ACT II – Scene.iii
On the heath, Edgar makes a soliloquy.
He has heard that he has been labeled a villain.
“Brought near to beast. My face I’ll grime with filfth,
Blanket my loins, elf all my hair in knots,
And with presented nakedness outface
The winds and persecutions of the sky.”
He changes his identity to a Bedlam beggar called Tom in order to secure his
survival. Thus Edgar makes the transfer to Tom the madman, from high to low station, from sanity to lunacy.
The superstitious people in Shakespeare’s time regarded lunatics as being
possessed by evil spirits, unable to feel pain, and they were usually shunned.
In taking this disguise, Edgar hopes he will be safe from capture from Gloucester and Cornwall’s men. There is a clear parallel here to Lear’s own loss of sanity, the difference being that Edgar will act insane, while madness seems to consume Lear brought on by events around him.
The last line of his soliloquy states that, “Edgar I nothing am”, telling
the audience that he has ceased to exist and he has been replaced by Poor Tom.