"King Lear" by Shakespeare - Examination of Edmund.

Essay by fire_101High School, 12th gradeA+, February 2006

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In order to understand the characteristic of any character, especially Edmund, one must be aware of his background. In the beginning of the play, "King Lear," the reader views Edmund as a character who should be pitied upon; not as how critics assert him to be one of the most evil characters in all of literature. This viewpoint of Edmund is evident in the proceeding pages of this play. When the reader is first introduced to him, through Kent and Gloucester's conversation, he learns of the Edmund's "bastard" status. Through Gloucester's bad deed and action, society frowns upon the illegitimacy of Edmund's birth. Although he has committed no wrong, he has no right to inherit his father's property, wealth and title because of his "bastard status." His father in the opening pages of King Lear asserts:

But I have a son, sir, by order of law some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account.

Though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent, yet his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. (I.i.19)

This statement by Gloucester describing Edmund's 'whoreson' status, clearly displays Gloucester's love for his son. He claims he does not love one son more than the other. His love is equally divided between both his sons. More importantly, Shakespeare successfully used ethos to invoke some sort of initial sympathy from the reader towards Edmund. By continually disgracing him and discussing his "bastard" status, Shakespeare was able to make the reader feel kindness and understanding towards Edmund.

As the play continues, and King Lear has divided up his land between his two daughters, Goneril and Regan; Edmund's true characteristics begin to be apparent. One can safely compare him to...