Edmund and Edgar: How Two Brothers Drove The Plot of King Lear

The feud between Edmund and Edgar was one of the key subplots in King Lear. It told a story of betrayal, trust, and manipulation, and much of what happened in the play was due to either of the brothers. In the play’s second act, the rivalry begins when Edmund cuts himself with a sword and frames Edgar. The dominos fall soon after as Gloucester and the kingdom turn on Edgar. It’s later revealed that destroying Edgar’s reputation was the first step in Edmund’s attempt to overthrow the system and take over the power. Edgar realizes this and chooses to fake his death and run away. He takes on the new identity of Poor Tom and does everything in his power (or lack thereof) to hide who he really is. Throughout the play, Edmund sees his plan come to life and is close to getting what he wants. As Regan and Goneril enter the picture and fight over Edmund, Edgar guides a lost King Lear and helps him see a new side of the world. The brothers remain vital characters throughout the play and even have a standoff at the end. The play ends with the long-lost Edgar finally defeating the person who ruined his life and becoming the kingdom’s next ruler.

Edmund and Edgar having their own subplots helped the entire flow of King Lear. Without the two of them, there would be a lot of holes in the plot, especially toward the end. Edmund was manipulating what happened in the kingdom and was part of many decisions that would be significant to the story. On the other hand, Edgar was with a broken Lear and a blind Gloucester. The two played incredible parts in the play and connected the puzzle together. Without the conflict between Edgar and Edmund, the events in King Lear would not have happened. They are the two most important characters in the entire play, and because of them, the Tragedy of King Lear is a legend in literature and one of the greatest plays ever.

King Lear – Ego, Pride and Greed

The Tragedy of King Lear – written by Shakespeare- is riddled with greed, despair, betrayal and suffering. There is no shortage of passages detailing the pain Lear or any of the other characters go through. However there is one point that while not overlooked, isn’t given enough attention. It is obvious from the very first act that King Lear is an egotistical ruler, especially when he forces his daughters to tell him how much they love him in exchange for a portion of the kingdom’s land, only to banish the youngest after she refuses to be untruthful when telling him how much she loves him. King Lear pride holds him back from being the best possible king for his kingdom, even when his loyal servant tries to show him the error of his ways, Lear tells him to leave too. The issue is that Lear allows his ego as king overshadow his understanding of his situations and the actions of those around him. His pride makes him think that he is untouchable, despite the fact that he willingly gave away his power. Making him nothing but a King on the words of the wind.

Greed, another major plot point of King Lear, has a few characters that encapsulate its violent methods. From Edmund, who destroyed his entire family to become heir, to the sisters Goneril and Regan, who tried so desperately to outdo one another that they end up killing themselves in the process. Greed, in Shakespeare’s plays, has never had a happy ending for those who pursue it so readily. In Hamlet, it was the king’s brother, Hamlet’s Uncle, who suffered after killing his brother in greed for the throne. In Romeo and Juliet, it was the greed of the two families and their feud, and while they may not have been the ones who died in the end, they were still the ones who suffered the consequences, losing their children. All those who indulged in greed in King Lear suffer, Edmund, Goneril, Regan, Oswald (the servant), even King Lear himself suffer because of their eventual greediness. Lear plays into the idea of karma in that regard, by making those who we see change still suffer even after they have– at least somewhat– mended their ways.

That is what makes King Lear especially tragic, because when a character finally changes their ways and better understands the world, the rug is pulled out from under them and they suffer to an even further extent before eventually falling into the cold hands of death too. It’s tragedy also plays into the idea of family, by having this family destroyed by the seams for some land or the love of another. Most people fear the betrayal of a close loved one, especially if in your mind they can do you now harm or they are less powerful than you. It is for that reason that King Lear is a tragedy caused not only by fear, greed, and ego, but also by the betrayal of family.


A motif that is strongly present in King Lear is femininity and what it means to be a “good” woman. Cordelia is described as kind, compassionate, submissive, and level-headed, which are the most wanted traits of women at the time. Goneril and Regan, however, are strong-willed and cruel, yet it begs the question: are they antagonized by their power or because of their power? The reader can recognize, of course, that their actions are vicious and heartless, but they are portrayed as worse than their husbands, whose actions are similarly as awful. Cornwall is the one that actually gouges out Gloucester’s eyes, but Regan is made the villain moreso than him. The play consistently brings up masculinity and femininity, especially women’s emotional states. A recurring idea is that women’s tears are weapons, and the larger idea behind that is that women express emotion more than men and that ability allows them to manipulate men. Lear consistently talks about tears, when he overtly calls women’s weapons tears and also when he refuses to cry although “he has more than enough reason to weep.” This contrast of masculinity and femininity gives some societal commentary on how madness and violence is perceived across genders.