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.

3 thoughts on “Edmund or Gloucester, Who is to Blame?


    I really like your analysis on the topic, and I think this is an important thing to look at. In society today a lot of people blame the offender, as they should, but I think it is important to look at their backgrounds to determine why they are acting this way. I think this is the key to solving the problems society deals with, as the offender likely acts out due to problems that stem from social inequality.


  2. MAEVE M

    I think you made a very important point that the environment that Edmund was raised in definitely played a large role in his later betrayal. Gloucester may have loved both sons equally, however he never once considered how the title of bastard could hurt Edmund’s life in so many ways. Although I definitely do not agree with Edmund’s decisions, they are sort of understandable.



    I think your analysis of the environment Edmund was brought up in was really interesting. I never really thought about the impact this could have had on his decisions and actions later in the play.


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