Shakespeare’s King Lear – Poor Edmund

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Poor Edmund of King Lear

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I initially felt bad for Edmund. It must have been difficult growing up constantly second to

Edgar and being referred to as “the bastard.” No one would envy him that.

But let’s take a second look at poor Edmund. I’m sure that there were many

bastards in his time, but how many of them ended up indirectly gouging out

their fathers’ eyes and trying to take over the kingdom? Was the Earl of

Gloucester really that rotten of a father that he drove his son to do all

of this?

According to my reading of the text, the Earl of Gloucester probably

paid mightily to send Edmund “out nine years” (presumably studying abroad)

(I.i.32). Gloucester admits that he had “so often blushed to acknowledge

him,” but he seems to take some pride in how Edmund turned out, regardless

of his conception (I.i.10). It is assumed that Gloucester loves Edgar better

than Edmund, but, even so, do parents truly ever love children EXACTLY equally,

even under “legitimate” circumstances? Plus, we hear from Gloucester’s

own mouth that though Edgar is legitimate and a year older than Edmund,

Edgar is “yet no dearer in [Gloucester’s] account” (I.i.19-21).

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Gloucester does love

Edgar much more than Edmund. Does that mean that Edmund gets to run around

wreaking havoc as revenge? The argument that Edmund as victim sounds an

awful lot like what we would term today, “The Abuse Excuse.” Just because

Edmund was “abused” and Edgar is the “favorite” does not mean that Edmund

gets to do anything he wants to do. A couple of brothers by the name of

Menendez claimed that the abuse inflicted upon them allowed them to shoot

(repeatedly) their father (the alleged offender) and their mother

(for good measure). Is this what we are arguing for now? I don’t

claim to know the details of that case in California, but by my reading

of this case, I saw little “excuse” for the actions of said bastard.

As to Christina’s claim that “murder is murder,” I wonder if she

really means that statement to carry to all circumstances. If shooting

(or stabbing) another person in self-defense is just “evil” as killing

someone for “fun,” where does that leave us? With considerably fuller

jails, for one thing. And what of “military incidents,” such as wars,

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