King Lear

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

Summary Five Key Questions

2) Why does Edmund hate his family?

When we first meet him, Edmund stands by while Gloucester calls him a “whoreson,” and jokes about the fact that Edmund is his illegitimate son. In addition to knowing Gloucester has no respect for him, Edmund knows that his illegitimate status means he stands no chance of inheriting his father’s position. Edmund is obsessed with the stigma of being a “bastard.” He repeats words relating to bastardy over and over again: “Why brand they us / With base? With baseness, bastardy? Base, base?” (I.ii). Edmund believes that he is as good or better than his legitimate brother Edgar, and he sets out to prove his worth, even if doing so means destroying his family. His success in this project suggests that Edmund may be right to think he is smarter and more ambitious than Edgar. Edmund comes close to becoming king, while Edgar is reluctant to rule when he is offered the chance at the end of the play.