Act II - Scene III

A wood.

[Enter Edgar]

I heard myself proclaimed;
And by the happy hollow of a tree
Escaped the hunt. No port is free; no place,
That guard, and most unusual vigilance,
Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may 'scape,(5)
I will preserve myself: and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury, in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast: my face I'll grime with filth;
Blanket my loins: elf all my hair in knots;(10)
And with presented nakedness out-face
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
Strike in their numbed and mortified bare arms(15)
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
And with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with prayers,
Enforce their charity. Poor Turlygod! poor Tom!(20)
That's something yet: Edgar I nothing am.

[Exit Edgar.]


  1. Having removed his fine clothes and dressed himself as a bedlam beggar, Edgar takes the final step in acquiring his new identity: choosing a name for himself. Edgar becomes Poor Tom to better protect himself from those who seek to hunt him down.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. When Edgar says that he will “blanket [his] loins” and “elf all [his] hair in knots,” this means that he will wear a loincloth and make his hair matted and tangled. This will help Edgar disguise himself as a beggar, which will certainly differ from his appearance as a nobleman. However, consider Edgar’s disguise in comparison to Kent’s. Neither disguise should really fool those who know them well, and yet they seem to—again showing how much certain characters lack insight.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Edgar’s disguise transforms his appearance into one that is almost animal-like. Edgar’s removal of his fine clothes symbolizes his being stripped down in power and status.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The word “nothing” makes another appearance as Edgar throws off his clothes in favor of a disguise as a bedlam beggar, or madman. Note that unlike Lear, Edgar has chosen to act mad rather than becoming so. However, it is worth noting that both have found paths to madness as a means of dealing with the disintegration of their own lives.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor