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“King Lear” by William Shakespeare: A Play Review by Jeremy Bryson Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 9th, 2021

William Shakespeare’s King Lear, is a story of power, tragedy, and mistrust. The play starts out in King Lear’s palace where the main characters of the play are introduced. A conversation between Kent, Gloucester, and Gloucester’s son Edmund introduce the primary plot of the play. King Lear enters to a fanfare of trumpets, followed by his two sons-in-law, Albany and Cornwall, and his three daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. Lear announces that he has divided his kingdom into three shares to be given to his daughters as determined by their declarations of love for him. Goneril, as the eldest, speaks first. She tells her father that her love for him is boundless. Regan, as the middle child, speaks next. Her love, she says, is even greater than Goneril’s. Finally, it is Cordelia’s turn to express the depth of her love for her royal father. But when queried by Lear, Cordelia replies that she loves him as a daughter should love a father, no more and no less. She reminds her father that she also will owe devotion to a husband when she marries, and therefore cannot honestly give all her love to her father. The king sees this as rejection and excommunicates his daughter from all of the King’s shares. Cordelia bids her sisters farewell, and leaves with the King of France. When Goneril and Regan are left alone, the two sisters reveal their plan to discredit the king.

But in the end it is Edmond that is the most deceitful.

In the next scene, which is set at Gloucester’s home, Edmond enters talking out loud to himself. He asks nature why society sees him as inferior to his brother Edgar simply because he is not his father’s legitimate firstborn. Edmond is an opportunist, he believes in survival of the fittest, and his ambitions lead him to form a union with Goneril and Regan. Edmund also succeeds in convincing his brother Edgar that he’s looking out for his safety when he suggests that Edgar should carry a weapon as protection from their father’s anger. Edmund shows concern for his brother as he coaxes Edgar to slip away under the cover of night. Edmund tells Edgar that Cornwall suspects Edgar of aiding his enemy, the Duke of Albany. Edgar, innocent and unaware of any of this plotting, agrees to flee to protect himself. In one last ploy to destroy Edgar’s reputation, Edmund engages his brother in a fake battle, intentionally wounding himself to draw Gloucester’s sympathy. Gloucester, in response to the attack on Edmond, promises to bring Edgar to justice, and also states that he is going to make Edmond his heir.

Later, when Gloucester asked Regan and Cornwall to leave, so that he might offer aid to Lear, they seized his house and made him a prisoner. He was conversing with Edmond, and disclosed that there was a letter stating that an Army has landed to help the King, and Gloucester is going to sneak away from his house to aid the King however he can. Edmond jumps at the chance to win Cornwall favor. “This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the Duke Instantly know, and of that letter too: This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me that which my father loses; no less then all: The younger rises when the old doth fall”. (III.3.22-26) Edmond quickly discloses to Cornwall what his father’s plans are, and sets the next course of even into motion, revenge on Gloucester. Cornwall says that he will take care of Gloucester and wants Edmond to arrest him if found. Edmond replies “If I find him comforting the King, it will stuff his suspicion more fully. I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict is sore between that and my blood”. (III.5.17-20) Edmond departs with Goneril for the Duke of Albany’s palace, so that he isn’t there to witness the punishment of his father. Edmond and Goneril depart back to the palace, and in return she gives him a kiss and a letter. Edmond plays both Regan, and Goneril, and in turn is engaged to both. Edmond attempts to kill his father but is confronted and beaten by his brother, who has been protecting his father all along, disguised as a poor beggar. After finding out that it was Edgar and not some poor beggar, Edmond says “Thou hast spoken right, ‘tis true. The wheel has come full circle; I am here”. (V.3.172-173)

I have found Edmond to be the most interesting villain in the play. Not only does he deceive his brother, and then his father, he continues to play multiple sides and roles along the way. Even up to the end where he had Regan, and Goneril fighting over him to the point that Goneril poisoned her own sister, and then take her own life. Fortunately in the end the good prevailed and Edgar was back on top but as the play went on you would wonder what Edmond could possibly pull off next.

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IvyPanda. "“King Lear” by William Shakespeare: A Play Review by Jeremy Bryson." October 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/king-lear-by-william-shakespeare-a-play-review-by-jeremy-bryson/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“King Lear” by William Shakespeare: A Play Review by Jeremy Bryson." October 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/king-lear-by-william-shakespeare-a-play-review-by-jeremy-bryson/.

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