In the play King Lear, Edmund starts out as the amoral antagonist of the subplot. However, by the conclusion, he is the overall villain of the piece causing much strife for the protagonists. Like most traditional villains, he is driven by his ambitions of wealth and power, so much so that he is totally insensitive to those around him, He sees people only in terms of being an aid or an obstacle to his goals. As his ambitions heighten, his views on who is an aid to be utilised and who is an obstacle to be overcome change, and almost all the plays main characters feature in his plans.
When we first see Edmund he is nothing more than the bastard son of Gloucester. However, we soon learn he has ambitious plans to rise above this degrading status. The means by which he intends to do so shows us the utter insensitivity of Edmund towards the state of his family. With his intention to deceive his father and brother, he is turning his family against itself all in the name of becoming heir to his father’s title and wealth. The framing of his brother for conspiracy to commit patricide shows he has no scruples about what becomes of his own family members, as long as it serves a purpose in his plans.
While his father had just proved to be of use to Edmund, he soon is seen as an obstacle, as Edmund’s desire is to have his father’s title sooner rather than later. Remorselessly, Edmund plots the betrayal of his father to Cornwall, to both dismiss his father as an obstruction and gain himself a powerful ally in the form of Cornwall. Utilising Cornwall’s allegiance, Edmund is awarded his father’s title just as he had wished.
While Cornwall was an instrument in his rise to power, Edmund shows no difficulty in seducing Regan, his wife after his death. This insensitivity cannot even be justified by legitimate feelings for Regan as Edmund makes his insincerity clear to the audience by attempting to simultaneously court her sister Goneril and contemplating which one he will have,...