The story of King Lear is one of William Shakespeare's most prized and cherished works. It enfolds the tragic downfall of King Lear due to his ineffective judgment regarding his three daughters" love for him. Similarly, the Earl of Gloucester faces the same dilemma in the play. He sides with his malicious, illegitimate son, Edmund the bastard, rather than his loyal, legitimate son, Edgar. Edgar is therefore disowned and dubbed a traitor, until his loyalty and compassion is comprehended by Gloucester and Edmund shortly before their deaths. This essay deals with the significant role of Edgar during Act 5 of the play.
Edgar plays a critical role in Act 5 of King Lear. He is the one, who, disguised as a peasant, gives Albany the letter written by Gonoril professing her affection for Edmund and her plot to murder her husband, Albany. Although it is not confirmed that Albany read the letter, it can be assumed he did. Soon after, in his argument with Gonoril, Albany says things such as "Or with this paper shall I stopple it. Thou worse than anything, read thine own evil. (King Lear, 24.151-152)" and "Most monstrous! Know'st thou this paper? (King Lear, 24.155). These comments caused Gonoril to storm away, upon which she poisoned her sister Regan, and then took her own life. .
After Edgar's father, the Earl of Gloucester, had his eyes plucked out, Edgar guided him from place to place. Since Gloucester was blind, he didn't comprehend that Edgar, disguised as a poor beggar, was his own son. Despite being ridiculed and dishonoured by his father earlier in the play, Edgar shows the audience his empathic and loving nature by supporting his father. When Gloucester wanted to be left for dead, "No farther, sir. A man may rot even here. (King Lear, 23.8)", Edgar was able to convince and persuade him to carry on.
Edgar also avenges his father's, as well as his own, mortification by defeating his brother Edmund.