What is Edgar's philosophy in Act IV of King Lear?

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Edgar is stoical about his reversal of fortune. Stoicism was an ancient school of philosophy that taught one how to endure extreme hardship without complaint, and Edgar certainly displays exemplary stoicism during his soliloquy in Act IV.

Unlike Lear, who's never really come to terms with his decline in social status, Edgar understands that when you've reached rock bottom, the only way is up. Also unlike Lear, Edgar admires the honesty that comes with people openly condemning you instead of doing it behind your back after flattering you to your face.

The contrast with Lear is notable. He was perfectly satisfied to hear public declarations of love from his daughters in return for giving them his kingdom, even though two of them never really loved or respected him. But Lear didn't seem to care about any of that; he just wanted to be flattered.

Edgar's stoicism in Act IV has given him a greater insight than just about anyone else in the play into the true nature of suffering. It's true that everyone suffers, whether rich or poor, aristocrat or peasant, but Edgar realizes that the more you have, the more you'll suffer when it's all taken away from you. Edgar isn't by any means romanticizing poverty or the humble life, but he does at least recognize that it has certain advantages that are unavailable to those of his own social class.

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Edgar in Act IV scene 1 has suffered a tremendous reversal in fortune. He has gone from being the favoured son of a member of the English aristocracy to finding himself expelled and exiled, and forced to disguise himself as a beggar who is openly scorned and rejected by those around him. In this, his fate mirrors that of both his father and of King Lear himself, who move very swiftly in the play from high society to being scorned and derided. Yet, as he describes in Act IV scene 1, he is very happy for the change:

Yet better thus, and known to be contemned,
Than still contemned and flattered. To be worst,
The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune
Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear.
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace!
The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
Owes nothing to thy blasts.
Edgar's philosophy on life is therefore summarised in this soliloquy. He is better off, he says, because at least he is openly hated or "contemned" as a beggar, which is better than being "flattered" whilst secretly hated. Even though he has sunk so slow, he still can have hope as any change can only improve his position. He is therefore free to "embrace" the gusting wind, because now that he has sunk to such a low position in society, he has nothing to fear. Edgar therefore argues that actually there is a tremendous freedom in poverty and being an outcast. Reaching such a low position in society is something that he finds very liberating, far more than the high responsible position that he occupied before.
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