King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are the main characteristics of Edmund in King Lear?

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In the play King Lear, Edmund is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester and is set up as a villainous yet somewhat-sympathetic character. Because of his station, he has little choice but to act as usurper because he has no claim to any heritage or rights as an illegitimate child, and he is therefore painted as evil.

Edmund is cruel and deceitful, frequently posing as others and acting as an impostor to gain access to things that are not his. He is driven by bitterness and by greed; he wants the power and position he feels he deserves but is denied due to his...

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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.