Discuss Edmund's Villainy and How It Contributes to the Subplot in "King Lear"

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The character of Edmund in Shakespeare’s King Lear a complex antagonist whose quest for power, and the treatment he deserves from society fuels the subplot. Cunning, deceitful, and a villain, Edmund will do whatever it takes to achieve his objectives, even if it means betraying the people who love him most. Edmund plays a key role in setting the stage for the disaster waiting to unfold, which is the subplot. Initially, the audience sympathizes with Edmund’s character; society treats him poorly, and his own father publicly embarrasses him. In Act 1 Scene 1, when Kent asks Gloucester if Edmund is his Gloucester’s son, he replies “his breeding hath been at my charge” (1.1.9) yet Gloucester “blushed to acknowledge [Edmund]” (1.1.10). This implies that while Edmund is technically his son, because Edmund is illegitimate Gloucester has been embarrassed to claim him as his own. Gloucester knows that conceiving an illegitimate son reflects poorly on him, and being a bastard reflects even worse on Edmund. However, Gloucester admits that he loves Edmund just as much as his legitimate son. After the audience becomes aware of this, and Edmund’s duplicitous plotting, the audience loses all sympathy for the main antagonist of the subplot in King Lear. The loyal, earnest Edmund presented to Gloucester and Kent in Act 1 Scene 1 is a stark contrast to the scheming, bitter Edmund seen alone for the first time in the beginning of Act 1 Scene 2. His first soliloquy begins with Edmund asking why he should not take it upon himself to better his societal standing. The only things standing in his way are societal conventions and complicated laws. He has faith that, with masterful planning, he can overcome the barriers society has set up for him, and take what he believes to be rightfully his: land, money, and power. Edmund proceeds to repeat the words

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