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.

2 thoughts on “Edmund and His Ladies: Lust or Love?

  1. Tim M

    The difference between love and lust is a very fine line, and I honestly hadn’t thought to distinguish between the two when reading King Lear, but your analysis of it is really fantastic! I particularly like what you said about Edmund — that his love lies not with either Regan or Goneril, but with himself and his own power. It makes perfect sense looking back, given that all of his actions leading up to the love triangle part of the play are driven by a desire to escape his bastard identity, so it seems reasonable that his seemingly contradictory actions in acting as if he was in love with both sisters would be drive by that same desire.

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    1. Angela

      I really like the analysis you did! I think that there are mixed feelings of love and lust,which are seen as contrary here. Edmond is not in love with these powerful women, but he is in love with their money and poverty. This love triangle serves as help to brcome a King!

      Like

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