In Defense of Edmund

It’s easy to discount and ridicule Gloucester’s bastard son, Edmund from the moment the play begins. Only the bastard, destined to live in the shadows of his legitimate siblings. In this historical setting, illegitimate children were meant to be whisked away, to rot in a cellar to become a priest, anything to stay out of the legitimate children’s way.

This was not a lifestyle meant for Edmund, and it is perfectly reasonable for him to try and escape his bastard label, which would hold him back from what he wants to do in life. In time based heavily in titles, legacy and respect he has to find some way of moving up the social later. While being considered he is prevented from acquiring land and titles, things vital for success, so a natural course of action is to remove his direct competition in Edgar. While his actions actions and their consequences are less than noble, it is at least admirable to some extent his ability to pray on people’s (Gloucester and Regan) insecurities like no other.

He is quite politically savvy, moving his way between Gloucester, Regan and Cornwall. He can quickly identify what each person fears and uses it to advance his own agenda without them noticing his motives. He does also achieve what he wanted, to be recognized as part of normal society, however only after he betrays his father. After Gloucester’s blinding it makes it a lot harder to defend him but we’ll see what happens in act 5, maybe he will redeem himself.

6 thoughts on “In Defense of Edmund

  1. Molly H

    I agree with you. I don’t like Edmund as a character, but he is able to force people against one another to reach his own goals. Using a variety of tactics, Edmund is able to get what he wants in the play. And in act 1, scene 2 after Edmund’s soliloquy, readers can see that his plan is about to unfoil.


  2. Kianna G.

    I agree Edmund is made out to be a bad and selfish character from the start. No one really appreciates how cunning he is. He is good at manipulating people to get what he wants (ie. Gloucester & Edgar).


  3. Isabel K

    I think Edmund is the most sympathetic villain in King Lear. Although he can be selfish and manipulative, it is ambiguous if he truly loves his father. Personally, I believe that he does. He may be misguided, and he may have made all of the wrong choices, but at his core, he is not inherently evil (though definitely morally grey).


  4. Lily M

    I think that although Edmund’s actions come off as evil, he is actually a very intelligent and cunning person. He knows exactly what he wants and then finds a way to get it. I agree that although he is manipulative, he does it in a very smart way by finding each persons weakness and exploiting it to his personal advantage.


  5. Nick W.

    It interests me that I hate Goneril and Regan much more than I dislike Edmund. I agree that he is extremely manipulative and cunning, and these are skills that he uses to take control over his destiny. I think it has to do with the fact that I was cheering him on in the beginning. I wanted him to reject the life he was doomed with. However, he as taken it too far.


  6. Tao Tao S.

    I think this brings an interesting idea up. That Edmund is not only doing cruel things for power but to justify himself to others as someone who can be just as worthy as a legitimate son like Edgar. This allows for the audience to be sympathetic in some ways towards him because he just wants to fit in. However, some of his actions can be viewed as malicious, but his cunningly witty mind allows him to exploit other people’s weaknesses which makes him an interesting character to follow.


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