Presidential History Term Paper

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Shakespeare structures his play King Lear, the first scene reveals how frustrated Lear is with his younger daughter Cordelia, who cannot find the words on command to express her love for him.

This sets Lear up to place his trust in her two older and conniving sister, Goneril and Regan.

In the second scene, a similar situation begins to develop for the Earl of Gloucester, who has two sons.

His situation is more complicated.

All three of King Lear's daughters are born legitimately (within marriage) to him.

However, the Earl has one legitimate and one illegitimate son.

The legitimate son, Edgar, stands to inherit his father's title and property.

Edmund, as a bastard son, is not likely to inherit anything.

The Earl has not denied Edmund's parentage, but Edmund is painfully aware, and resentful of, his second class status.

As Scene ii of Act I opens, Edmund is in his father's castle, he speaks the following words:

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?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us

With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take

More composition and fierce quality

Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,

Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops

Got 'tween asleep and wake? -- Well then,

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:

Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund

As to the legitimate: fine word -- legitimate!

Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,

And my invention thrive, Edmund the base

Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper.

Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

In the opening of the speech, Edmund speaks of nature as his goddess:

Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law

My services are bound.

This suggests that he is resisting mainstream Christianity.

In his situation, as a bastard, this makes sense, for it is religious rules that call him a bastard.

Marriage is a religious sacrament.

Edgar is honored and an heir apparent to his father's title, lands, social standing and prestige because his mother and father were married, something not recognized anywhere else in nature except with humans.

It isn't a biological requirement of procreation, or else he would not exist.

He sees it as an artificial construct.

This opening line also reveals that he is willing to think outside of society's typical boundaries.

He has access to power because his father has not denied him, but because society denies him status, he is within the ring of power but does not feel society's constraints in the same way others do.

He describes those customs as a plague:

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?

He suggests that had he been born first, his would have been the legitimate birth, and it would have been Edgar's mother who conceived outside the bounds of marriage.

He sees his second-class status as a matter of timing.

All of this comes across as rationalization to the reader, and rationalization serves the purpose of justifying some action that would otherwise not be justifiable.

Edward is telling the reader or play viewer that he can act with fewer restraints than others.

He continues with his argument that he is no worse than those considered his betters:

Why bastard? wherefore base?

When my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true

As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us

With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?

He uses natural, not social status, traits, again, to make the argument, defending his view that in the natural order of things, without society's rules, there would be no difference between him and his legitimate brother.

He sees himself as just as good-looking as his brother, and just as intelligent, as Edgar, and rants about the ugly terms applied to his situation.

Then he goes further, and compares the circumstances of…[continue]

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