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In Act 2 Scene 3 of King Lear, Edgar portrays himself as "poor Tom," a Bedlam beggar. Covering his face with filth, turning his hair into knots, and hiding his nakedness behind a blanket, Edgar thus assumes a safe disguise. Edgar was being hunted by his unlawful brother, Edmund, and the disguise of a Bedlamite would have given him a chance to escape the law as well as the conspiratorial Edmund. The Bethelhem Hospital was a notorious mad-house whose inmates were called the Bedlams, and these beggars used to roam about in Shakespeare's London. Dressed as a mad man begging and speaking nonsense, Edgar thought that he would be able to protect hiself from Edmund and the law conpiratorially invoked by Edmund.
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