King Lear Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In King Lear, why does Edgar speak a dialect of English?

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When Edgar speaks in dialect, he is playing the role of poor Tom O'Bedlam. He ties his hair in knots to look like dreadlocks, covers his face in mud, and wraps himself in a rough blanket to appear as a beggar. The rough dialect is part of the act, and reinforces the theme of the play: that we too often judge people by their externals without really getting to know their internal worth.

When Lear meets with Edgar on the heath, Edgar is in disguise. As he did with his elder daughters, Lear takes him at face value. Edgar is a convincing actor, who does dialogue well, but he can't as easily disguise his real feelings of distress at what has become of Lear. In the quote below, he leaves the dialect and reverts to his "real" language and accent as he reveals his true emotions, saying that

"My tears begin to take his part so much
They'll mar my counterfeiting."

But later, in act 4, he fully plays the part of the low class ruffian, in full dialect, and this dialect completely fools Oswald. Edgar...

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