King Lear: Act 2, Scene 3

With Kent asleep in the stocks, Edgar enters, still on the run from his father’s manhunt.

In order to stay alive, he must cast off his fine clothes and lose his clean look, instead, “My face I’ll grime with filth, blanket my loins, elf all my hair with knots…” Edgar is going to pretend to be a beggar, who as escaped from an insane asylum in order to evade his father’s servants. He says that he will become a ‘poor Tom’ and will be Edgar no more. He tells us that he will roam the countryside seeking food and sheler.

It should be noted at this point that the two characters, Kent and Edgar, who have only good intentions, are being forced to disguise themselves in order to do good, while those who seek to do evil are hiding in plain sight. This paradox is used by Shakespeare to highlight how blind we can be to traitors, who live among us and how easy humans can be manipulated when they think those around them are friends.

Questions:

  1. Why do you think Edgar decides to pretend to a homeless person?
  2. ‘Edgar, I nothing am.’ How will life be different for Edgar now that he has disguised himself as a homeless person?
  3. Deception is now a central theme to the play. Do you agree? Explain using examples from the play.

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