Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, bothers me right from the beginning of the play. Shakespeare repeatedly calls him a “bastard” throughout the play. He’s one of the first characters introduced in King Lear, and we see that his father goes out of his way to let us know he’s his illegitimate son: “Though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was called for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged” (1.1 .17-20). This is what motivates Edmund to do what he does throughout the play. His father has insulted him, and this is why he plots to have his brother, Edgar, falsely accused of plotting to kill their father. Edmund states: “Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom, and permit the curiosity of nations to deprive me, for that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base? When my dimensions are as well compact, my mind as generous, and my shape as true, as honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us with ‘base, base bastardly? (1.2.2-6). He knows he has been a joke his entire life, and this is why he acts like a “bastard”. For the entire play, Edmund is a villain and he is proud of the evil he does, but he is different from other Shakespearean villains. Even though I hate him, it’s hard not to feel bad for him after what he’s been through. I’m curious to see if he does any good in the end of the play.


5 thoughts on “Edmund

  1. kem1008

    I agree–although I sympathize with Edmund in a sense, he is truly a villain. His vengeful attitude will not help his case, yet I suppose it is the most natural reaction to rough treatment; it just prevents any more positive things to come his way as a form of reward or respect. His actions can only come back to haunt him, and diminish any respect he may have once received.

  2. hannahs

    Edmund is most definitely a villain. It is sad to see how his motives come from a deep need for love. He was never really loved by his father and the entire world scorned him just because of the way he was born. He is despicable for what he had done but what kind of alliance should he have for a man who does not want to acknowledge his son. He does align himself with both sisters but I don't blame him for that one. For the first time he was receiving attention from powerful women. For once in his life Edmund was getting praise and positive attention and for a child starved of that they will keep it at any cost.

  3. danielleadams

    I agree that it is difficult to know how we should perceive Edmund. Is he a villain, a victim, or both? However, after reading the remainder of the play, it seems that Edmund cannot be categorized as either a villain or a victim, as he is in fact simultaneously both. While it is his status as a "bastard" that drives him to want to exercise his full humanity and declare his equal right to his father's inheritance, he goes about it in such a way that is quite not only risky, but evil. While it is difficult to see by what other means he could have won his right to his father's property, it seems, in my opinion, that he could have lived a relatively comfortable life in his former position. While he was viewed as a "bastard" son he was still acknowledged by his father who made sure that while he did not legally hold the same rights as Edgar, he was able to maintain a similar quality of life. Thus, while it is difficult to judge Edmund, I think that it can be stated that he is, in general, hypocritical, considering how he wants the same legal rights as Edmund, his father's loving son, while his actions show that his greed overpowers any sense of love that he has for this same father.

  4. Michele

    I completely agree with you. I think Edmund is a very annoying character. I can't help but think of a spoiled brat that will do anything in his power to get what he wants. I don't feel much sympathy for him because we see how Edgar is the opposite and rather choose being a beggar instead of fighting his brother for the inhertitance. I think Edmund should be punished for his actions and get what he deserves.

  5. Jenn Mathias

    I also agree. It is hard to catagorize Edmund because he is dealing with a lot of factors that are against him. Maybe we should feel a certain sympathy for him because everyone is against him. But then again, as Danielle said, he just goes about everything the wrong way.


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