Act 1, Scene 2 Notes from King Lear

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King Lear Act 1, Scene 2

Edmund enters the scene alone. He reveals that his illegitimacy is indeed a sore spot in his life. He calls on nature, the laws of might, wit and cunning, to stand by him. He promises to serve them.

Topic Tracking: The Natural Order 2

"Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base?"
Act 1, Scene 2, lines 1-6

He begins to wonder, publicly, why his brother is so deserving of everything, just because his brother was the accident of a proper birth. Edmund decides he needs to do something about this natural order and be clever enough to take everything. He calls on the gods to witness his resolve.

Topic Tracking: Age 3

Gloucester comes on stage and Edmund quickly returns to the sweet, unassuming son we were introduced to in the beginning. Yet Edmund now is pretending, obviously, to hide some sort of letter in his hand and intentionally stimulates his father's interest. Not surprisingly, Gloucester inquires what it is Edmund his hiding, but Edmund simply replies: "Nothing, my lord." (line 31) His "nothing" sounds strangely similar to Cordelia's "nothing" from the previous scene.

Gloucester insists, and Edmund finally concedes, willingly. The letter in hand is not a sincere letter at all; rather, a forged note from his brother, Edgar. The letter begins with a rejection of the natural order, the tradition that says a son must wait for his parent to die to come into his inheritance. The letter suggests instead that the two brothers should unite together to share in their father's property and belongings while still of a young age.

Gloucester quickly questions the validity of the letter, asking question after question. But Edmund insists that the letter is indeed written in Edgar's handwriting, and that he's even heard his brother demand that sons should replace fathers at a given age. At that point, Edmund gets what he wants. Gloucester declares that Edgar is a villain!

Topic Tracking: Age 4

But Gloucester still thinks there are other forces at work here. He has more faith than that in his son--he does not declare a final sentence on Edgar. Instead, he orders Edmund to provide more evidence.

Edmund snickers at his father's gullibility and is in a jovial mood when Edgar comes into the scene. He is mocking his father. Edmund, becoming more and more the villain, convinces Edgar that he has raised his father's ire and is about to get into some trouble. Edgar believes his brother, falling into the trap. He goes to his chambers to await more news of the case being made against him. Edmund advises him not to go anywhere unarmed.

Topic Tracking: Vision 2

Edmund, at the close of the scene, is riding high and enjoying the folly that his false story is causing.

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