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In Act 3, Scene 4, King Lear asks Edgar – who is disguised as Poor Tom – “What hast thou been?” Edgar is in a position to make up anything he wants to at this moment, and his response is this:

A serving-man, proud in heart and mind; that curled my hair; wore gloves in my cap; served the lust of my mistress' heart, and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven: one that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it: wine loved I deeply, dice dearly: and in woman out-paramoured the Turk: false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey.

What is the effect of Edgar’s giving Poor Tom such a “villainous” history?

Select ALL that apply.


It causes us to question Edgar’s moral character.


It encourages us to see how Lear’s daughters’ actions have jaded him, since he is neither surprised nor disgusted by Poor Tom’s personal history.


It further develops Lear as a sympathetic character by showing depths to which he has sunk, since men such as this are his present companions.


It causes us to question, by virtue of comparison, whether Lear’s daughters are really so evil after all.


It exhibits an example of self-understanding – and maybe of self-forgiveness – that we can only hope Lear learns to mimic.

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