All About Edgar

Edgar may be my favorite Shakespeare character to date. He’s so elusive; he transitions so much throughout the play, yet he always manages to stay true to himself and values. As honest a character he seems to be, he is also not honest because he is constantly disguising himself (though he isn’t given much of a choice thanks to Edmond). What I also like about Edgar are the intricate oppositions within his character. For example, he is the legitimate heir of Gloucester and he loves his father and goes through great lengths to protect him. This shows a strong, unconditional love for his familial bonds. However, he willingly duels and defeats Edmond, leading to his death (although it could be argued that they are not full-on blood). 

Another strong opposition surrounding Edgar is that of disguise as a powerful force of good. Edgar manipulates the possible cruelness or nefarious trickery that one would be expected to perform whilst wearing a disguise and instead uses his disguises for beneficial things. For example, in Act 4 Scene 6, he disguises himself as a normal gentleman when his father faints trying to commit suicide. When Gloucester comes to, Edgar (disguised as a normal guy), informs him that “the clearest Gods … / … have preserved thee” (4.6.75-6). Before Gloucester “jumps” to his “death” he prays for forgiveness, and (knowing this and his father’s situation) Edgar tells him that he was obviously meant to live by some divine miracle. This is such a powerful scene for that specific reason. However, it seems that by the end of the play, Edgar is punished worse than any other characters. Why is this? He remains alive, while his father is dead and the society is in ruins with no clear leader. Is he perhaps being punished for being deceitfully disguised and therefore he is eternally disguised from his beloved father? First because his father is blinded and then because his father has died? I have so many questions about this character.

Edgar’s strongest redeeming quality is the importance he holds within family. In Act 5 Scene 2, he leads his father to a tree for shelter during battle. The tree, being sturdy and immovable, represents family for him and the shelter that family members should provide for one another when they are in need. When dueling Edmond, Edgar marks him as “a traitor, / False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father” (5.3.141-142), insulting him on the familial level as well as a religious level. It is slightly humorous that not soon after this statement, Edgar says “My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son” (5.3.180). This is funny because instead of saying “I am your brother” he sort of shuns him from blood relation by simply stating that they share the same father. Loyalty and blood should run the same in Edgar’s mind, and because Edmond does not show loyalty, his blood means little to Edgar. So, it isn’t a big deal if it spills a little bit … right?

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One thought on “All About Edgar

  1. pamsutherland

    I agree that Edgar is one of my favorite characters. He remains loyal until the end. His acts of deception are simply out of self preservation.

    Edgar sees and refers to Edmund as his brother – “How now brother Edmund?”1.2.126 at the beginning of the play and by the end of the play Edgar calls Edmund a traitor (5.3.132). I see this as a fit of anger that allows him to avenge the death of his father. As soon as Edmund is wounded and offers forgiveness, Edgar snaps out of it and sees Edmund as a brother again – “I am no less in blood than thou art”. Together they blame the “dark and vicious place where thee he got” (5.3.171) or the adulterous bed in which Edmund was born.

    Even after all that Edmund has done to Edgar, he still forgives him and allows him to die in peace. A good guy with a good heart. At least he got to live. Poor Cordelia, the other pure heart in the play, was hanged seconds before the pardon arrived.

    Reply

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