What are the main characteristics of Edmund?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


  • In King Lear, Edmund says he is a victim of culture, not nature: he is not born evil, but made evil by society shunning him and all bastards.
  • He is the foil for Edgar.
  • Edmund is a Bastard, an illegitimate son, dispossessed.  He burns with resentment. He can’t have what he wants, so he lashes out to hurt those around him. His deeds are often for effect – he wants to provoke action in others. He proudly announces his rebellious dealings.
  • He is the "bad brother," like the biblical Cain.
  • He is a villain, joining Regan and Goneril, Oswald, and Cornwall as the antagonists in the play.
  • He is an alazon, an impostor who thinks he is better than he really is and deserves more than he really does.
  • His appearance is young, dark, and lusty.
  • His characteristics are ambition, hunger for power, self-importance, manipulation
  • He is motivated by cruelty, deceit, and power
  • He achieves his aims by leading Gloucester to believe that Edgar, the earl’s legitimate son, is plotting to murder his father.
kc4u | Student

Gloucester's bastard son, Edmund, is a self-aggrandising villain in Shakespeare's King Lear. The main Lear plot & the Gloucester sub-plot deal with the reversal of the natural father-child relationship. What Goneril & Regan do to their father in the main story is done by Edmund to his father in the parallel story. Let us look at the chrateristics of this evil, unnatural son of the old, confused father:

1. Edmund is a bastard advocating in favour of the rights and deprivations of all bastards in the world who are socially and culturally marginalised for no fault of theirs;

2. Edmund is young and handsome and becomes the object of both Goneril's & Regan's clandestine desires;

3. Edmund illustrates a Machiavellian conspirator who hides his essential evil nature--his lust and greed--beneath his polished and attractive exterior;

4. Cordelia's death by Edmund's ploy parallels the betrayal of Christ;

5. Edmund is a 'bad brother' and a clear foil to Gloucester's legitimate son, Edgar;

6. Born out of wedlock, he is an example of Gloucester's sin of concupiscence; later, he himself represents unlawful sexual passion;

7. At some level, Edmund takes revenge upon the normatives of social & moral behaviour for the wrongs done to him and such other illegitimates.