“(aside) If I find him comforting the king, it will stuff his suspicion more fully. (to CORNWALL) I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.” -Edmund (3.5 18-21)
In the new movie Maleficent, a portrayal of Sleeping Beauty from a very different angle, Stefan hopes to be heir to the dying king. The king hates Maleficent for her powers in nature, which he finds threatening to his mere royal rights as king, and states that whoever will bring Maleficent down from her power may rule his kingdom. Stefan, once a good friend and perhaps young lover of Maleficent, spends a wonderful day with her and ends it by giving her a sleeping potion and proceeds to cut off her wings as she dreams (You can skip to 1:50). Without her wings, she is far more vulnerable, and Stefan is able to convince the king that he has killed Maleficent with the evidence of her wings, though she remains alive and now bitter in her place in the forest.
This newly adapted Disney portrayal reminds me of the extent to which Edmund goes to obtain the land of his father, Gloucester. Both Edmund and Maleficent’s Stefan hold a deep greed for land and power. So deep in fact, that they are willing to cast away a loved one in exchange. Edmund does so by causing harm to both his brother Edgar and his father. Gloucester is deceived into believing Edgar is out to kill him for his land, when in reality Edmund is the culprit. In addition, Edgar must disguise himself as a beggar, a lunatic, to avoid the death that is promised if he is found. Initially, both Edgar and Gloucester had trusted that Edgar was helping them out.
Throughout Maleficent, Stefan develops a need to have the life of Maleficent ended to feel comfortable in his role of power, and sends his knights to fight her. Similarly, Edmund has found a way to discard of his father through revealing Gloucester’s hopes to help the king, and to sentence his brother to death upon finding. This need for power and possession has disturbed the characters in both stories to become cunning and evil. What is their need for such power that could influence them to act so wrongly?
Until this point at least, neither Stefan (from Maleficent) or Edmund (from King Lear) have sought to outrightly kill their betrayed loved ones with their own hands, yet they have no issue with the murders resulting from someone else. If they are able to conjure cruel enough schemes for the death of their ‘loved ones’ from someone else, why have they not created plans that allowed them to kill them on their own and make it look like it was necessary? Would you perceive Edmund any differently if he were personally killing his own father and his own brother with his hands rather than setting them up to be killed by someone else? Either way he is attempting murder, but does his roundabout way change how we view him?