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Tragedy of King Lear: Edmund

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Sarah Safe

on 21 November 2012

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Transcript of Tragedy of King Lear: Edmund

Character Analysis of Edmund Psyche Emotional State Intellect Humor Loyalty Dis-Loyalty Strengths Weaknesses Actions/Reactions Goals His End Edmund is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester--and he's not quick to forget it. He hates how some rights, like inheritance, are taken away from him simply because of his birth. He is cunning, and vengeful; willing to do anything to higher his standing in society. For every action he does is out of pure selfishness, with no true regard to others. Edmund: "Why "bastard"? Wherefore "base," when my dimensions are as well compact, my mind as generous and my shape as true as honest mandam's issue?.....Well then, legitimate Edgar, I must have your land." pg. 29 To put it simply, Edmund has a superiority complex, fighting against people's views of his inferior standing. He considers himself better than many of the nobles that surround him, and is filled with a need for vengeance against the system. Edmund is quite literally insane, yet masks his crazy emotions with a calm and composed demeanor. Edmund: "And my invention thrive, Edmund the base shall [top] th' legitimate. I grow, I prosper. Now, gods, stand up for bastards!" pg. 31 Without a doubt, Edmund is definitely one of the more clever characters in this play. His elaborate plot was able to turn his father against Edgar, Gloucester's legitimate son, and gain his father's trust. Furthermore, Edmund later betrays his father's intentions of helping King Lear to the Duke of Cornwall, earning him the title of the new Earl of Gloucester. His scheme only fell apart because of the mishaps of those around him; not from a personal error. After a false duel with Edgar, Edmund says: "Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion of my more fierce endeavor. I have seen drunkards do more than this in sport. [He wounds his arm]" pg. 75 Throughout the play, Edmund doesn't really care much for humor. He stays focused on his scheme to rise up the social ladder, never wasting time with idle things like jokes or riddles. For even after he succeeds in banishing Edgar and gaining his father's trust, Edmund continues to seek other opportunities to increase his rank amongst the nobles (like betraying his father to gain a heightened position with the Duke of Cornwall). Edmund refuses to be loyal to anyone. As much as it may appear that he becomes the loyal servant of Goneril, Regan and Cornwall, he still does their bidding out of a selfish desire to increase his status; not out of respect. Sadly, dis-loyalty is one of the major traits that Edmund carries. He is willing to stab anybody in the back if it will better his chances in life. Not even his caring father is exempted from this, let alone his half-brother Edgar. Edmund: "This courtesy forbid thee shall the Duke instantly know, and of that letter too. This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me that which my father loses--no less than all. The younger rises when the old doth fall." pg.135 In this passage, Edmund reveals that he intends to be loyal to Cornwall merely because it is beneficial to his standing. "I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood."pg. 149 Edmund's greatest strength is his cunning and intellect. By being a very good liar and able to create well-thought-out schemes, he is able to twist any situation to his advantage. Edmund: "The duke be here tonight? The better, best. This weaves itself perforce into my business....Briefness and fortune work!" pg. 73 Edmund has some very important actions (or reactions) that strongly effect the play. His scheme to banish his brother actually keeps Edgar safe, forcing him to stay away from all the drama going on between the people of power like the Duke of Cornwall and King Lear. This would eventually lead to Edmund's demise. Additionally, Edmund's betrayal of his father led to Gloucester's eyes being gouged out, but opened his father's inner eye to the truth behind Edmund's lies. Furthermore, Edmund's actions caused Goneril and Regan to fight for his hand in marriage, leading to both of their deaths. Lastly, it was under Edmund's orders that Cordelia and Lear be executed, although only Cordelia's assassination was successful. Edmund:"Yet Edmund was beloved. The one the other poisoned for my sake, and after slew herself." pg. 253 Edmund: "He hath commission from they wife and me to hang Cordelia in the prison..." pg. 255 Initially, Edmund's prime objective had been to seize his brother's inheritance. However, as the play progressed, Edmund became more ambitious; he did everything he could to increase his power, killing or ridding anybody who got in his way. Edmund secretly orders a guard to assassinate Lear and Cordelia: "Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison. One step I have advanced thee. If thou dost as this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way to noble fortunes." pg. 237 In the end, after all of his schemes, treachery, and backstabbing, Edmund is finally defeated. He is killed in a fight with his brother Edgar, who returns to avenge his father, after the battle between France and England. Edmund: "This sword of mine shall give them instant way, where they shall rest forever. Trumpets, speak! [He draws his sword] Alarums. Fights. [Edmund falls, wounded.]" pg.247 Messenger: "Edmund is dead, my lord." pg.259 Edmund's greatest weakness was his undeviating ambition and greed. He would not be happy with anything he achieved, he always wanted more. Furthermore, he underestimated others. His belief of his superiority gave him a false sense of assurance that nothing would go wrong. In this way, he failed to foresee that Edgar would eventually return--and it would be Edmund's downfall. Edmund: "A credulous father and a brother noble, whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty my practices ride easy. I see the business. Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit." pg.39
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