EDMUND: I pant for life. Some good I mean to do. Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send—Be brief in it—to th’ castle, for my writ. Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia. Nay, send in time! (Act 5, Sc. 3 L 244).
What would have been one of Edmund’s last lines, was a huge moment in the text to me. I thought it was interesting and ironic that he felt he needed to do something good in his life, on his deathbed. Edmund was always one of those characters in the story that I felt wasn’t necessarily bad, but wasn’t always good in his intentions. Right after Regan and Goneril were killed by one another, Edmund reflected on how loved he was by the two sisters and how he had promised himself to both sisters, which then clarifies the reasoning for the sisters treatment of each other and their deaths. He also shares with the others the plan that entailed Lear and Cordelia being killed, while the other characters might have believed them to be just being questioned by law or in custody. I feel as if a lot is revealed in this moment from Edmunds words, and truly showed the power that Edmund held along with Goneril and Regan.
I really wanted to take a look at the different summaries on study aid websites on this part of the story and how they describe it. To my surprise, each of them included this part of the story differently; one didn’t even mention Edmunds statement and gave the credit to Albany.
On a website called Lit Charts, the guide mentioned that the Edmund was the one that orders them to go after Lear and Cordelia and save them from the plan that he had helped orchestrate. While fairly vague, this summary mentions Edmund being involved in the act and the remorse that he felt and his intention to do an act of good to correct his plan to kill the King and Cordelia. On Shmoop, the study aide stated in the summary that Edmund – whom is seconds from death – confesses that he ordered his captain to have Lear and Cordelia killed. Then shares that Albany must send troops quickly to save them. Lastly, on a summer on Cliff Notes the writer that wrote the summary didn’t even mention Edmund, instead he stating that Albany is the one that ordered the troops to intervene and stop the attack on the King and Cordelia.
I think that each of the study aides prioritize content in their own ways. On Shmoop the study guide is much more detailed and gives priority to Edmund and his claims on his death bed, it seems to be giving Edmund more power. However, I find it really interesting and strange that Cliff Notes doesn’t even mention Edmund in their summary of the passage. As I am using these aides to help me further understand the passages, I believe its important to not rely on their statements on the text, because in this example they are often claiming two different things. We cannot fully rely on the accuracy of the analysis, because two people may see things much differently when reading the text.
When Albany discovers Goneril’s plan to have both Lear and Cordelia murdered, he quickly orders an officer to intercede – Cliff Notes
But then Edmund (who’s not quite dead yet) decides to do something good for a change. He suddenly confesses that he ordered his captain to have Lear and Cordelia killed. If Albany sends someone lickety-split to stop the Captain, maybe they can save Cordelia from being hanged. – Shmoop
Edmund, saying he would like to do some good before he dies, orders them to send someone quickly to the king and his daughter—for he has written instructions for his Captain to kill them – Lit Charts