Shakespeare has written dozens of plays and in each one he has included some of the most complex characters ever put on stage. Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth are just a few examples of these great characters that will always remain in our memories. However, standing beside the complex main characters in plays such as King Lear and Hamlet, there are secondary characters of equal, if not greater complexity. In King Lear, secondary characters such as Edmund, Edgar, and Cordelia are directly responsible many of the extreme changes that occur during the play and it is their complexity as human characters that allows them to do this.
The many antagonists that have appeared in Shakespeare's plays have always been fairly rounded and complex. However, Edmund is one of the most complex villains in any of Shakespeare's plays. For one thing, Edmund chose to become a villain because the world sees him as being worthless, not only because he is not in line for the title of Earl of Gloucester, but also because he is a bastard. Most villains in Shakespeare's plays are villains from the beginning to the end. Edmund sees himself as an equal to his brother Edgar and wishes that his father also understand this. By plotting against the livelihood against his own father and brother, Edgar not only wishes to gain the wealth and title that come with the Earl of Gloucester, but he also seeks respect. Shakespeare has given Edmund a method behind his madness. As the play progresses, Edmund sees the kingdom collapsing and instead of helping to put in back together, as Cordelia, Edgar, and Kent are doing, he tries to consolidate power into his own hands. After Cornwall dies, he takes command of the armies and defeats the French invading army. He has illicit affairs with Regan and Goneril, who are married. The result of these affairs causes the two sisters to become overwhelming jealous, and in the end, we find out that Regan poisoned Goneril in order to... [continues]
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