Edgar O’ Edgar

 Empathy perceived throughout the reading of King Lear to many different characters in many different scenes. However, the character who sparked the most empathy from me to become one of my favorite characters of the play would be Edgar. Edgar’s resilience spoke many languages to me throughout the novel while he was on stage and off stage. 

Edgar faced many challenges, however in my opinion the greatest challenge he had to overcome was dealing with the manipulation from his brother, who put him in a compromising position. Edmund forged his brother’s name into making Edgar the villain to his kingdom and his father. After Edgar was informed of what had been done to him, he went into the disguise of Poor Tom, where no one would notice him.  When Edgar had to learn the changes from being a Lord to a beggar, there were not only hard changes with losing the title, but Edgar learned how to live life without having much power to his name. Especially with these changes, Edgar grew to learn what it means to be resilient and how to continue on with his life, even though it might not be what he exactly wanted. 

The resilience that has sparked my interest in Edgar, really proved to be there when his father, Gloucester walked accidentally back into Edgar’s life. Edgar hid his true identity to protect his father from possible pain or sadness for his current situation and fully focused on Gloucester’s pain of being blinded. Gloucester even spoke of his son Edgar at times, and Edgar hid from spoiling who he truly was. The pain that Edgar went through was probably unbearable, and for that reason his resilience, to me, makes him my favorite character. 

Honest Lies

Over the course of King Lear, my favorite character was Edmund. This is due to how consistently unpredictable he is throughout the book, along with his multiple switches in portrayal of character, and cunning plans of action.

Near the beginning of the story, Edmund expresses his feelings about not being included in the will of his father, Gloucester. In his soliloquy, he explains his resentment for society’s treatment of illegitimate children, like himself. His sincere trouble with his societal role induces the reader to feel sorry for him, since he is seen as an honest and unlucky person. However, this does not last long, as he also lays out his plan to deceive Gloucester and his brother Edgar, and gain land for himself. With his plan of pitting his father and brother against each other with a fake letter, Edmund’s character has already gone through significant change, from honest to insincere. Edmund continues this deceit with a fake sword fight, self-induced wounds, and eventually, the murder of Edgar.

Another example of the dynamism of Edmund is his treatment of the sisters, Goneril and Regan. In the process of leading both of them on romantically, he drives both insane, which leads to their death at the end of the play. Each of Goneril and Regan had a positive image of him initially, but in reality, he was deceiving both of them. Again, Edmund is seen in two different lights during an act of the play. Arguably, the sisters inevitably got what they deserved in regards to their disloyalty to their father, Lear. It is interesting to me, though, how Shakespeare uses Edmund to deliver it to them, which increased his general depiction as evil and deceitful.

In regard to Edmund, Shakespeare decided to portray him in multiple different lights, to the other characters and the audience, which kept him in the middle of most of the drama in the play. He was a key component of the story, and a main source of entertainment throughout. This intrigued me and made me constantly wonder what his next move would be, making the play very enjoyable. The combination of these factors made him my favorite character in the play by far.

Loyal to a World Lacking in it

In King Lear, Cordelia, Lear’s daughter, is banished as the result of her father’s misinterpretation of her loyalty. Right from the beginning scene of the play, Lear asks his daughters to make clear to him how much they loved him for pieces of the country’s land. As Regan and Goneril, his other daughters, expressed their false claims of love, Cordelia was troubled with how she would display her loyalty and fondness for her father. On Cordelia’s turn she insisted that she would not comply with her father’s demand as she explained that it was a deceitful method for her sisters to exploit their father’s compassion. She says, “I return those duties back as are right fit: Obey you, love you, and most honor you. Why have my sisters husbands if they say they love you all?” (I.I.106-110). She questions how her sisters are able to fully love Lear if they have husbands to love. Cordelia explains how she is able to completely give herself over to Lear as she has no one else to give herself too in contrast to her sisters who have husbands. Cordelia has an unconditional love for her father as she explains is greater than what her sisters can prove to him through words because she recognizes her sisters deceiving scheme. Loyalty is clearly shown in this first scene although Lear is not able to interpret it in a level headed manner which he later looks back upon and regrets.

Cordelia and Her Father

Cordelia, the youngest daughter of Lear, is actively portrayed to be the most morally correct character in the play. While it’s true that she doesn’t plan to poison her siblings or gouge out anyone’s eyes, she happens to share a few traits in common with Lear himself.

Lear is known for his extreme pride, the pride that he feels cannot be taken away from him. Cordelia has this same pride, hence why she refuses to declare her love for him. She is too prideful to admit her love, her father should just know it. Cordelia chose not to trade love for power over herself, “I am sure my love’s more ponderous than my tongue”(1.1.59-60), something very reminiscent of her own father’s attitude.

The uniqueness of Cordelia’s role in the play is very different from that of Regan and Goneril. While the older sisters are seen taking over traditionally “masculine” roles and being more aggressive figures, Cordelia is never shown with these mannerisms. She is more portrayed as a leader, one willing to leave behind her husband to defend her father’s honor. “Tis known before. Our preparation stands. In expectation of them. O dear father, It is thy business that I go about. Therefore great France My mourning and importuned tears hath pitied”(4.4.23-26.). Although we only see Cordelia in the beginning and end of the play, the watcher or reader is left hoping for her survival, rooting for her as she is the only sister that seemed to truly love her father.