King Lear: Edgar

“O strange and fastened villain!” [Gloucester] Gl is easily turned against his son, he goes from being his favourite to a ‘villain’. Court is fickle? Fall in and out of favour so easily
“I will preserve myself” Soliloquy – isolated and alone out in nature. Does this suggest Edgar’s selfishness? He would have acted as a beggar forever if he had not found Lear? Suggests he intended to leave all his responsibility behind.
“The basest and most poorest shape… brought near to beast” Reduced to nothing, fall from high status to low. He uses animalistic language, and behaviour on stage shows him crawling and crouching and never standing straight, shows him as an unaccomodated man, primal.
“Strike in their numbed and mortified arms” Pretend to be a Bedlam beggar from Bethlehem hospital, and plays the part well and commits to it.
“Edgar I nothing am” Later he states “my name is lost… bare-gnawn and canker-bit”, he dismisses his old identity. Easy to throw away? Some suggest that his absence in the scene where the kingdom is divided shows he has no interest in court affairs.
“[Disguised as a madman]” Fool and Edgar in the same scene – the two wisest characters both hiding their wisdom through stupidity. Mad Tom uses prose, to show his low class and simplicity.
“The foul fiend follows me” Alliteration, adds to the nonsensical tone and quickens his speech through the repeated ‘f’ sound, makes him sound more chaotic and mad. ‘Foul fiend’, the devil? Edmond? his past self?
“Served the lust of my mistresses heart and did the act of darkness with her””Sloth… greed.. lust” Sexual, anti-feminist, as women portrayed as corruptive and deviant. ‘Act of darkness’ and “Dark and vicious place” later on, suggests women’s sexuality considered dangerousUse of the seven deadly sins to highlight the danger of women and their sexuality. Is this why Lear understands Tom, he fears women too? Tom shows social understanding that all classes can fall
“Flibbertigibbet… squints the eye” Dramatic tension/irony between Edgar and his father, Gl talks about his outlawed son and how he loves him whilst Edgar right there. Theme of blindness, if Gl were to look beneath the surface of people (eg. Edmond), he would see Edgar is his son.
“Child Roland to the dark tower came…. I smell the blood of a British man” Rhyme to close the end, shows that there are dark forces present, warning to the audience what is unfolding. Foreshadows war, blinding and death.
“[Aside] My tears begin to take his part so much they mar my counterfeiting” Edgar’s sorrow at seeing his king and his father reduced to nothing. Emotion distracts him from his disguise. Hard to keep up appearances. Contrasts Edmond in the the previous scene, who betrays his father. Contrast with Lear, who is afraid to cry, shows Edgar is more human and sympathetic, a good character.
“Better thus, and known to be condemned, than still condemned and flattered” Similar to “They flattered me like a dog”, Lear’s realisation when he is mad. Through madness comes truth and through reduction and pain comes goodness.
“[Aside] O Gods, who is’t can say ‘I am the worst’? I am worse than e’er I was” Edgar has lots of asides during this scene, shows his emotional conflict at lying to his father, and the battle he faces within himself. Both sides of his conscience. Edgar’s suffering more acute when he sees his father, but scared to intervene? So he does’t admit his identity.
“Look how we labour”, “Horrible steep. Hark do you hear the sea?” Edgar’s description of the journey is moving, as Gloucester is child-like and pathetic, having to be looked after by a stranger. Edgar’s emotional reactions to his father’s anguish builds intensity.
“How fearful and dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low”, “The fishermen that walk upon the beach appear like mice” Touching description – Edgar gives him sight again, shows his caring nature. Contrasts the breakdown of Lear’s family, as Edgar is trying to help his father. Is he being cruel to be kind? Trying to get Gl to learn and change of his own accord?
“[Aside] Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it” Contrasts Edmond, Edgar feels great guilt for his deception and goes to great lengths to make Gl think he will die, to create his self-realisation.
“Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again” Very intense scene, watching Gl say goodbye and think he is going to die. Gloucester’s suffering is so intense, and Edgar is so hopeful and manipulative. A strange contrast.
“He’s dead. I am only sorry he had no other deathsman” When fighting Oswald, Edgar adopts a country accent, which provides light relief and also mocks Oswald because he is poor and a servant. He kills him in battle, foreshadowing his skill when fighting Edmond. Fights only with a staff, Oswald expects to win.
“Manners, blame us not, to know our enemies minds, we rip their hearts; their papers is more lawful” Edgar is a moral and honest character, he doesn’t like reading other people’s letters and invading their privacy, however he has to do it to save other’s lives.
“What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither. Ripeness is all” Lively and hopeful, contrasts Gl’s pessimism. Even though King Lear has lost, he has faith, as it is all a test of God. Religion vs. suicidal thoughts.
“First trumpet… third trumpet” Lots of tension, builds pace and action through the repeated noise of the trumpet and demonstrates the traditional laws of chivalry.
“My name is lost, by treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit” Edgar’s name means nothing to hi now, he has changed too much, and has become an instrument of justice rather than a man. By refusing his name he does not take credit for those he kills. His name is associated with outlaw and dishonour, and he doesn’t want to think that he is just about to murder his brother, not natural order.
“Thou art a traitor: false to thy gods, thy brother and thy father” Edgar accuses Edmond, exposes his evils. Delivers justice for those he has wronged
“I am no less in blood than thou, Edmond. If more, the more hast wronged me” Forgiveness? Despite their lineage being different Edgar acknowledges that he thinks them equals. He apologises on behalf of the world for how it has treated bastards.
“The dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes” Both Edmond and Gl punished for their sins of pleasure, sexuality with women. Edmond is sexual, R and G, Gl too, all die. More similar than they realised.
“Never – o fault! – revealed myself unto him… but his flawed heart… burst smilingly” Edgar’s guilt for not telling his father soon and sharing more with him. Gl only ever told Poor Tom how he felt, not edgar personally, and Edgar feels he went against the natural order by not being honest and deceiving his father.
“Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most; we that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long” Preaches honesty and truthfulness, unlike Regan and Gonerill and Cordelia. Lying and deception caused all their problems. Edgar has the last lines, but in the quarto version Albany has the last lines. Shows his power and restored status, and his wisdom and goodness.

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