King Lear Essays Characters

In Act 2, Scene 1, Shakespeare even shows Edmund wounding himself and lying to Gloucester about Edgar’s actions – a shocking indication of Edmund’s calculating personality.

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In the last moments of his life, after he has been fatally wounded by Edgar, Edmund retracts this order, in an indication that he may possess some shred of humanity – but it is too late, for Cordelia has already met her death.

All three of the villainous children in the play are characterised by their flair with language, in contrast with their less articulate siblings.

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

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

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).

And when the agonised Lear goes out into the night, Regan insists that the gates of Gloucester’s castle should be barred against him despite the impending storm, commenting of ‘wilful men’ that ‘The injuries that they themselves procure / Must be their schoolmasters’ (3.1.303–304). Both sisters are also cruel in their treatment of other characters.

Regan insists that Kent should stay in the stocks all night, rather than just until noon, as Cornwall originally intends.

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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