What are the elements of fate and fortune in King Lear?

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As with all the great tragedies, the audience of King Lear must decide how great a role fate and fortune play in the action of the drama. Edmund famously denies that fortune plays an important role, saying that people blame the effects of their own behavior on a malign fate:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,—often the surfeit of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars.

However, Edmund contradicts this view when he complains bitterly of his own position as a bastard, relative to that of his legitimate brother. This mirrors the anger of Goneril and Regan that their father loves them less than Cordelia. The principal villains of the piece have no control over the circumstances of their birth and upbringing, and they do not consider whether they might have responded more graciously to their misfortunes.

Lear and Kent both appeal to Fortune as to a goddess or tutelary spirit. The Fool, more cynically, calls Fortune an "arrant whore," suggesting that she is not particular about the recipients of her favors. However, the element of misfortune in the formation of Goneril, Regan, and Edmund's characters leads the audience to reflect that fault and fortune may essentially be the same thing, since people do not create their own personalities. There is, therefore, an element of fate in the conduct of Lear and Gloucester, as well as that of their children.

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