Edmund (King Lear) - Wikipedia
that Lear is very superficial, and he offers to help Lear look beneath the surface of relationship between natural and unnatural affections and the inability of Lear and .. As the messenger of King Lear, Kent expects to be treated with a certain. Everything you ever wanted to know about Earl of Kent in King Lear, written by masters of this stuff just for you. The Earl of Kent is an old man who has served Lear faithfully for years, and is one He is horrified at the King's treatment of Cordelia, and tells Lear what he thinks and goes to the French camp to inform them of this and help them find him.
The play depicts a crisis in heteronormativity, an institution centered on an ideal of male masculinity which finds an enabling and confirming other in female femininity. That social institution is depicted as dangerous to heterosexual men because women can refuse to confirm masculinity, assume masculine qualities themselves, and effeminize men.
The play offers a cure for the failings of the heteronormative model in retraction into an all-male world from the troubled heterosexual sphere. In the mad scenes on the heath, a mock theater is created that offers therapy in the form of love between men, a love laced with queer allusiveness.
The play portrays heterosexuality as a weakness that has harmful effects on men. The incestuous character of his demands on his daughters is made evident when Cordelia points out that his desire for expressions of affection trespasses upon the rights of a husband. Rather than be an identity, heterosexuality consists of a relation or an exchange, whereby male masculinity is confirmed by its other, the feminine — submissive and passive — woman.
It is what it is not. At the limit where the heterosexual male and the heterosexual female meet, there is always a margin of error where something needed can be lacking, where a required repetition that confirms by recognizing fails to occur. If women are the soft spot of the heteronormative regime, its point of proof as well as of vulnerability, it is because the exchange relationship that characterizes that system is reversible.
Men can be feminized by masculine women. In a world shaped by the dictates of heteronormativity, the feminization of men by women results in a depletion of personal power and social authority.
In a world organized around aggressive relations between contending sites of male power — a fact emphasized in the play in references to possible strife between such players as Albany and Cornwall — the need to survive as masculine men dictates the subordination of weak characteristics such as tearful emotionality and the privileging of strong ones such as a capacity for martial combat.
That these characteristics should be assumed in heteronormative culture to be distributed along biological gender lines is not surprising. What is innovative about the play is that it suggests that those characteristics may not be distributed along the lines of sexual object choice. Kent and Edgar, the strong masculine men who save the kingdom, apparently love men not women. In the play, a dangerous and destructive feminization of men occurs when women assume traditionally masculine powers.
This places the masculinity of men like Lear, who are dependent on confirmation by feminine women of their masculine identity under the heteronormative regime, in jeopardy. Their feminization is figured in the play as madness—a loss of the reason that distinguishes masculinity from emotional and bodily femininity. By entering the realm of uncontrolled bodily and emotional processes, he abandons the realm of principle, reason, and law — the realm assigned men in the play and in patriarchal culture generally.
He breaks his quasi-legal agreement with Burgundy to provide land as dowry for Cordelia, and he subverts the principles of fairness and justice by depriving her of everything for nothing.
The price he pays for behaving like a woman is to become a woman. He can now be had from behind by his phallic daughter's "rod. The dangerously feminizing dependence inscribed in heterosexuality provokes a rejection of women, the agents of feminization, and a separation of the heroic male characters from the danger heterosexual women represent.
Queer Lear: A gender studies reading of Shakespeare's King Lear | Michael Ryan - dayline.info
Edgar and Kent, the two characters most capable of masculine strength, are also those most associated with a healing queer autarchy in regard to women. Kent stands up to bullying by Goneril and Regan, while Edgar's decisive capacity for martial violence against Edmund distinguishes his masculinity from that of the effeminized old king, who in one crucial moment is incapable of saying what violence he will wreak on his daughters: If the phallic woman feminizes Lear, deprives him of power, and transforms him into a sexual servant, Lear discovers in Kent someone who subordinates himself to Lear in both a political and a sexual manner.
While such plays on words like "service" seem less obvious to us now, in court on St. Stephen's Night,they would have been quite clear to the queers in the audience, including King James himself. Indeed, such a pun provides a perfect metaphor for the closet in which those queers lived—an obvious meaning and a hidden meaning, one straight, one queer, that would have perfectly summed up their experience of the world.
Edgar is the character who is most representative of a queer masculinity that heals Lear and the state much as James imagined himself healing an England harmed by his female predecessor, the Goneril-like man-woman Elizabeth I. Lear learns from him not to trust women in the way that he has up to that point. Edgar also offers the king the possibility of being placed in a subordinate feminine sexual position without suffering humiliation.
Edgar undergoes with Lear an experience of liquefaction that is a metaphor for queer intercourse. Water is also a metaphor for the dissolving of masculine heterosexual identity by women and for the overwhelming of reason by eyeless emotion.
That a figure like water with two quite opposed meanings might exist at the heart of the play is to be expected, since identity forms itself out of undifferentiated matter, and the play depicts a loss of identity and a return to matter humankind's bare forked animal condition.
To lose the "additions" that make one a king is to fall back into that state of undifferentiated nature in which social identity dissolves and masculinity and femininity merge. It is a fitting condition for Lear, who has lost his masculine heterosexual identity and been feminized by masculine women. But water also suggests the instability and fluidity of gender, as does the metaphor of theatricality and role-playing.
Edgar's acting suggests his malleability and the possibility of a change in identity. In a similar way, all Lear has to do is take off his clothes, allow himself to be soaked, and he is transformed from mad emasculated hetero to gayly happy homo. From dissolution a new identity can be formed, and Lear's new identity is, like Edgar's, a queer one.
He can now be as feminine as he wants with his beloved "Athenian.
He is with people who love him, and they are all men. The free-floating, contingent, and theatrical quality of gender becomes a resource for redemption.
Nevertheless, in the end, Lear is repositioned in relation to a woman, Cordelia. Does the play evoke queerness only to abandon it? Does it succumb to closetting in the end in ultimate deference to heterosexual norms? That Cordelia is a part played by a boy actor and that her character forms a continuum with a healing homosocial male companion — the Fool — suggests how cannily Shakespeare inserts a queer sub-text into this play, one that would have allowed the court audience to see a literal story of queer love while nevertheless respecting the rules of heteronormativity by endorsing the theatrical convention and the mimetic illusion that a boy is a woman.Shakespeare: King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)
With Kent and Edgar, the Fool is a figure suggestive of homosexuality who was likely played by a boy. Both are romanticized figures of affection untainted by expediency, another quality that suggests continuity between them.
King Lear Characters
The Fool remains loyal to Lear when it is foolish to do so, even in his own cynical terms. Their generosity recalls James' own reckless generosity towards those he loved. The two characters represent a gift economy at odds with the harsh exchange economy of the Parliamentarians who were hounding James over the high cost of his court, an exchange economy present in the opening act of the play, when Lear demands a return for his investment in his daughters.
In one sense, Lear's tragedy is that he becomes too like the Parliamentarians, and he is saved by the very James-like gift-giving generosity of the Fool and of Cordelia. The continuity between the Fool and Cordelia suggests some of the complexity of queer experience at the time as well as its closeted character, while also embodying the difficult representational strategies Shakespeare was obliged to adopt.
A play about the benefits of homosexuality in a queer-repressive heteronormative culture must necessarily try to have it both ways—displaying yet hiding-- while having it neither way in the pure form. Its queer argument is necessarily oblique and double-voiced, a mix of metaphor and literal image.
But literally, of course, on St. Stephen's Night, she would have been a boy dressed as a woman in the arms of an older man, a visual signal the queer king and his young queer lover would have had to be blind not to notice. Their hearts burst asunder, and their love for each other is manifest. The pathological masculinity he initially represents is now replaced by a new gender identity that includes femininity.
If women have been like men in the play, men now become like women, and no one seems to mind. Culturally certified traits shuttle back and forth. The play is at its most gender-radical when it seems to suggest that those traits have no biological home in physical gender. Lear's transformation from hyper-hetero male at the outset to infirm, emotionally vulnerable femme queer by the end is a way of insisting that gender has no bio-ontology. Masculinity is not the exclusive province of men, nor is femininity exclusive to women.
As we know James to have been queer yet married, we know Edgar to love men, yet he must, like James, stand up in a public forum at the end of the play and pretend to submit to the customs and assumptions of heteronormativity. That no sign of that mandate is evident no woman is present in the final scene suggests just how grudgingly it is accepted.
But it is there nonetheless, inscribed in the anti-sodomy laws and in the religious culture that could not tolerate queer coupling. Only in such enclaves as the theater and the court was a queer subculture possible because only under assumed roles or with the permission of the king could men act out their love for one other. The hovel—hidden and out of view—to which the Edgar and Lear retreat is the appropriate spatial metaphor for that closetted condition, just as madness provides the hidden language of queers in the play, a way for queer love to speak itself without censorship or judgment.
The real tragedy of Lear is that of the queer who must live out the forms of heteronormativity, acting all the time, while yet experiencing feelings that must remain silent. That straight-passing was so mandatory in so closeted a culture allows us to understand the double voiced character of the play. Ostensibly a tragedy about a king who is mistreated by women, it is also a coded message to King James on St.
Stephen's Night,expressing sympathy for the drubbing James was taking from the English Parliament regarding sustenance and expressing—what shall we call it? Origins[ edit ] Shakespeare's source for the subplot of Edmund, Edgar and Gloucester was a tale from Philip Sidney 's Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia of a blind Paphlagonian king and his two sons, Leonatus and Plexitrus.
Following the death of Malcolm III from being stabbed in the eye, they ordered the killing of Edmund's half brother Duncan II, the rightful heir, to take the Scottish throne. Edgar, Edmund's younger brother, then returned to Scotland and defeated them to become King.
Edmund was then sent to an English monastery where he later died. Due to these clear parallels the choice of Edmund and Edgar as names may have been a nod by Shakespeare to the continued story of the Scottish throne following the events of Macbeth. Analysis[ edit ] Gloucester's younger, illegitimate son is an opportunistic, short-sighted character  whose ambitions lead him to form a union with Goneril and Regan.
The injustice of Edmund's situation fails to justify his subsequent actions, although at the opening of the play when Gloucester explains Edmund's illegitimacy in his hearing to Kent, with coarse jokes, the audience can initially feel sympathetic towards him, until his true character is revealed.
Like Shylock and his "Has not a Jew eyes? Edmund rejects the laws of state and society in favour of the laws he sees as eminently more practical and useful: But Edmund has some solid economic impetus for his actions, and he acts from a complexity of reasons, many of which are similar to those of Goneril and Regan.