King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Reread Edmund's first and second soliloquies in Act 1 scene 2 of King Lear and note the themes explored.

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In these soliloquies, which occur early on in the play, Shakespeare gives the audience their first insight into the shadowy character of Edmund.  He also begins to explore several significant themes of the play such as nature and the natural, social custom and fate.

Firstly, Edmund personifies "nature" as a "goddess" and declares his allegiance to her.  His reasoning is that he should be taken just as seriously by society as Edgar, his "legitimate" brother, because he was conceived at the height of sexual passion outside of wedlock, whereas Edgar was conceived "within a dull, stale, tired" marriage bed. He argues that the lustful sex at his conception has given him more natural vitality, "More composition and fierce quality", so he scorns the lower status he has to endure as an illegitimate child.  (We can see his scorn in Shakespeare's alliteration on "b" sounds and vigorous repetition to show Edmund's fierce disdain of the way society treats him: "Why brand they us / With base? with...

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