In King Lear, the villainous but intelligent Edmund, with more than a brief.
examination into his character, has understandable motivations outside of the base purposes.
with which he might at first be credited. Edmund is a character worthy of study, as he seems.
to be the most socially complex character of the play. In a sense, he is both victim and villain.
Edmund is introduced into the play in the opening scene with his father, Gloucester,.
stating that he acknowledges him as his son, but publicly mocking him for his bastardy. He is.
referred to by Gloucester as a reason for Gloucester to blush and as a "knave- in front of Kent.
(1.1.9-25). According to Claude J. Summers, "Illegitimacy is the characteristic which most.
pervasively defines Edmund's life- (225). In essence, this means that personal embarrassment.
and public humiliation are a continual torment for him his entire life. Concerning the.
illegitimate sons of royalty in England at that time, according to Chris Given-Wilson in The.
Royal Bastards of Medieval England, "The bend . . . or baton sinister . . . were used as the.
standard mark of illegitimacy- in their heraldry (52). Edmund and those like him, expected to.
serve in battle, were immediately known to other knights as being bastards because it was.
clearly emblazoned on their shields. Given his father's mocking of him, it can be expected.
that this was common treatment for illegitimate sons of nobility and the carrying of a sign to.
broadcast his perceived lower class would be cause for further humiliation. .
Edmund is a highly intelligent person. He is able to beguile his father, so it may be.
argued that he is more intelligent than Gloucester. With the concept of forging a letter.
supposedly penned by Edgar in order to cause his loyalty to be in question, he shows that he is.
deeply aware of the necessary "buttons- to push to cause a rift in the fabric of his family and .
A Look at Shakespeare's Edmund.