Poor Edmund?

I know I shouldn’t, but I really like the character of Edmund. This is obviously ridiculous since Edmund is a manipulative and somewhat evil character, but I can’t help but feel bad for him. After all, Edmund’s only offense (originally) was that he was born a bastard son to his father Sir Gloucester. In the beginning Gloucester doesn’t even want to claim his son as his own,

“His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed to it…Sir, this young fellow’s mother could, whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?” (1.1.13).

This is made even more confusing in the next statement when Gloucester tells Kent that his legitimate son in no more dear to him than Edmund. If this is the case then why does it appear to the reader that Edmund is usually passed over and neglected? It all seems to stem from the fact that Edmund is a bastard, but why?
This is just another arbitrary rule that nobles have to follow to keep some semblance of order. Maybe I am being too sentimental but it must have been hard for Edmund to grow up being constantly looked over for his brother and for no other reason than the technicalities of his birth. This is a new level of Daddy issues and sibling rivalry.

“Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund As to the 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.” (1.2.20)

I don’t think I blame Edmund for trying to gain power over his brother. Although it was an evil plot it was ingenious and proved Edmund’s intelligence. After years of this abuse maybe he was justified in wanting a chance at a better life. I would like to believe that this is Shakespeare’s noble proclamation for the commoners to question the legitimacy of the noble’s power, but I doubt it. I’m sure that Edmund’s plot will ultimately lead to his down fall but at least he is taking fate into his own hands and not accepting that he is lesser just because he was born a bastard.


6 thoughts on “Poor Edmund?

  1. Jeff Battersby

    I'm with you on this Hannah! I love Edmund and I think he has one of the best, enjoyable, and most contemporary monologues of the play in the middle of Act 1.2.This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon’s tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenl’est star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. EdgarTo me there's something deeply satisfying about what Edmund says here and it's this than endears the character to me.

  2. lizvanburen

    I also agree with you Hannah. In fact, I often find the more manipulative/evil characters of Shakespeare's plays (or any play/movie/TV show) to be my favorites; they're more interesting and dynamic, and usually more intelligent.I don't know if you've read Much Ado About Nothing, but Edmund reminds me of Don John, who was also called "the Bastard" in Much Ado. Like Edmund, he was also quite down about being doomed to be "illegitimate" which resulted in evil schemes. While I actually prefer Edmund over Don John, I think the "bastards" of Shakespeare are always interesting.

  3. Gianna

    I love your post!!! Edmund is soo fascinating. He is almost like Iago, except he is not as skilled in many ways your can find his point of pain, and in some ways sympathize with the actions he takes.

  4. Zan Strumfeld

    I agree with you completely. I haven't read the whole play but I'm extremely interested to see what will happen with Edmund's plan and how much further he will take it. I do feel bad for him too and that he deserves much more respect – his circumstances are not his fault! Nice ending with your post as well; it is sort of easy to predict that there will be some kind of downfall for Edmund, which is unfortunate but I can't wait to see what happens.

  5. Genevieve

    I agree with you also! His character is so intriguing. I also tend to enjoy the evil/manipulative characters in stories/plays and I find myself wanting to know more and more about Edmund. I can't wait to see what happens with him.

  6. Cory

    You have to give Edmund some credit for finally taking some control over his life that has left him in a very disadvantaged position, even if it is an evil plot against his brother. Regardless of the outcome, Edmund's attempts will certainly stir up the play.


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