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How does Shakespeare present Edmund in King Lear?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present Edmund in King Lear? King Lear is a play about child - parent relationships, nature, Christianity and enlightenment. King Lear initiates with a King dividing up his land and bestowing it upon his three daughters. After being betrayed by his youngest born Cordelia, Lear banishes her and starts his struggle with madness. King Lear is a tragic play and ends with many characters dying after a bloody war. Shakespeare touched on many themes when creating his masterpiece and all of these can be voiced through Edmund which makes him an integral character to the play. Edmund is the illegitimate son of the Duke of Gloucester. He is one of the first characters mentioned in the play, and throughout the play he seems to be the personification of evil. The mendacious bastard betrays his brother and father before dying with little remorse. Shakespeare used a variety of literary techniques to convey his message about Edmund and used the villain as a pawn in the story about Good vs. Evil. Edmund is a godless character; he embraces the concept of humanism and refuses to answer to any divine being when he stresses "thou nature art my goddess" he instantly dismisses the notion of an abrahamic God. To be an atheist was still seen as "satanic" so for Shakespeare to present Edmund as faithless, it reasserts this notion of malevolence. ...read more.

Middle

This is a prime example of how Edmund is usually only talking to one person in a secretive manner. This secrecy simply emphasises his slyness and deceptiveness. The fact that he never appears publicly also brings his sociability into question. It's obvious that Edmund is disgusted by his company therefore is rarely seen with them. Edmund's language in King Lear is very unique, unlike his counterparts he refrains from long speeches about inconsequential subjects, instead he uses very sharp poignant language. Edmund's speech similar to any nobility in the play is very formal. Similar to the speech of Goneril and Regan when they eulogised their father at the beginning of the play, Edmund through his dialogue shows much respect. When answering his father he always attaches "my lord" this could be interpreted as sarcastic. He in no way respects his father but despises him, therefore by adding the lord he lulls him into a false sense of security and it also adds comical effect. Edmund continues to show the utmost respect and shock in light of his brother's supposed treachery" I hope his heart is not/in the contents." This politeness and fa´┐Żade of naivety is very frustrating to the audience as we all know he was the conspirator behind his brother's demise. Edmund's speech is also littered with negativities. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also if we look at the background of Edmund it's no surprise he turned out to be such an individualist, the neglect of his father and the condescending manner of society meant Edmund had to go it alone. Instead of criticising Edmund really the audience should be criticising the society that forced in into a life of intolerance, greed and isolation. Despite apparent vindication for Edmund's actions I feel Shakespeare's overall presentation of Edmund is one of a malevolent Machiavellian. He possesses no traits of the angelic Cordelia, however is more like her vicious sisters Regan and Goneril. It was Shakespearian custom to have a out and out villain and Edmund adopts this role flawlessly. By using an array of literary techniques ranging from language to role Shakespeare has created a monster, someone who has no qualms with the murder or betrayal. Edmund is not someone who commits evil acts however manipulates others to do his dirty work. By doing this Shakespeare has made Edmund even more hated, he has not battled for power however stolen it through deceptiveness and deceit. Edmund was a Darwinist who loved a challenge and had a voracious attitude to life. Like A. Wilkinson said in his essay which explored Saints and Sinners in King Lear, Edmund "possesses a deep and black nature which is opposed to all things of beauty and light". Edmund is the personification of evil in King Lear and is a hero of darkness. ...read more.

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