Loyalty in King Lear
Obviously Goneril, Regan and Edmund did not bear the best interests of their parents in mind when they lied to their parents concerning their intentions and those of their siblings. In addition to the lying and deceit, though, were darker schemes.
Goneril and Regan’s greed and envy had grown to such a state that they began plotting the assassination of their father the king, and eventually, he died as a result of their growing hatred and lack of loyalty. King Lear did not realize until just before his death--at a time too late to rekindle the relationship--that it was Cordelia who had been most deserving of her father’s kingdom, as she was the one loyal and honest enough to risk a father’s wrath, a prevelent theme in Shakespeare's works.
In the same manner, Edmund’s disloyalty became obvious as he began to take part in the scheming of Goneril and Regan. He failed the test of loyalty when it came to defending his brother (which he failed to do), and he failed the test of loyalty when it came to defending the king to whom he was required to show allegiance. And lastly, he failed to show loyalty to his own father, both in defending or avenging him, following Cornwall’s gouging of his eyes.
Even in deceit, Edmund fails to demonstrate loyalty to Goneril and Regan, his partners in crime. He attempts to turn the two against each other, supposedly in an effort to eventually win the crown and the throne. He says, “To both these sisters have I sworn my love; Each jealous of the other, as the stung are of the adder.” . Chillingly, he reveals his plan: to kill one or both of the sisters in order to achieve his goals. He adds to his speech by saying, “Neither can be enjoyed if both remain alive. To take the widow exasperates, makes mad . . .” Edmund remains rotten to the core throughout, demonstrating further Shakespeare’s efforts to bring out the subject of loyalty and deceit in King Lear.