At the opening of the play, we see Edgar as a victim of Edmund's goal of becoming heir to the throne trying to remove Edgar, who is the legitimate son of their father. Edmund gets Edgar exiled from the kingdom. His father Gloucester says:
"Let him fly far!
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught,
and found - dispatch." (2.1.66-68)
Edgar gives the misconception that he is"mad" by becoming "Mad Tom" to survive. He grows in this role understanding how hard life can be. When Edgar finds Gloucester lost after he was blinded, he comforts and guides Gloucester to safety. Edgar with kindness indicates his compassion, understanding, and acceptance of his father's flaws despite his actions of outlawing him. Gloucester brings out a softer side of Edgar.
As the play continues, a darker side of Edgar is demonstrated. Inside Edgar's heart is a boiling hatred towards his brother, Edmund for what he did. There is a darker part of Edgar, but it was hidden behind his façade. These evil feelings start to be revealed when Edgar confronts Edmund to get revenge by calling a duel. As a result, Edgar kills Edmund and does not feel remorseful. From the beginning to the end, Edgar has not hurt a fly, but now he is letting his inner wickedness out. He accuses his brother saying:
"(Despite) thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valor, and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,...(5.3.160-162)
Finally at the end of the play, Edgar is one of the last characters standing, and is stronger than ever. He has gone from a victim to a survivor to a brave man throughout the storyline.
Edgar's brother Edmund also grows significantly in the play King Lear.
Edmund is one of the main characters that has a huge individual development throughout the play. When we are first introduced to Edmund, he is the bastard son who is seen as shameful. From there he development into one of the play's villains. Right from the start, he embraces his desires wholeheartedly and demonstrates his intentions in the play's storyline. His desires include; land and power, and he will go to extreme measures to achieve his goal.
One of Edmund's motivations is the desire to change his status from bastard son to heir to the throne. Edmund displays a selfish attitude when he says:
"A credulous father and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
My practices ride easy. I see the business.
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit." (1.2.187-191)
These actions show his selfishness towards his family. He will do anything to shift his status and the way he is perceived by his father. Edmund's first cruelty started with taking his brother's status and getting him exiled so that he could inch his way into a position of superiority. Edmund is very captivating to watch as a villain. He did not hesitate or flinch when it came to death or grief, but as the play begins to end, Edmund shows signs of change.
Near the end of the play, Edmund has a moment, when he realizes that Regan and Goneril had both died for him. Regan and Goneril, loved him and were trying to protect him, but instead they both end up dead as a result of fighting over his love. He starts to recognize their love for him when he reassures himself by saying,
"Yet Edmund was beloved.
The one the other poisoned for my sake,
And after slew herself." (5.3.287-289)
Edmund's recognition of being loved seems to make him regret every action he has committed over the course of the play. Every action, he has justified, but he cannot undo these mistakes. The grief and guilt he feels, drive Edmund to admit to ordering King Lear and Cordelia to their deaths. Edmund's change of heart makes the audience wonder, if he did these horrible actions, not because he was cruel, but because he wanted to be loved. The audience gets to see a softer side of Edmund that we have not ever seen before, so it makes us feel more sympathetic towards him. Maybe he was just looking to be loved, which he felt he was denied as a child. He wanted a bond of love and affection with someone, which he witness all his life between his father and Edgar. As Edmund recognizes his evil of ordering the killing of the King and Cordelia he tries to make amends by stopping the execution. Edmund demands,
"I pant for life. Some good I mean to do
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send—
Be brief in it—to th’ castle, for my writ
Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time." (5.3.291-295)
This gesture shows his attempt to make up for all of his cruel actions in the past, but it was too late. Cordelia had already been killed Edmund's effort shows his change of heart, and desire to do a kind deed. Perhaps he died at peace, having tried to correct some of the wrongs he had done.