“Well then, / Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. / Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund / As to th’ legitimate… Edmund the base / Shall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper”(I.ii.17-22).
“To prove to Father that I am a worthy son! When he wakes, I will have saved his life, I will have destroyed that race of monsters, and I will be true heir to the throne!”(Branagh, 1:35:48-1:35:59).
In Thor (2011), Thor is set to take the throne in Asgard in place of his father. However, when Thor is accused of inciting conflict with the Frost Giants, he is banished to Earth, and his brother Loki becomes the crown prince in his place. As the movie continues, it becomes clear that Loki sabotaged his brother in hopes of becoming their father’s true heir. It is also revealed that Loki is not actually an Asgardian, and is instead an abandoned Frost Giant whom Odin adopted. When Loki discovers this, he recalls all of the times that it has been obvious that his father loved Thor more than him. His feelings of jealousy and greed result in him actively working to dethrone his brother and steal his place.
This directly parallels the relationship between Edmund and Edgar in King Lear. Edmund, like Loki, is the bastard child and was always inherently loved less by his father. And, like Loki, Edmund conspires against his brother in hopes of regaining what he feels his brother has stolen from him. As Loki claims his brother’s throne, Edmund claims his brother’s land.
Edgar, like Thor, must quickly adopt a new role in order to stay alive. Thor must adapt to life on Earth, a harsh change from his life as royalty on Asgard. Edgar must assimilate to life as a beggar, or a “Poor Tom” – a severe downgrade from his previous role as nobility in England. And in their respective stories, Edgar and Thor represent goodness, righteousness, and strong core values, contrasted sharply with their brothers who represent greed, resentment, and more.
Personally, I doubt these similarities were unintentional. Kenneth Branagh, director of Thor, is a dedicated fan of Shakespeare – he has even directed and starred in some of his own adaptations of Shakespeare’s famous works. Tom Hiddleston, the actor who portrayed Loki, also has strong roots in Shakespearean theater. With this in mind, it is fascinating to see how two characters in a Marvel superhero movie can so directly parallel these two Shakespearean characters.