Deception In King Lear Analysis

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Regardless of all the imagery of torture devices and weapons strung throughout King Lear, words are perhaps to most powerful tool in the entire play. Whether it is words, as in language, or somebody’s “word,” as in their promise, words truly are all the characters have to go on. Even in the case of family communication, these words are almost never anything other than a vehicle for deception. Using Edmund as a primary example and Edgar as a comparison, I will examine how and why deception works so well in King Lear, and what it means to so readily and carelessly deceive family.
Edmund’s first soliloquy and appearance in the play introduces his motives and methods for deception. He mulls over the arbitrary “plague of custom” (1.2 3), which
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Yet, this is far from the case. Edmund has attained his end of “having” Edgar’s land, his father’s undivided love, and has stepped outside of his label of bastard. However, only a few scenes later Edmund returns to his tricks. Readily trusting Edmund, Gloucester confides in him that he plans on assisting Lear. The very moment Gloucester exits, however, Edmund decides to betray his father to Cornwall. Apparently it is not enough that he has Edgar’s inheritance and his father’s loyalty, now his father must “[lose]—no less than all” (2.3 23), for “the younger rises when the old doth fall” (2.3 25). At this point, it is safe to say Edmund has a zero-sum notion of power. It is not enough for him to win unless Edgar, and now also his father, lose. Although he was so fixated on being a bastard and hence not being a legitimate member of the family, once he finally has this chance he rejects it completely. Edmund sees no value in family ties other than as a means to an end for more …show more content…
Right before Gloucester enters the scene, Edgar interestingly remarks, “The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst / Owes nothing to thy blasts” (4.1 8-9). At this point, Edgar does not yet know that his brother is responsible for his tumult. He doesn’t discover what his brother has been up to until he kills Oswald and (ironically) finds a letter, which details Edmund’s intentions to betray Albany. For this reason, Edgar is likely referring to his father. When he runs into Gloucester, he sees he has been blinded and is emotionally distraught enough to want to commit suicide. At a time like this, Gloucester might take comfort in knowing that not only is Edgar being a loyal son to him now, but also that he always was. Yet, Edgar does not reveal his identity to his father. Instead, he helps him as Poor Tom. It seems almost cruel that Edgar wouldn’t save his father some grief by revealing his identity—especially after his realization that “who alone suffers most I’ th’ mind” (3.6 113). The fact he so readily and easily deceives his father in this way almost creates a parallel with Edmund. Although Edgar eventually does avenge himself and his father by killing Edmund, there is a still a sense his deception wasn’t entirely good intentioned. Whereas Edmund’s deception is successful because family ties blind Gloucester and Edgar, Edgar’s deception works because Gloucester is

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