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On the Education of Edgar

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modern history
Boston College

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  1. Introduction
  2. The beginning of the play
  3. Edgar's realization that he is being hunted
  4. The education of Edgar and the final scene
  5. Conclusion

?For doubting pleases me no less than knowing.? This quote by Dante which Montaigne uses in his essays strikes at the heart of his ideas about education. He believes that the ancient ways of Aristotle, where one learns through the text of learned men, are outdated because it does not force one to think for themselves. When someone begins to doubt it means they are finally beginning to analyze and question the validity of what they have been told, and only in this way can achieve true knowledge. Montaigne further stresses that the best way to learn is through real life experiences, rather than being cooped up in a room with a tutor. This ?ancient? way of learning was the only thing that Edgar, from Shakespeare's ?King Lear?, ever knew. Growing up the son of a nobleman he was isolated from the world and his only true knowledge cam from what he had read in books or what was taught to him by tutors. As a consequence of this childhood, Edgar's naivety led to his banishment from the kingdom where he became disguised as a beggar roaming the countryside. Only when he became in contact with the real world as a beggar and not a nobleman did his education really begin.

[...] Edgar now is living beneath the sky in the wild and seeing the wickedness of man during his travels, begins to understand that there is more to learning that simply books. He even mocks rules that he had been taught by saying to the fool, ?Obey they parents, keep thy word's justice, swear not, commit not with man's sworn spouse, set not they sweet heart on proud array.?[7] The rules he was taught did not help him, but rather led him to having to leave the kingdom disguised to escape his own death. [...]

[...] The words of Gloucester strike a chord with Edgar when he despairingly says, flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods; they kill us for their sport.?[8] Edgar never knew that life could be so cruel while he was isolated during his childhood and now in the span of a few months he has seen his brother betray him and now finds his father blinded. However, when his father asks Edgar to lead him to a cliff at Dover to commit suicide, Edgar, for the first time, takes action. [...]

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