Edmund: A prototype of Machiavellian philosophy

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In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edmund, the scheming son of Gloucester, is a lucid prototype of Niccolo Machiavelli’s philosophy. He exhibits characteristics of an aspiring Machiavellian prince. Edmund has a need for control and equality – that is, when ‘equality’ works to his favour. His moral principals stand as no obstacle to the sordid and inhumane actions he is willing to carry out in his pursuit of the throne and of power. This can be seen more specifically in Edmund’s scheming to overthrow the legitimate son of Gloucester, Edgar. Edmund expresses this scheme in his statement “let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit. All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.” (King Lear, Act 1 Scene 2, lines 191-192) Being the bastard son, Edmund does not inherit Gloucester’s land; it is tradition that the eldest legitimate son should receive the inheritance. Edmund, working against this tradition, strives to attain this inheritance to which he is not entitled. He feels determined to shape his own future and break tradition – no matter the consequences. From this single selfish desire, many evil deeds began to sprout. Edmund is skilled in the manipulation of other individuals. He understands and genuinely believes that one who is known as the “fox” and the “lion” is most successful. Edmund exploits Edgar’s trust when he lies to manipulate him, saying that “If you do stir abroad, go armed... Brother, I advise you to the best.” (Act 1 Scene 2 lines 177-180). Edmund, recognizing that he is in a position of trust, takes advantage of the existing family ties between him and Edgar. He fabricates a tension or dilemma between Edgar and Gloucester. He takes advantage of “a credulous father and a brother noble… That [Gloucester] suspects none; on whose foolish honesty [Edmund’s] practices ride easy.” (Act 1 scene 2 186-188) He fools Gloucester into believing that Edgar is wicked, thus

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