Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Melissa M. Caldwell


The courtiers Edmund and Edgar are critical to the action of King Lear, yet there has been little scholarship which has treated these characters in depth. I argue that one way to comprehend them and their significance in the play's action is to analyze their behavior according to the standards of the Renaissance conduct books that were circulating in England at the beginning of the seventeenth century when the play was written. Baldassare Castigligone's The Book of the Courtier, Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince, and Desiderius Erasmus's The Education of a Christian Prince each sheds light on important themes in Renaissance courtiership and statecraft from three different world views. Though the brothers' applications of these theories is different and their goals vary, Edmund and Edgar both exhibit in their speech and behavior counsel from all three conduct books at various points in the play. My study aims to promote a greater understanding of these characters and foreground their importance to the play and its themes for the casual reader, the scholar, and the playgoer, as well as the director of the play.