The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1015  Friday, 12 April 2002

From:           Annalisa Castaldo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 10 Apr 2002 12:46:43 -0400
Subject:        Edgar and Edmund

"Is Edgar much of a role model?  He arranges to kill his father, takes
revenge on Edmund, condemns the woman Gloucester took advantage of and,
by implication, all of her sex, and ends with sentiments that echo those
of Lear in the opening of the play.

Don't EDgar and EDmund switch places at play's end?  Edmund ends well;
Edgar discards his simplistic moralism and reveals himself to be the
real bastard."

Although certainly an interesting idea, I cannot agree with Edmund Taft
about Edgar. He does not arrange to kill his father, but instead uses
the faked death to remove Gloucester's very real desire to end it all.
"Why do I trifle thus with his despair/Is done to cure it." I'm also not
sure how taking revenge on Edmund is a mark against his character. He
presents himself masked, but otherwise it is a perfectly legitimate duel
which Edmund has the chance to refuse.

I'll agree with his sexual disgust, certainly "dark and vicious" is a
particularly harsh condemnation of the sexuality, but isn't this view
not only pervasive in the play (Lear has to be mad before he'll side
with the adulterer), but in much of Shakespeare's work? It doesn't, I
think, represent a specific shift to villainy.

Finally, I'd be interested to know why you think Edgar's final speech
(if that is what you mean by "ends with") echoes Lear's earliest ideas.
To me, they seem very different. Lear begins by rejecting "the weight"
of time, trying to retire from the kingship rather than bear his duties
to the end and "obey." And certainly Lear did not encourage the
sentiment "Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say"! And remember,
also, that it is only in the Folio that Edgar has the final speech - in
the Quarto, it is Albany who has those sentiments.

Are you sure you aren't drawn to Edmund's camp because of a connection
in nomenclature?

Annalisa Castaldo

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