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.