Does Edmund have legitimate cause for complaint?

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Shakespeare must have understood that the only way to make a character seem like a real human being was to give him (or her) contrasting traits. Even his Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is somewhat sympathetic because of the way he is abused by Christians. Even the fiendish Lady Macbeth is humanized in her sleepwalking scene as well as in the following soliloquy where she shows that she is capable of fear and that she loved her father.

Alack, I am afraid they have awaked
And ’tis not done. The attempt and not the deed
Confounds us. Hark! I laid their daggers ready;
He could not miss...

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The bastard Edmund is even more villainous than Lear's unfaithful daughters. They exploit the circumstances that Lear creates; Edmund creates the circumstances that cause the break between Gloucester and his legitimate son Edgar. Nevertheless, Edmund does have some cause for complaint. Not only is he the product of his father's licentious behavior, Gloucester maligns Edmund's character. But Shakespeare assigns so many evil tasks to Edmund that the validity of his complaint against Gloucester is negated. Once Edgar has fled, Edmund moves to get rid of his father as well so that he can inherit Gloucester's estate in short order. Kent is sorely mistreated by Edmund, but above all, it is Edmund who arranges the death of the innocent Cordelia. Edmund's last minute effort to redeem himself fails. His status as a bastard provides Edmund with a cause for discontent, but his actions go well beyond the redress of any legitimate complaint.

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