King Lear Essays Characters

He also speaks the play’s first soliloquy, a complaint about his status in which he plays with the concepts of ‘bastardy’ and ‘baseness’ in a series of angry rhetorical questions: Illegitimacy in Shakespeare’s time was viewed as a sign of degeneracy and corruption – the sins of the parents leaving an indelible mark upon their offspring.Edmund, however, tries to assert an alternative morality.

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Edmund’s main personality trait is his capacity for duplicity.

He schemes against both his father and his half-brother, Edgar.

When King Lear invites his daughters to tell him how much they love him, Goneril and Regan are only too willing to play along.

Nevertheless, they are clearly mistrusted by their younger sister Cordelia, who asks ‘Why have my sisters husbands, if they say / They love you all? After her banishment, Cordelia commends her father to her sisters’ ‘professèd bosoms’ (1.1.272) – a clear sign that we are not meant to take their words at face value.

He believes that he was conceived in more honest circumstances than his legitimate brother, with his own birth being the result of ‘the lusty stealth of nature’ (1.2.11) rather than the tired conventions of marriage.

King Lear Essays Characters

As a result, he appeals to Nature to be his ‘goddess’ (1.2.1), and to the gods to ‘stand up for bastards’ (1.2.22), rejecting the ‘plague of custom’ (1.2.3) that declares him to be inferior.In Act 1, Scene 3, Goneril instructs her servant, Oswald, to be rude to Lear, and it is her attempt to persuade Lear to reduce the number of knights in his retinue that precipitates Lear’s descent into madness.The elderly king looks to Regan for sympathy, but receives none.Goneril is a ‘detested kite’ (1.4.262) with a ‘wolvish visage’ (1.4.308); she is ‘serpent-like’ (2.4.161) and ‘like a vulture’ (2.4.135).The two sisters are ‘unnatural hags’ (2.4.278), ‘wicked creatures’ (2.4.256) and ‘pelican daughters’ (3.4.75) (in medieval mythology, the pelican was forced by its own young to feed them with its blood).Goneril and Regan, King Lear’s two elder daughters, and Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, are the children who turn against their elderly fathers.Their actions, in both the main plot and the sub-plot of the play, run in parallel with each other, and bring about the downfall and eventual death of both Lear and, at its heart, a play about the relationships between two powerful men – King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester – and their ungrateful children.The play’s chief irony is that the children that Lear and Gloucester believe to be ungrateful are actually loyal, while those whom they believe to be loyal are plotting against them.As Edmund is characterised by the language of bastardy, Goneril and Regan are associated with disease.Lear describes Goneril as ‘a disease that's in my flesh …


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