In conventional terms, Edmund is a villain in King Lear, and there’s nothing else to say about him. Except for his motives. So well captured by Shakespeare that I stop and wonder if William wasn’t the illegitimate son of some well-to-do household.
A credulous father and a brother noble,
whose nature is so far from doing harms
that he suspects none
while he, a bastard through no fault of his doing, has rancor fed and nourished by his every encounter. Of course, high-minded ones would tell Emund he should rise above. The high-minded often have better opportunities thrust upon them with no more justice in the process than Edmund’s start with a huge handicap not of his choosing.
This slow, slower, slowest fourth or fifth reading of King Lear may be the most productive one so far. A matter of context. Of reasons behind the slow, slower, slowest process. Of interruptions in mid-word. Of frustrations that build up to a point where something snaps. For better or worse, something must change.
Frustration. Thresholds. The person runs through his or her usual patterns for re-distributing the load, for evading a confrontation or an acknowledgement – of loss, or guilt, or innocence. The usual patterns no longer work.
Lear’s fool. Make that all of Shakespeare’s fools. Misshapen, misbegotten. Licensed to offend. Are fools passed on to the heirs when their master dies? thrown out beyond the gates with the rest of the rubbish from the previous reign?
*The title, like a stage direction of the Enter Steward or Exit a Knight variety.