Shakespeare s King Lear is a story of treachery and deceit. The villainy of the play knows no bounds. Family lines are ignored in an overwhelming quest for power. This villainy is epitomized in the character of Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester. Terms to describe Edmund might include young, ambitious, evil, manipulative, calculating, power-hungry, cruel, hateful and deceitful. Through Edmund s actions, words and the opinions of the other players the audience comes to an understanding of his character.
Edmund is evil personified; the antithesis of his legitimate brother, Edgar, who represents all that is good in the play. Nature art my goddess reveals that Edmund does not believe in God. The prince of darkness is a gentleman is a remark which ties himself to the devil. Conspiracies to have his brother banished, and his fathers eyes removed are all evil actions for which Edmund can be held accountable. The evil Edmund displays in the play leads the audience to hate him for his remorselessness and his pursuit of power at any cost. The evil that Edmund represents walks hand in hand with the moral issue of win at all costs.
This win at all costs attitude helps Edmund to gain the throne at the end of then play. This attitude is displayed by his Although his thoughts and actions are sometimes clouded by hate, Edmund is very successful in his manipulation of others. He manipulates his father to believe that his loving son Edgar has conspired to kill him Edmund is displayed as a " most toad-spotted traitor." When we first see Edmund, he is already knee deep in treachery. His need for power has already clouded his mind to the extent that his first act is a double-cross of his own brother. Edmund composes a false letter to his father implicating his brother, Edgar in a plot to kill Gloucester. Edmund then goes to Edgar and convinces him to run away.
Edgar, like his father is easily deceived, and runs. Edmund s evil trickery continues to increase in its cruelty until he commits an inconceivable crime. Edmund has reached a point in his pursuit of power that he will stop at nothing to gain more. He writes another letter. This one is similar to the first, except instead of implicating his brother to his father, it implicates his father in a plot with France to kill The Duke of Cornwall. The King decides that Gloucester s supposed treachery cannot be tolerated and orders that his eyes be torn out.
At this point, Edmund seems to be unequivocally evil.