Thou, Nature, art my goddess, to thy law
My services are bound. (I.ii.)
In this speech, Edmund declares that he doesn’t care what the man-made law says. He will only obey the laws of nature. Because Edmund is a bastard, by nature he is his father’s son, but by law he is not. King Lear explores the question of where law and justice come from and whether there is such a thing as natural law.
Why brand they us
With base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base, base? (I.ii.)
Edmund is the villain of King Lear, but these lines encourage the reader to sympathize with him by showing how he is deeply hurt by the stigma of being a bastard. His repetition of “base” shows us the depth of his obsession with his status.
I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage the revenue. (I.ii.71-4)
This line is part of the lie Edmund tells his father Gloucester about Edmund’s half-brother Edgar. In Shakespeare’s day, when most wealth and power was inherited rather than earned, the question of whether aging men should continue to wield their power or pass it on was a subject of debate.