King Lear is Really the Hero

I think that throughout the book, the way it is written it seems as if Lear is the bad guy. To me I think that he is just really misunderstood, and I think that’s why he is my favorite character. Just because he was the King everyone views him as some snob who just cares about power and land but what he really cares about is his family and doing the right thing. He got his land robbed from him and was betrayed by his own daughters and yet still kept a positive mindset on things. At certain points there are times where he seems bad, but he has so much anger built up because of the betrayal he has gone through and sometimes that anger comes out. He is also a character that shows a great amount of change/development. In the begging he is very uptight and banishes certain people for very silly reasons yet overtime he learns things about himself and realizes that without power you have to gain peoples respect on your own without just demanding it. Characters that grow over time appeal to me a lot because it shows how dynamic they are and how unique their personality is. Lear completes the plot of the play and shows many themes throughout just through himself. Without him the book as a whole wouldn’t make sense and would lose so much of the dynamic effect.

King to Father

Throughout out readings of King Lear, it is evident that Lear no longer understands the world around him and no longer understands others advise to him. It is said in the very first chapter that Lear is growing older, and he realizes this and therefore he gives away his lands and money but most importantly, he doesn’t give up his title as king. He subconsciously was not ready to give up his claim because he knows no other identity than that as king. He does not realize that there are many things and relationships that make up a person’s identity and because of this, those people have the ability to mold each other’s characters.

Lear does not think of himself as a father. He will say that he is the father of his daughters and that is true but there is more to a father than just biology. A father should be caring, loving and accepting. If these things are believed to be true, then why would a father disown his daughter because she professes that she can love her father and her husband? By the end of the novel, Lear is stripped of his army, his daughters, and his sanity but through it all, he finally understands that he only ever needed one person to love him, not an entire army nor kingdom. His reconciliation with Cordelia was a turning point in Lear’s character because he understands that being king is temporary, but being a father is permanent.

Edgar the Survivor

In the beginning of King Lear, Gloucester establishes Edgar as his legitimate son and Edmund, born from a different mother, as his bastard son, meaning Edmund will not be able to collect any inheritance. This creates an inevitable conflict between the two brothers that ignites after Lear gives away his land and begins his slow and painful path toward death. Edmund convinces Edgar that he has been banished by Lear, then accusing Edgar of a violent crime in order to receive inheritance.

And so it began: the humiliating time in Edgar’s life where he just tried to establish himself as a loved and wanted person rather than someone who serves no purpose, manipulated by the promise of money. Edgar can’t control the fact that his brother can’t get any inheritance, but instead of urging Edgar to help him, Edmund simply tries to end Edgar’s life.

“Who gives anything to Poor Tom … that hath laid knives under his pillow and halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud of heart to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inched bridges to course his own shadow for a traitor?”

Edgar, III.iv.58-61

Now disguised as Poor Tom to save himself from execution, Edgar has a way to articulate how, as the legitimate child, he has for his entire life served as nothing but an example of power and has been taken advantage of by his younger brother. As someone born into wealth, he would be deemed a traitor, but disguised as a beggar, Edgar would attract pity through this language.

Throughout the story, Edgar remains in disguise, a peacekeeper among the conflict that Lear has kickstarted. He helps Gloucester, who has also been deemed a traitor and had his eyes plucked out for his compassion towards Lear, die at peace among the chaos:

“Give me your hand. Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum. Come, father, I’ll bestow you with a friend.”


Edgar not only saves his father, but he saves himself as well, choosing the perfect moment to reveal himself to Edmund when the war is lost. Killing his brother in a fight, Edgar takes revenge for all the suffering Edmund has caused him. One of the sole survivors of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Edgar gets a second chance at living an impactful life.

In class, the motif my group tracked was the storm, and a central theme that we took away from it was that when one endures suffering, they see personal growth in the end. Edgar, who loses his home, disguises himself as a beggar to save his life, and watches his own father die, ultimately survives, and he can grow past the stage in his life where his only purpose was to demonstrate power and inherit money.

Misogyny in King Lear

In King Lear, each of Lear’s three daughters represent different negative qualities of women. The manner in which they are portrayed suggests strong misogyny throughout the play. Shakespeare reveals his interpreted weakness of each female character by highlighting Goneril’s infidelity to Albany, Cordelia’s flawed relationship with her father, as well as the power Regan holds over Cornwall. The characteristics of the female characters and their consequent punishments indicate Shakespeare’s misogyny. 

Shakespeare portrays Goneril as cold-hearted due to her unfaithful relationship with Albany and ultimately suggests that these qualities were deserving of death. It appears that Goneril believes she has done everything right by lying to her father about her love and remaining faithful to her husband despite her feelings for Edmund.  Shakespeare’s misogyny is highlighted when he kills Goneril as punishment for her lack of control and infidelity. 

Cordelia’s insubordination and subsequent death is a clear depiction of Shakespeare’s misogynistic tone. She admits she is unable to love her father more and respects him enough not to lie like her sisters did. While her truthfulness initially seems respectable, Shakespeare portrays it as disrespectful and Cordelia is punished by death

Regan holds power in the play which is ultimately the reason Shakespeare portrays her in such a negative light. Regan has more wealth and power than Cornwall and therefore holds the dominant position in the relationship. Shakespeare portrays Regan as villainous because of her ability to overpower Cornwall. The servants exemplify the play’s view on women by making various hateful comments about Regan, one of which is “Women will all turn monsters”. Her ability to gain power in a relationship where she stereotypically should have been submissive is portrayed in a particularly negative manner. In a similar fashion to her sisters, Regan is also punished with death by the end of the play.

Why are women in power so threatening?

We can all agree that in King Lear women in power are villainized. By being portrayed as vicious animals, and”tigers not daughters” the narrative sets them up to be antagonists.

Think about all the women you have seen in power. Sure, we’ve progressed as a society enough to even allow women in power which some may argue is enough to define us as inclusive. But have you ever seen a woman in politics run a successful election and come out with her reputation completely unscathed? Hillary Clinton, AOC, Michelle Obama; each of these women has to do something men don’t have to in order to make her way in politics: prove their worth. These women are constantly questioned and belittled for each decision they make, and it’s because America has a problem. A problem with powerful women.

So why are they so scary?

It’s because of how powerful the image of the “ideal woman” has become. She’s small, clean, submissive, pure, unconditionally loving, and naive, and best of all she never asks for anything more than a man might deem her worthy of. We hate women in power because they break this narrative. It’s easier to villainize someone if they stand out from other members of their group, or at least don’t match the stereotypes of that group. Women have trouble holding positions of power because it has become so ingrained in our society’s culture to believe that women cannot hold positions of power. We have learned that women are submissive and a real man is he who holds power. A woman that has learned her true power and worth is the most dangerous thing to a man. A woman that hasn’t is easier to manipulate.

When we see a woman ascending to a position of power, there are immediately news stores attacking her, allegations fly forward from seemingly nowhere, and her sanity is often questioned. We have a problem with women in power because we have been taught to. We have a problem with it because it switches the gender dynamic, and men with fragile masculinity problems will do anything to keep a woman from making him feel feminine by holding power over him.

Disguise in King Lear

Throughout the play, King Lear, Shakespeare uses disguise as a major role in his characters. At the beginning of the play, Regan and Goneril disguise themselves in front of their father, to make it seem that they worshipped him. Many of the character disguise their intentions towards other characters, as well as pretend to be someone they’re not.

Kent disguises himself as a beggar, and even changed his name to “Caius”, so that he can cntinue to sere Lear. Obviously, this shows that Kent is extremely loyal to Lear, but many of the characters use disguise as a way to make personal gain.

For example, Edgar disuises himself as a poor person named “Poor Tom”, in an effort to not be tracked by his brother and other men. Edgar really gets into this character, and this disuise ultimately allows him to confront his father. Edgar ulyimately becomes the next ruler of the kingdom, so the use of disguise ultimately beneffited him.

Edmund, Edgar’s brother, also dusguises himself as the “good son”, and uses many efforts to frame Edgar, saying that Edgar had intentions to kill his father Gloucester. Like some of the other characters, Edmund uses disguise for his own personal gain.

Shakespeare uses disguise as a constant motif throughout the play, and the use of disguise really showcases the values of each person using that disguise, and what kind of person they really are.

Edmund and His Ladies: Lust or Love?

In the play King Lear by William Shakespeare, Gloucester’s bastard son, Edmund, ends up in a love triangle with Goneril and Regan that eventually leads to jealousy and death. Initially when he is staying with Goneril and Albany, Goneril falls in love with Edmund, and he claims to love her as well. Later, Edmund is sent to stay with Regan and Regan and Edmund also claim to be in love. My biggest question is: Is it love or lust?

First up is Goneril, the eldest of Lear’s daughters. Out of all of them, I honestly believe Goneril was actually in love with Edmund. He was the man that her husband never was. He is obedient and allows her to make decisions, but still possesses a lot of manliness and the ability to take control and command others. Plus the fact that he was young and handsome definitely helped. I believe that Goneril fell in love with these qualities and honestly thought she has finally found the man she deserved. Her love is further proved by the fact she had no issue poisoning her sister, even though they were conspiring against King Lear together, in order to keep Edmund all to herself. Then, Goneril shows her full devotion to Edmund when she makes the decision to kill herself after seeing he was mortally wounded. I honestly think that she must have been in love with him for her to decide to die with him.

Second to the chopping block is Regan, the middle child. Of all three, I think Regan was the one most fueled by lust. Most of Regan’s attraction to Edmund is physical and maybe due in part to her husband’s death. To me, it felt more like Regan wanted to possess Edmund and gloat about it to Goneril. From her role in the love triangle, I kind of thought Regan was just trying to “win” in some sort of sibling rivalry. She does whatever she can to seduce Edmund, and claims she loves him. However, something about that proclamation just feels fake.

Last and definitely the most interesting of the three is Edmund. He is caught in a love triangle with the two most powerful women in Britain. I think that Edmund was experiencing a mix of love and lust. Edmund definitely lusted after both women, probably even more so due to the fact that there were two powerful women that wanted him. However, not love in the sense of being “in love” with either Goneril or Regan. I believe that Edmund was in love with the sense of power he got from being these two women’s center of attention. I also think that he was in love with the possible future he could have and he saw that he could use Goneril and Regan to never feel like a bastard again. He went from being the lowly bastard child, always in Edgar’s shadow, to being respected by the royals and having the opportunity to marry into the royal family and be known by everyone. He was in love with the power he suddenly had.

The Power-Love Dichotomy

In line 289 of Act IV, Scene vi of King Lear, as Edgar reads the letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting to kill Albany, Edgar laments that “To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts” — which is to say, in order to maintain power for himself and his father and prevent Edmund from gaining power, Edgar had to sacrifice his loyalty and love for Edmund. This is one of the most important topics of King Lear: when it is worth it to sacrifice love for power, and when it is worth it to sacrifice power for love. I’ve color-coded these two sides of the Power-Love Dichotomy to make it easier to keep track of the examples listed below:

  • In Act I, Lear appears to sacrifice his power in search of his daughters’ love as he splits his land between them; yet, later in Act II, Lear sacrifices the love of Regan and Goneril because he wished to maintain his own sense of power through the housing of his 100 supporters.
  • At the end of Act III, Regan sacrifices her husband (by refusing to save him from his stab wound, as portrayed in the film) in order to take over his power
  • …however, Regan and Goneril feud with each other — and ultimately kill each other, in Act V — for the love of Edmund, each willing to sacrifice their own power for his love; in fact, Regan even tells Edmund, “Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. / Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine” (V.iii.89-90), effectively pledging to surrender her entire land and power to Edmund in exchange for his love.
  • Cordelia, on the other hand, contrasts with her sisters’ initial prioritization of individual power over love for Lear — in Act IV, Scene vii, Cordelia tells Lear “you must not kneel” (IV.vii.67), showing how she is willing to sacrifice her power over Lear solely because of her love for her father. Lear appears to mirror this sacrifice of power for love as well as he rejects Cordelia’s submission to his own authority: “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness” (V.iii.11-12)
  • At the end of the play, Albany proposes that he and all others who still have power would give it all up and give Lear all of the power of the kingdom until his death, out of a combination of regret, guilt, and most relevantly to this analysis, love: “we will resign / During the life of this old Majesty, / To him our absolute power” (V.iii.362-364)

Out of curiosity — can you all think of any other examples of the Power-Love Dichotomy in King Lear?

How Should we Judge the Morality of Shakespeare’s Characters?

I believe that King Lear does a good job at giving morality its nebulous nature. Every character is much a more a product of their experiences than they are of some innate malicious intent. The antagonists of Lear are generally indignant, and rightfully so. Edmund’s actions are a product of his unfair treatment within society as a bastard. Regan and Goneril are second to Cordelia, as Lear is noted to have played favorites. And Lear, with his inability to take criticism, is this not just a pernicious side effect of his position within society. And if it is to be supposed that these characters are not a product of their environment, one would have to argue that they are a product of nature. This leaves a difficult dilemma where blame is escapable. Why blame character for actions that are dictated purely based off of either their environment or their innate qualities? This is simply not a feasible model for anything, it is not practical, riddled with excuses for actions, and disheartening. We cannot prove that free will exists, and yet we must accept that it does, for everything falls apart without that assumption. If we cannot prove its existence, we must at least pretend. In addition to this, what dictates the will of these characters? Does one dictate one’s own will? What wills Cordelia to forgiveness? What wills Goneril and Regan towards hate? Are we capable to dictating our own will, or only recognizing it? While I do not believe that Shakespeare attempts to answer these questions, or that this play speaks against the concept of a freely determining will, I still think Shakespeare is arguing that taking into account the experiences of a person is the most essential aspect to determining their character. King Lear touches on this, and by doing so, Shakespeare argues for a message of mutual understanding, of causal examination, and of empathy.

Where’d the Fool Go?

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Fool is an important character who helps guide Lear through his loss of power and gives him important advice along the way, along with offering comedic relief. That being said, I, along with many other readers, are likely left wondering where The Fool went for acts 4 and 5.

The Fool was extremely loyal and honest to Lear, and stayed by his side throughout his downfall, which is more than many did. The Fool’s role was important, as his honesty likely kept Lear the little sanity he had, saying things such as “Thou hast little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away” (I.IV.159-160) and “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath (III.VI.18-19)”. Lear let nearly no one talk back to him, with The Fool being an important exception, as he did it in a comedic manner. The Fool’s honest advice displays his loyalty to Lear, which is partly what makes his disappearance even more mysterious.

The last time The Fool was seen was in Act 3 Scene 6, when Lear is still in the process of going mad and is causing trouble for Kent, Edgar, and The Fool. This makes The Fools disappearance even more strange, as he cares deeply for Lear, and left when Lear needed him most. He dealt with Lear’s madness before, and knew how to handle it, so his sudden disappearance seems a little strange. The Fool doesn’t say anything about where or what he is going to do, which is what truly makes this a mystery. The last line he says is “And I’ll go to bed at noon”( This line doesn’t exactly say what The Fool is going to, but it hints at the idea that he will die in some way, potentially suicide. This is never proved, however, and Shakespeare’s lack of stage directions builds into this mystery about what happens to The Fool, as it says nothing about what he actually does in that scene.

Finally, in the end, Lear casually mentions “And my poor fool is hanged”(V.iii.369). This line could’ve been interpreted to meaning Cordelia, as she was hanged recently, and calling her his “fool” could’ve been as a sign of endearment to her. On top of that, “fool” isn’t capitalized as the character The Fool’s name had been throughout the entire play, so that also points toward the idea that Lear was referring to someone else. However, it does go along with the fact that The Fool ominously hinted towards his death, and it would explain his absence in Acts 4 and 5, as he was loyal to Lear, and it doesn’t make sense that he would abandon Lear when Lear needed him most.

Overall, The Fool is loyal to Lear, and is one of the few characters who actually cared for Lear and gave him honest advice when he could. The disappearance of The Fool is up to the reader’s interpretation, and, just for what it’s worth, I believe The Fool hanged himself.

Sibling Rivalry

While reading King Lear, I couldn’t help but relate and compare and contrast the the familial relationships I observed and analyzed in the play to those of my own. For instance, although still heavily controversial in the Darley house, I have never actually tried to kill any of my siblings. However, competitiveness and sibling rivalry often result in bitter and unkind actions that can be compared to harshness initiated by the same friction in both Regan and Goneril and Edmund and Edgar’s relationships. For example, although none of us have ever attempted to get another sibling completely disowned by our parents, my little sister’s habit of tattletaling on me for my messy room comes pretty close to Edmund’s deceitful plan to distort his fathers perfect perspective on his son Edgar. Furthermore, the competitiveness I observed between Regan and Goneril led me to reflect on the motive for the majority of the fights between my siblings and I. Whether it was my older brother and I fighting about his special treatment as the “golden child” or the weekly quarrels about who can wear who’s clothes with my sister, they all have the common source of jealousy and/or greed. While reading about Goneril and Regan’s cruelty to each other, this nature of sibling rivalry became more and more apparent until their final downfall at the end. From their ending deaths, I inferred the message that sibling rivalry and harshness is, yes, usually very natural, but also very unnecessary and dangerous.

Why, Kent, Why?

I don’t understand the Earl of Kent. In the first scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Kent is banished from the British kingdom for disagreeing with King Lear’s methods to split up his land among his daughters. He leaves with the line, “He’ll shape his old course in a country new” (I.i), referring to Lear imposing his old ways on a country he is giving away to his daughters.

Kent then returns disguised as Caius, with the sole purpose of serving the King, explaining “If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d, / So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest, / Shall find thee full of labours” (I.iv). However, he then flips this on its head by challenging Goneril’s servant, Oswald, to a swordfight, when Oswald clearly is not interested in fighting (II.ii). This leads to Cornwall putting Kent in the stocks and the escalating of Lear’s rage. As a whole, Kent seems only to work to the King’s detriment, and in the few opportunities when he could have set the story straight and helped out, he does nothing. One of these such opportunities is when Lear arrives at Gloucester’s castle after the swordfight, Kent does nothing to help calm down Lear’s rage (II.iv).

Kent’s actions also remain completely unjustified. The tragedy still plays out as expected, Lear still goes mad, and while Kent does help reunite the King and Cordelia, it still does not explain what he did earlier in the play.

The Reversal of Gender Roles

The main characters of Shakespeare’s King Lear are women. Usually, especially in Shakespeare’s works of literature, the antagonists and protagonists are male. The OED defines gender roles as “the role or behavior learned by a person as appropriate to their gender, determined by the prevailing cultural norms” (OED). This play takes a step back from those stereotypes and promotes women to the lead roles where they should’ve always been. Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia have very different roles in the play, where Regan and Goneril are villains while Cordelia is a hero kind of character, but they are all important to the theme nonetheless. Shakespeare illustrates women as being incapable of having power otherwise they will get sidetracked and their judgment will be corrupted by things that are considered to be “drama.” This chaos brings about their downfall and in this play specifically, Shakespeare makes the dispute about a man. Even with these offensive pieces of the story, Goneril and Regan still gain the power they were after.

Goneril is more or less the evilest of the sisters and will do anything to gain the power she is after. This includes poisoning her own sister and betraying her father. Goneril takes on this important role that men usually play. When a woman plays a part like this she is seen as sneaky and dramatic but when a man plays the part of a villain they are seen as misunderstood and determined. Goneril uses this ancient way of thinking and turns it around. She too can be the role of a villain and be viewed as an important part of the play. While she is still not a good person she is just as important as other villains, such as Edmund. Shakespeare tried to make a stereotypical story of women in power and their downfall but instead accidentally reversed the gender roles that have plagued literature for as long as anyone can remember.

The Negative Connotation of a Woman in Power

Throughout the unfolding story of King Lear, I could not help but favor Goneril. To me, she displays a confident character who makes choices for herself rather than cater to other men around her. Not only does she challenge her father’s leadership, but also goes against her husband’s wishes, and takes charge of her military.

A Common rebuttal would be that many of Goneril’s actions were to please Edmund, whom she acted romantic with throughout the play. At the end of the day, she isn’t doing this for Edmund but instead to be betrothed to him instead. Not only did Goneril promise Edmund status, who is a bastard and not born into power, but she also murdered her own sister because she was also in love with Edmund. Maybe Goneril was a favorite of mine because she was bold, I think it had more to do with her strive for power in a male-dominated society.

Unfortunately, Goneril is deemed an antagonist to the story because of her attempts to claim power. Deciding she is a villain is unfair to the circumstances she was placed in society due to her sex assigned at birth. Goneril did what was necessary for a woman in society at the time to obtain and maintain her power. The other characters and many other readers confuse an assertive woman as a villain with mal intent because society has an issue with women in power. This common narrative of women with power being slandered is happening in society today. While running for president, Hilary Clinton was heavily criticized for her views on feminism in America. Her thoughts and ideas scared the greater public because people confuse a woman in power with an antagonist solely based on the fear that women are held to higher standards than men are.

Although Goneril was made out to be the villain of the story, I think her efforts for power portray a strong woman who truly did what she wanted for her and not others. In my eyes, she serves as an example of the almost impossible standards women are held to compared to men and how hard it is to defy the perception of others when your capabilities are already decided based on your sex assigned at birth.

Parallels between Lear and Gloucester

In William Shakespeare’s King Lear, there are many parallels between Lear and Gloucester. Some significant and common occurrences in these parallels are the motifs of madness and blindness. 

Both Lear and Gloucester misjudge their children and make huge sacrifices in order to eventually gain clarity. Gloucester can’t see which of his sons is truly good and loyal until he’s lost his vision. Similarly, it isn’t until Lear loses his power, respect, and eventually his sanity that he discovers it was actually Cordelia who loved him and it was Goneril and Regan who were out to get him. 

There is a common irony in Lear and Gloucester’s storylines where they needed to lose their sight or mind to see or think clearly. It’s not until Lear and Gloucester lose physical clarity and coherence that they can both realize the mistakes and misjudgments they’ve made.

Additionally, Lear and Glocester mirror each other again just before each of their deaths. Just before Lear dies, his eyes stop working, and just before Gloucester dies, he wished that he’d go insane, thinking that would make dying easier. 

These similarities, common motifs, and parallel plots serve to emphasize how greed and mistrust are harmful to authority, respect, and family dynamics.

Blindness in King Lear

Goneril in many ways resembles her father throughout the play. Parents often give their children their traits through generations and this is evident between Goneril and her father lear in “King Lear”. Goneril is the eldest and debatably the evilest of Lear’s daughters, as she declares her great love for Lear in exchange for a portion of her father’s kingdom. Throughout the play, Lear and Goneril are seen alike by means of the motif of blindness that links them together as a father and daughter. Primarily, Goneril is not literally blind and so does Lear, yet they are blinded by their actions and personalities.

“Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;

Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;

Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;

No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;

As much as child e’er loved, or father found;

A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;

Beyond all manner of so much, I love you. (I.I.55-61) (Goneril)” 

The motif in this example and in Goneril’s example is literal than figurative. Goneril is expressing her false love for lear.  Lear has asked his daughters to tell him how much they love him; whoever loves him most will receive the most share of the kingdom.  Goneril’s exaggerated speech is false and unnatural.  She compares her love for her father to eye-sight, something that should not have a value set in place.  

This same exchange of love is where we see Lear’s act of blindness. 

“Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way.

Fathers that wear rags

Do make their children blind;

But fathers that bear bags

Shall see their children kind.

Fortune, that arrant whore,

Ne’er turns the key to the poor.

But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours

for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year. (II.IV.52-60)(Fool)”

Now that Lear has given up the kingdom, Goneril and Regan do not care about him anymore.  Before, when he had the kingdom, they told him lies about how they loved him.  Since he has nothing, they do not care for him nor see him. He was blind to the fact that they tricked him into giving away the kingdom. 

“I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny

at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid! I’ll not

love. Read thou this challenge; mark but the

penning of it. (IV.VI.152-155) (Lear)”

Lear trusted his daughters with the kingdom and they betrayed him.  Lear refers to Cupid as being blind, for falling in love with his unloyal daughters in the first place.    

Similarities between Cordelia and Edmund

Edmund and Cordelia are two characters who occupy separate roles in the play but carry a lot of similarities. Relationships in King Lear focus around both good and evil as Cordelia and Edmund, perfect images of good and evil, struggle with sibling rivalry, betrayal, love triangles, and experience a tragic death. Both characters introduce chaos in the play as Cordelia refuses to fake the terms of her love for her father before Lear passes on the kingdom. On the other hand, Edmund unleashes chaos by choosing to act against his father who favors his half-brother, Edgar.

Sibling rivalry is a key problem that both Cordelia and Edmund deal with. Cordelia’s sisters, Goneril and Regan, plot against her and keep unloyal feelings against her throughout the play. Cordelia has to deal with her sisters’ evilness indirectly through the whole story. Similarly, Edmund and Edgar are brothers which have a bumpy relationship. They never get along because of power struggles and jealousy. Edmund purposes to outdo his brother believing that, “Edmund the base/ Shall top th legitimate” (Shakespeare Act I, Scene II). By the end of the play, the siblings unfortunately never figure it out. Both Cordelia and Edmund not only endure unsympathetic relationships between their siblings but also they are assassinated by them.

King Lear is a story filled with betrayal in which Cordelia and Edmund are involved. Cordelia faces the betrayal of her father and sisters, while Edmund betrays his father, his brother and his lover Regan. Betrayal at the end is the reason both end up dead. Cordelia dies because of the betrayal of her sister and brother in law and Edmund dies as a result of his own artful betrayals. Edgar correctly calls him, “thou art a traitor; False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father; Conspirant gainst this high illustrious prince; A most toad-spotted traitor” (Shakespeare Act V, Scene III). He realizes that Edmund is a traitor who has neither faith nor truth in him. Conversely, Cordelia is very loyal and easily lends her affections to her family. She surrenders her stake in the kingdom to her sisters rather than giving in to the fake love. At the same time, her family takes advantage of her and does not realize how much she loves them. She is the definition of a selfless character, and Shakespeare shows the horror of true selfessness – the reality of being noble.

Edmund or Gloucester, Who is to Blame?

Throughout King Lear, Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Gloucester, is the main antagonist who tries to unravel his family and the rest of the kingdom in order to gain power. But Edmund is not entirely at fault for this. Edmund is mistreated by his father on numerous occasions throughout the play. In act 1 scene he is publicly referred to as a “Knave” and a “Whoreson”, on top of the fact that he is not able to receive any inheritance from his father.

While Edmunds actions in the last act of the play cannot be dismissed in any way shape or form, it is not his fault for being in that situation. Due to the constant humiliation and lack of upward mobility in the kingdom it is only natural for Edmund to try and work around the “Laws” to better himself. Edmund has no other choice but to be deceitful in his attempt to gain power. However the same cannot be said for, his father, Gloucester. All of Edmund’s problems stem from Gloucester, and all of these problems could be avoided.

First of all Edmund being illegitimate, a bastard, born out of wedlock, etc is not his fault at all. It was due to Gloucester’s unfaithful actions that Edmund was born a bastard, so why should Edmund have to live with the consequences of something that he cannot control.

Secondly Edmund’s treatment is what prompted him to commit crimes and undermine his father. Edmund did not choose to be treated this way, but Gloucester chose to treat him poorly.

Since Gloucester brought about these circumstances (which could have been easily avoided), some blame can reasonably be shifted away from Edmund and onto Gloucester. While this does not excuse edmunds treasonous actions against Lear and Cordelia, not all of the blame should be on Edmund.

“The Taming of the Shrew”

Although Shakespeare often shows women with power, it’s typically in a very unflattering and misogynistic light. For example, in the Tragedy of King Lear, Goneril and Regan get their power from deception and ambition. The exact opposite values that men of power are supposed to show. Cordelia, the only honorable woman, ended up without a home and essentially forgotten about by her sisters and her father. 

Likewise, in the movie Ran by Akira Kurosawa, the women control the sons and get them to fight against their father. In one particular scene in the movie, Taro’s wife (Lady Kaede) is able to successfully convince him to take over the entire Ichimonji clan. Lady Kaede is the most prominent female character and while she has wonderful characteristics, like intelligence, her most powerful attributes seem to be the ones that allow her to fully run the kingdom down and create utter chaos. 

In both stories, the most powerful man, Hidetora and Lear, are treated sympathetically despite their actions and madness, while the women, with the exception of Cordelia, have few redeeming qualities. Also, both stories show the downfall of the kingdom when the women are given their first glance at power. In King Lear, it occurred when his daughter obtained their land, and in Ran, it happened when the sons got married and their wives started demanding things. 

Shakespeare often explores power and ambition in women in his works, such as: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, however, like “The Taming of the Shrew”, the depiction is often of a small, disagreeably, aggressive, sneaky character like a shrew.

Edmund: Accepting the Unacceptable

Throughout every part of Edmunds’s life, Edmund is treated as either a monster, an outcast, or a joke by his father. His father views him as not a legitimate son and instead as a burden or consequence of a mistake. Gloucester’s feelings toward Edmund are immediately shown in the first scene of the play.

But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year

elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account:

though this knave came something saucily into the

world before he was sent for, yet was his mother

fair; there was good sport at his making, and the

whoreson must be acknowledged. 

(Act 1, Scene 1, Line 19-24)

The unacceptance is very public to the point where his father shows no shame in expressing it. This cuts off any sort of fuel for Edmund to want to receive any acceptance from Gloucester. Edmund, however, is human and all humans have a need to receive acceptance from others. This causes Edmund to pursue acceptance from the citizens of the land that his father controls. This is very much expressed in the famous monologue.

Well, then,

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:

Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate: fine word,–legitimate!

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

(Act 1, Scene 2, Line 15-22)

He does in the end receive this acceptance which is absolutely great for him, but it does not replace the acceptance that he would have received from his father. Nothing is equivalent to the love of a parent and when Edmund doesn’t receive that love and acceptance, he begins on a neverending quest to receive it from as many people outside of his family as possible. This leads to him pursuing both Reagan and Goneril. This quest for acceptance leads to his downfall as he is later found by the people who would not accept him whom he betrayed.