Edmund Act 1 Scene 2 Monologue | Edmund King Lear Monologue
edmund monologue act 1 scene 2

Edmund (Act 1 Scene 2) Monologue

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked

If you’ve ever had to audition for a Shakespeare play or drama school, then you’ve no doubt come across Edmund’s “Thou Nature” monologue from Act 1 Scene 2 of King Lear. Edmund’s monologue is one of the most well known audition monologues out there. It is also one of the most poorly executed monologues and lends it’s self to overacting and over characterisation. We’re going to break down how to perform Edmund’s monologue to give you the best show at an audition.

Context. With any monologue the first step is understanding context. This begins with reading the play. You must read the play. I recommend the Arden, Oxford or RSC versions for Shakespeare. To buy: King Lear. Understanding the overall story means that you can understand where you fit within it. You learn more about the character and their motives. You simply have to read the play. If you have run out of time (feeble excuse) or just want to learn more about the play check out our page on King Lear.

About Edmund: Edmund is a bastard. In Shakespeare’s time this was a big deal. If you were born out of wedlock you were considered lesser, and had limited rights when it came to inheritance and more. Often described as an evil character, Edmund is cunning and ambitious. It’s not helpful to ever see a character as evil. It’s oversimplified. All characters operate using objectives – they go after what they want. Try to find what Edmund wants and why he acts like he does.

Monologue. Edmund’s monologue comes early on in the play (Act 1 Scene 2). It is directed at the audience (a soliloquy) and is the first insight we get into the motivations of Edmund. Edmund has spent his life being called illegitimate. He’s sick of it, and it’s his time to prove himself.

In this monologue he is discussing how he is as “legitimate” as his brother, who, simply because of when he was born, is considered better than Edmund. He talks about his ambition and his plan to take what he deserves.

Edmund Monologue [Full Text]

Edmund: Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me?
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? With baseness, bastardy? Base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th’ legitimate. Fine word-,’legitimate’!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper:
Now gods, stand up for bastards! Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me?
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? With baseness, bastardy? Base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th’ legitimate. Fine word-,’legitimate’!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper:
Now gods, stand up for bastards!

Unfamiliar Words

It’s always important to look up any unfamiliar words in order to understand a monologue. If you don’t know what you’re saying then the audience doesn’t have a hope. A great resource is Shakespeare’s Words, a Shakespeare-specific dictionary.

Nature: the laws of nature. It is the laws of men that call bastards lesser than legitimate sons. In nature everyone is equal.

Moonshines: months.

Legitimate: a son or daughter who is born whilst their parents are married.

Edmund Monologue in Action (Don’t copy)

Acting Tips

Enjoy the word legitimate. It’s used a lot so try to differentiate it each time you say it. Have fun with it. Remember it’s the word he hates more than any other.

It’s also important to always aim for clarity. When your auditioning the director, or teacher, wants to see that you understand the piece. Don’t try to overly characterise or emote.

edmund king lear monologue

About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk.Com. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

About the Author

Andrew Hearle

is the founder of StageMilk.Com. Andrew trained at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and is now a Sydney-based actor working in Theatre, Film and Television.

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