"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


Edmund’s Plot

Act I, Scene II

“A credulous father, and a brother noble—
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none”


Act I Scene II

“Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!”

Edmund, the illegitimate son of Gloucester, plots to undermine his legitimate half-brother, Edgar, with a fake letter which seems to show Edgar planning to kill Gloucester. Before Gloucester enters, Edmund delivers a revealing soliloquy, one in which he bemoans society’s lack of respect for illegitimate sons.

Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom and permit The curiosity of nations to deprive me”

When Gloucester enters after Edmund finishes his  soliloquy, he pretends to hide the letter, drawing his father’s curiosity. Gloucester demands to read it, while Edmund hesitates at first to stoke his father’s interest and concern. This delays serves only to deepen the impact of the forgery on Gloucester, who believes after reading it that his son Edgar is plotting to murder him to quicken his inheritance of lands and wealth:



“O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter!
Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain.”

Completing the Circle of Manipulation

Edmund swears to deal with the matter in his father’s interest and after Gloucester leaves, Edgar soon arrives. Edmund asks Edgar if he has seen their father and carefully warns him to avoid Gloucester, as he tells Edgar that their father is “raging” at him. He also advises him to be ‘armed’ if he travels outside

“Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him.
And at my entreaty forbear his presence till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure,”

“Brother, I advise you to the best. Go armed.
I am no honest man if there be any good meaning towards you.”

The scene ends with Edmund pleased that both Edgar and Gloucester are fully under the control of his contrived story and are convinced of the dangers.

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