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EDMUND

 Edmund is significantly more complicated than the other


major villains in the play, Regan and Goneril. He schemes
against his father’s life, but not just because he wants to inherit
his wealth and land; indeed, his principal motive seems to be
desire for recognition and perhaps even the love denied him
because of his bastard status.
 Edmund’s treachery can be seen as a rebellion against the
social hierarchy that makes him worthless in the eyes of the
world. He rejects the “plague of custom” that makes society
disdain him and dedicates himself to “nature” —that is, raw,
unconstrained existence.

 There is a great deal of irony in Edmund’s description to his


father of the ways in which Edgar has allegedly schemed
against Gloucester’s life. Edmund goes so far as to state that
Edgar told him that no one would ever believe Edmund’s word
against his because of Edmund’s illegitimate birth. With this
remark, Edmund not only calls attention to his bastard status—
which is clearly central to his resentful, ambitious approach to
life—but proves crafty enough to use it to his advantage.

 His peculiar change of heart, rare among Shakespearean


villains, is enough to make the audience wonder, amid the
carnage, whether Edmund’s villainy sprang not from some
innate cruelty but simply from a thwarted, misdirected
desire for the familial love that he witnessed around him.

 Gloucester immediately believes the letter which Edmund


shows him, not at once questioning Edmund's honesty
although it would be doubtful that Gloucester had any
previous reason to suspect or distrust Edgar.
 Similarly, Edgar immediately believes Edmund when he tells
him he should worry about his safety and his relationship with
his father.
 The audience gains from these interactions that Edmund has
done nothing in the past to arouse suspicion.
 Instead it seems that he has been waiting patiently to upset
the familial balance and now hurries to do so when threatened
with further military service.