After reading King Lear and studying the role of Edgar at some length, it is hard not to be disappointed with the outcome of Edgar's role. He performs so many roles and functions that he seems to just be a 'plot device'. Not much time was spent by Shakespeare on establishing Edgar's qualities and virtues prior to starting him off on his journey of role playing.
Through this role playing it is possible to detect progression in Edgar's character as he moves from one role to another. He grows in stature through his use of disguises. He is forced to assure the garb of a madman to preserve his life, but his final disguise - masked avenger - enables him to take command of his own fate and that of others.
Initially Edgar seems weak, credulous to us today, but we cannot forget that Jacobean audiences would have understood that good characters were easy to fool.
Villains were excepted to be cunning so that their evil intentions were impossible to detect. Edgar's willingness to be guided by Edmund might be seen as proof of his worthiness. "Shall I hear from you anon?". He is sure of his honesty and proclaims his innocence "I am sure on't not a word". He follows his brother's advice, flees and disguises himself as Poor Tom;
"My face I'll grime with filth,
and with presented nakedness outface
The winds and persecutions of the sky". (Act 2 Scene 3)
On the heath the role of Poor Tom, the lunatic beggar is given a lot of importance; we notice that the 'fake' madman helps Lear as he interact with the madman, his humanity ad understanding increase. Through Poor Toms comments about Lear and Gloucester's suffering he guides the audiences or reader's response towards the...