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Transcript of King Lear:
In Act 2 Scene 3, Edgar's character changes from the son of the Earl of Gloucester to the disguise of a patient with a mental disability
This transformation takes up the entire scene as Edgar's soliloquy
Kent and Edgar in Disguise
The Earl of Kent changes into the old man Caius in Act 1 Scene 4
"If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I razed my likeness. Now banished Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest,
Shall find thee full of labours." (1.4.1-7)
In this quote how did Kent change his appearance?
"I will preserve myself; and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury..." (2.3.6-8)
"My face i'll grime with filth,
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots,
And with presented nakedness outface
The winds and persecutions of the sky." (2.3.9-12)
""Poor Trulygod! Poor Tom!"
Thats somthing yet! Edgar I nothing am.
He changed his appearance by speaking with a different voice so its unrecognizable and shaving off his beard
Disguise = Deception
In an academic journal by Peter Hyland, two different definitions of disguise are recognized.
"Victor O. Freeburg...wrote this: ' Dramatic disguise...means a change of personal appearance which leads to mistaken identity'...Muriel Bradbrook took issue with this, offering what is...a rather more subtle definition: 'I should prefer to define disguise as the substitution, overlaying or metamorphosis of dramatic identity, whereby one character sustains two roles. This may involve deliberate or involuntary masquerade, mistaken or concealed identity, madness or possession." (Hyland 161)
Disguise = Deception (con't)
Two forms of Disguise:
1. Freeburg’s Understanding - its only a change in
2. Bradbrook’s Understanding - its a form of deception
Disguise as a Dramatic Device
"It seems appropriate, as a number of critics have pointed out, that Shakespeare should have used disguise in a play that is so much about sight and deception." (Hyland 168)
disguise is such an important tool in this play in stressing its main themes of blindness and appearances
Lear is blind to the physical disguise of his banished friend Kent as Gloucester is to his son Edgar
Lear and Gloucester are also blind to the disguise their children put on for them in order to receive inheritance/power
Theme of Appearances
this play emphasizes two different parts of the theme of appearances that coincides with the definitions of disguise:
Figures of Restoration
"Shakespeare wants Kent and Edgar in disguise so that he can use them as emblems of disorder...It is no accident that at the end of the play Albany offers the task of repairing the kingdom to these two, for all along they have appeared...as signs of a potential higher morality." (Hyland 169)
1) Kent and Edgar physically look different
2) Goneril, Regan and Edmund appear that they are good, loyal loving children but in reality are greedy people who will do anything - no matter how despicable - in order to gain what they seek
Theme of Blindness
this play tells us that by not seeing the false appearances that hide behind reality we are blind to what is directly in front of us
Edgar's Multiple Disguises
Poor Tom (mad beggar) --> first appearance is at
the end of Act 2 Scene 3
Peasant --> first appearance Act 4 Scene 6 Line 41
--> Edgar takes this disguise after his father
jumps off what he thinks is a tall cliff.
--> He becomes the peasant in order to pursue
his father to live on despite all the tragedy he has been through so far
Knight --> first appearance Act 5 Scene 1 Line 41 (gives
Albany Goneril's letter)
--> Edgar's next appearances as the knight is in
Act 5 Scene 3 when he goes into battle with
his illegitimate brother Edmund
"Kent and Edgar function both within this world and outside it; within it they are what they play, Lear's ' man' and Poor Tom...But they also function beyond the play...[as] representatives of reason and loyalty, truth and love." (Hyland 169)
Appearance: Kent and Edgar appear as disguised
characters for the sake of remaining in the storyline
Reality: They possess the characteristics that the other
characters in the play do not. If said characters
had possessed these qualities the tragic turn of
events may not have occurred
Theme of Appearance Quote Analysis
It is understood that Cordelia has been aware of Kent's disguise as Caius the entire time
Edgar at some point after his fathers death meets Kent
who reveals his true identity to him. Later Edgar reveals
this to everyone else
Kent tries to reveal himself to Lear in Act 5 Scene 3 Line 286 but is cut off by Lear who, on his deathbed, does
not want to bother understanding at that moment
"Kent, sir, the banished Kent; who in disguise
Followed his enemy king and did him service
Improper fir a slave." (5.3.219-221)
Edgar breaks character in order to speak to the
audience many times as hes disguised as Poor Tom but
he puts on a very believable act for the other characters
At some points some characters have caught on to Edgar's change in speech or recognized his voice in some way but ignored it and Edgar was never revealed unintentionally
The first person Edgar reveals himself to is his father;
After this Edgar is found by Kent who it is assumed he
revealed his identity to at that time.
Edgar's final reveal is to the rest of the characters (mainly
his brother Edmund):
"'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst Smilingly." (5.3.198-199)
"My name is Edgar and thy father's son." (5.3.169)
Hyland, Peter. "Disguise And Renaissance Tragedy."
55.2 (1985): 161. Literary Reference Center. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.
Poggetto, Pablo Alberto Dal. "King LEAR—CD1 2008 The
Royal Shakespeare company subt.ing.esp." Online video clip. Youtube, 20 Jun. 2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Shakespeare, William. Ed. Ken Roy. Toronto: Harcourt
Shakespeare, 2002. Print.
"I'll see that straight." (5.3.287)
As representatives of 'reason, loyalty, truth and love', both these characters have the capabilities to restore the kingdom to its former glory
Kent refuses the offer and decides to die alongside Lear as his loyal companion
Edgar agrees and says the famous final quote stating how he will restore the kingdom:
The oldest hath borne most; we that are so young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long." (5.3.325-26)
University Of Toronto Quarterly
Who falls under each definition?
Freeburg's Definition Bradbrook Definition
(2 characters) (3 characters)
Theme of Appearances
Theme of Appearances
Word Blank Answers
3. Poor Tom
both videos are the first times Kent and Edgar disguise themselves
the first video is Kent - just before he speaks to Lear after his banishment
the second video is Edgar after he ran away after his conversation with Edmund
The disguises of Kent and Edgar are also important because Shakespeare also uses disguise to convey hidden meanings or connections in his play of King Lear:
Poor Tom's Madness =
Caius Loyalty =