Shades of Evil in King Lear

A comparison of the difference in characteristic villainy between Edmund, Goneril, and Regan in William Shakespeare’s King Lear.

This paper discusses how, in the first three acts of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, the evil trinity of Edmund, Goneril, and Regan rises to power and how we have an abundance of horror and pessimism as human decency gradually shrinks. It examines how it is to Shakespeare?s credit that, despite making his principal villains partners in their quest for power, he endows them with their own peculiar shades of evil. It looks at how, even though all three have their own idiosyncrasies to deal with, somehow they are never crude, stereotypical villains; each, in his own capacity, has a distinctive quality, which enhances the luster of the evil.
“These sycophantic words, which are repeated by Regan, are drenched in hypocrisy yet their purpose is to attain for themselves a portion of the kingdom. Who would not use a bit of flattery for such a reward? Thus, the two daughters are not exactly evil to begin with but more appropriately “hard-hearted” realists who will employ any and all means to get their share of the cake. They are very near to a modern go-getter. Even while arguing their case with Lear, their points are apparently more valid than his. It is true that he is old and choleric, his rages and temper are unpredictable and a source of problem. His retinue, especially if it follows the example Lear sets by assaulting Oswald, is likely to be a riotous lot. We almost find her common sense arguments plausible.”