We hear the first soliloquy of the play from Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son. He expresses his anger at society’s attitude towards children born out of wedlock. We hear how his half-brother, Edgar will inherit everything from their father and we see Edmund’s dark side, when he tells the audience that he intends to get rid of Edgar, through deception. “Well then, legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.”
Firstly, he forges a letter which reveals a plot by Edgar to kill their father. He tries to pretend he is hiding from his father to protect his brother but his father demands to read it. Gloucester is now convince that Edgar has been trying to kill him so that he can take over his title and lands.
Edmund then goes to find Edgar and spins him a tale about Gloucester being really angry with him and that he should carry a sword with him at all times. This ensures that Gloucester will be convinced that Edgar is trying to kill him.
This scene highlights another family where a father is being manipulated by one of their children in order to gain more power and wealth. In both cases, the children who are honest and true (Cordelia and Edgar) are being set up by their cunning siblings and both fathers fall for the manipulation and deceit.
- What does the letter say about Edgar’s intentions towards his father?
- Edmund, pretending to stick up for his brother, tells Gloucester not to jump to conclusions. How does he advise him in terms of seeking the truth?
- What personality traits that Gloucester and Edgar share does Edmund use to his advantage? Is there a message here?
- Do you think Edmund has a right to behave in this way? Why?
- Why is Gloucester so easily fooled by Edmund?
- What similarities can you find between Lear’s family and Gloucester’s?