Tragic Adversaries in King Lear: Aspects of Tragedy

Shakespeare clearly sets out the intentions of the tragic adversary with Edmund’s soliloquy in Act one. This soliloquy is used as a  way of revealing the private, unseen motives and thoughts of the tragic villain, thus setting up later dramatic irony. This is vital in the tragic experience, as the audience is moved through pity and fear for the insidious and inevitable fall of the hero- the treachery against Gloucester, but also against Lear. The invocation used in this soliloquy “now gods, stand up for us bastards” is imbued with tragic implication and power. In this pagan play- Shakespeare now adds an element of divine intervention, another force in bringing down the King. But, also the language is defiant “us bastards” and it is here that Shakespeare sets out the subversive intentions of Edmund as the tragic adversary.


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