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Edmund's soliloquy in Act 1 scene ii reveals his plot to supplant and gain his father's inheritance. Discuss the importance of this scene in the context of the play as a whole. Draw upon two critical interpretations to aid your understanding of Edmund's c

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Introduction

Edmund's soliloquy in Act 1 scene ii reveals his plot to supplant and gain his father's inheritance. Discuss the importance of this scene in the context of the play as a whole. Draw upon two critical interpretations to aid your understanding of Edmund's character and motivation. Edmund's soliloquy in Act 1 scene ii is a pivotal turning point in King Lear. The soliloquy begins to unite the sub and main plots within the text; the main plot being that of King Lear and his daughters, and the subplot involves Edmund's scheming plans against his father. As expected in a tragedy, the two interweave and merge in the closing stages to accumulate in a sensational and dramatic conclusion. The soliloquy also highlights recurring themes throughout the text, which become of great importance, and it supplies the audience with insight into Edmund's complex character. At the beginning of act 1, Edmund is portrayed as a polite and extremely quiet character - especially so considering he, or more to the point his illegitimacy, is the topic of discussion. However, his soliloquy in scene ii leads the audience to discover that Edmund's reservation was in fact a mask worn to disguise a man full of resentment, a vindictive intelligence and arguably, a barely human soul. This resentment is the product of years of discrimination. Edmund is the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, and as was often found in Elizabethan drama, 'the bastard' ends up playing the part of a villain. ...read more.

Middle

He believes strongly in loving family ties, a trait Edmund clearly does not share. Bradley believes that if Edmund has any affections or dislikes, he just dismisses them as complications. Lear is tormented by the treachery of his two 'monstrous' daughters. They convince Lear they are the doting and loyal daughters, yet once Lear divides his kingdom they turn their backs on their father. This torment caused by the unnatural nature of his daughters takes a physical manifestation in Act 3 scene I and II. This symbolic storm connects physical nature and human nature with dramatic effect and marks the beginning of Lear's descent into madness. He becomes consumed with his devious daughters. This is shown when he meets Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom - "Didst thou give all to thy daughters? /And art thou come to this?" Edgar's disguise also shows how the natural order that once prevailed in Lear's kingdom has crumbled to chaos and corruption. This corruption cannot be wholly blamed on the evil nature of Regan, Gonerill and Edmund. Lear and Gloucester's lack of sight regarding their 'bad' children, result in their blindness to the loyalty of their 'good' children. This leads to power being distributed among the evil characters - a vital turning point in the social order of things. The theme of sight and blindness is indirectly introduced through Edmund's soliloquy via his plan to deceive his father. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are also examples of the chaos extending from the disruption of the great chain of being. Edmund upsets this chain of being by asserting himself as above his legitimate brother Edgar, and in turn Edgar also upsets the chain of being by disguising himself as a madman and leading Gloucester secretly, when he is the rightful heir of his father's lands, wealth and status. To conclude, the soliloquy in Act 1 scene ii is of vital importance to the whole play. It reveals the motivation behind Edmund's plans - he desires revenge. It can also be said that Edmund feels insecure about his illegitimacy, and that he loses everything according to the attitude displayed in this soliloquy. It is suggested that Edmund himself may suffer from a level of sightlessness, he was blinded by his own yearning for power and wish to usurp his brother that he didn't consider the outcomes of his actions. This is perhaps the reason for his change of heart in act 5, scene 3. He tries to warn of the fate waiting for Lear and Cordelia before death overcomes him. Peter Washington believes this radical reversal of Edmund's character is a means of dramatic effect and that Edmund is a ruthless, ingenious and quick thinking villain who takes a sardonic delight in plotting despite its consequences on others. He is merciless when he gives Cornwall the means for his father's capturing, which leads to Gloucester's eyes being removed, and he feels no remorse for these actions until he begins to die. Therefore there is strong support to suggest Edmund remains evil. Word count = 2020. ...read more.

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