William Shakespeare’s King Lear has many characters that are that are driven by their wants and desires. That drive can either make them or break them. One character in particular is broken by his drive to become powerful and gain recognition. Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, has always been overshadowed by the fact that he was born out of wedlock and his brother, Edgar, was not. That prevented Edmund from not getting certain things like becoming king like his brother could achieve.
On top of that, his father makes it a point to introduce Edmund as his illegitimate son, “though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was called for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. ” All of these things could spark Edmund’s desire to make a name for himself. In Act II Scene III, Edmund enters with a letter. The letter talks about how Edgar is planning to kill Gloucester when Edmund actually wrote it.
The letter causes a riff in his father’s relationship with Edgar, his father calling Edgar a “monstrous, hateful, bestial villain”. In order to the out the truth, Edmund suggests to his father that he should overhear a conversation between him and Edgar talking about his feelings toward their father. That way, Gloucester can hear for himself that Edgar is out to get him. After Gloucester leaves, Edmund talks with Edgar about how someone wrote a fake letter about him that their father found out about.
With the help of his brother, Edgar then decides to lay low and stay at his brother’s house. Both Edgar and Gloucester suspect that Edmund is behind the letter. Another way that Edmund tries to gain power is to seduce the daughters of King Lear. He does this in order to destroy relationships and to become king. The daughters that he decides to seduce are Goneril and Regan, who happen to be the only daughters on good terms with their father at the moment. He is successful for a short while until they find out he was only in it for power and did not truly love them.
Later on in the play when Edmund has successfully captured Cordeila and Lear, he orders one of his soldiers to kill them. This shows how Edmund will do anything to be on top including killing others. The one to announce that Edmund is a traitor happens to be Albany, Goneril’s husband. He claims that the two of them were plotting his death. Then, an unexpected guest shows up and challenges Edmund to a fight. While they are fighting, Edmund is stabbed in the stomach. Turns out, the person he was fighting was Edgar in his disguise.
It is ironic to see that Edmund, who always thought he was clever, did not see that clever move coming. He underestimates his brother and in return, winds up dying. At the end of the play, Edmund shows some regret by ordering Cordelia and Lear to be killed. He tells Albany that “[he] wished [he] could have lived longer” and “[done] a little good despite [his] evil nature. ” He encourages Albany to send for someone to save them. Edmund’s encouragement gets Albany in time to Lear, but not Cordelia who ends up dying. Cordelia’s death overshadows Edmund’s death.
Once again, Edmund is overshadowed by something. If only Edmund was shown parental love and did not grow up as a “bastard”, his life could have turned out differently, but sadly it did not. One can only imagine what it would be like to go through life known as the “bastard” child and being overshadowed by your sibling. This situation can be relatable to siblings who are out of the limelight because of their other sibling, but only to an extent. Nevertheless, Edmund continues to this day to be one of Shakespeare’s most famous villians.