From Good Guy to Bad Guy

Throughout the entirety of The Tragedy of King Lear, there is one character who stands out, who is always unpredictable and coming up with new ways to surprise us and because of that he is my favorite character, that character is Edmund.

Edmund shifts from someone you feel sympathy for early in the story, to one of the evilest and most cunning characters in the story. Edmund backstabs so many people he is close to throughout the story that one would think he enjoys doing it. Early in the story we are introduced to Edmund as the illegitimate bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester. Edmund is mistreated and is not in Gloucesters will, because he isn’t his real son but Edmund sees this as unfair. Edmund complains about his mistreatment, but when he realizes nothing will change, decides to take matters into his own hands, and begins to turn evil. Edmund delivers a soliloquy describing his plan to get himself into his fathers will. Edmund decides to write a forged letter undermining his brother Edgar who is Gloucesters real son. The contents of the letter include plans to murder Gloucester. Edmund presents this letter to Gloucester, tricking him into thinking Edgar wrote the letter. Gloucester responds by calling Edgar a traitor and wanting him captured or dead, and by removing him from his will which allows Edmund to slip into it making his plan a success while having no regard for his father or brother who he is tricking. Later in the story Edmund reinforces this lie by starting a fake sword fight with Edgar, when he hears Gloucester approaching he convinces Edgar that it is in his best interest to run away which Edgar does, Edmund then cuts himself and shows his injury to Gloucester who sees the injury, along with Edgar running away, further tricking both his father and brother for his own benefit. At the end of the story, Edgar gets his revenge by slaying Edmund in a bloody battle, but this is just one example of how versatile Edmunds character is.

Edmunds character is a rollercoaster throughout the story and this is reiterated again through the love triangle he has with the sisters Goneril and Regan. He decieves them both until they are both going crazy and fighting over him which ends up leading both sisters to there inevitable death. Edmund is the most unpredictable character in King Lear which is exactly what makes him my favorite character. There is no scene in which Edmund is involved that can be considered boring.

Edmund is a dynamic and static character, his intentions stay mostly the same, but his acting and situations he is involved in change. His goal remains to sabotage Edgar with the forged note throughout most of the story, but he changes from an innocent son, to a liar, to a manipulator, until he is finally slayed by his brother Edgar. It’s these changes in character that make Edmund the most fascinating character in King Lear.

2 thoughts on “From Good Guy to Bad Guy

  1. GRACE F

    I like when you said “There is no scene in which Edmund is involved that can be considered boring.” I was fascinated by Edmund’s character too because it seems that at the end of the play, even though he dies, he was successful in fooling everyone. Goneril and Regan’s agendas were always apparent to Kent and Cordelia, but no one saw Edmund coming. It’s also different because Edmund’s bitterness comes from a place of feeling cast out and a loss of belonging.


  2. CUORA S

    I feel that Edmund’s character is often overlooked because he is a villain even though he is one of the more strong and complex characters in King Lear. Without Edgar, there is no depth in the plot and although he pursues evil revenge, he is one of the few people who follow through with his actions, while others look on from the sidelines.


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