King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

Summary Five Key Questions

3) Who is “Poor Tom”?

When Edgar is forced to flee Gloucester’s house, he disguises himself as a mad beggar called “Poor Tom.” The character of “Poor Tom” may be more than just a disguise for Edgar. He really is homeless, and he doesn’t seem to have any plan to win his former status back. “Poor Tom” inspires genuine pity and disgust in the people he meets. Lear calls him a “poor, bare, forked animal” (III.iv.). Although Edgar eventually drops the disguise, he seems changed by the experience of playing “Poor Tom.” He behaves strangely for the rest of the play, working hard to trick Gloucester into believing he is committing suicide. Edgar never again returns to the sensible, happy young man he was before his banishment.