The villainy of the play knows no bounds. Family lines are ignored in an overwhelming quest for power. This villainy is epitomized in the character of Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester.Edmund is displayed as a ” most toad-spotted traitor.
” When we first see Edmund, he is already knee deep in treachery. His need for power has already clouded his mind to the extent that his first act is a double-cross of his own brother. Edmund composes a false letter to his father implicating his brother, Edgar in a plot to kill Gloucester. Edmund then goes to Edgar and convinces him to run away.
Edgar, like his father is easily deceived, and runs. Edmund’s evil trickery continues to increase in its cruelty until he commits an inconceivable crime. Edmund has reached a point in his pursuit of power that he will stop at nothing to gain more. He writes another letter.
This one is similar to the first, except instead of implicating his brother to his father, it implicates his father in a plot with France to kill The Duke of Cornwall. The King decides that Gloucester’s supposed treachery cannot be tolerated and orders that his eyes be torn out. At this point, Edmund seems to be unequivocally evil. This is undoubtedly false.
Two of the other characters of the play, Goneril and Regan surely equal Edmund’s ferocity in their quest for power. Our first glimpse at the two surely begins to prove that fact. In this scene, the King asks that each of his three daughters profess their undying love to him before he distributes parts of the kingdom to them. Goneril and Regan both, unlike their sister Cordelia who is to true of heart to sink to such a level, give incredibly pompous speeches telling of how great their love for their father is.
The speeches, as we soon find out, are total lies. As soon as they receive their land, the two, accompanied by their husbands, join forces, and, using their newly found power, strip their father of all power. They used their father’s own need for affection to manipulate him and take his power. This is indeed an act worthy of the most disgusting of person’s.
Having taken this very quick glimpse into King Lear shows us a very good reason for both Goneril and Regan to be attracted to Edmund. Edmund shares their ambition-power. He shares their strength-treachery. And he is possibly the only person more evil than they are.
Evil has a tendency to align itself with evil. In its constant quest to triumph over good evil unites to gain power. The two daughters follow this pattern. They are instinctively drawn to the pure evil that emanates from Edmund’s very being.
Their attraction to Edmund is merely a symptom of their quest for power.