyranny of the open night's too rough
For nature to endure.
The definition is for "pelt" as a verb but it is used as a noun in the example sentence. Although another definition of "pelt" is "rain heavily", which is what is actually happening in the scene, because Lear is feeling like a victim, the image of the rain as missiles (e.g. arrows) attacking him and other poor houseless wretches is more powerfully fitting.
Poor naked wretches, wheresoever you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you
From seasons such as these?
having branches or flower heads that bend downward
The definition is too naturally wholesome to fit the example sentence, since Lear is using the adjective "pendulous" to describe an air that carries plagues. Here, "pendulous" is closer to the meaning of being suspended, like a pendulum.
Now, all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated o'er men's faults light on thy daughters!
In the example sentence, "subdued" is the past tense of the verb "subdue"--Lear is projecting his own status onto Poor Tom/Edgar. But "subdued" is also an adjective meaning "restrained in style or quality" or "in a softened tone"--neither of which Lear is being here.
Death, traitor! nothing could have subdued nature
To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
Edmund is pretending to be afraid of censure in order to get Cornwall's trust and protection. But the consequences of Edmund's betrayals will be a lot harsher than a formal rebuke.
In the example sentence, "nature" does not refer to either Mother Nature or Edmund's nature; it refers to the natural bond between a father and a child which, as Gloucester's bastard second son, Edmund never felt and has no trouble betraying in order to get what he thinks he deserves.
How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus
gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think