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ACT V, SCENE 1
The battle between England and France is about to begin. Regan has made Edmund the general of her forces. As the scene opens she speaks to Edmund about her love for him; but she also questions him about Goneril. Edmund denies any interest in her and professes undying love and loyalty to Regan. Regan still warns him about the guile of her sister.
Albany and Goneril arrive with their army. Goneril, noticing the rapport between Regan and Edmund, decides that she would rather lose the battle than allow her sister to win Edmund. Albany declares that his sole intention in the battle is to repel the invasion of Britain. Edgar comes in and gives Albany the letter from Goneril, written to Edmund; it is the one he had received from Oswald. He leaves before Albany opens the letter. Edmund enters, says that the battle is about to begin and asks for Albany's presence on the battlefield. Albany exits, leaving Edmund alone on the stage.
Edmund unfolds his evil plans in a soliloquy. If Goneril does not first kill her husband, he plans to send Albany into battle, making sure that he is killed there. He will also have the King and Cordelia captured during the battle. His plan is to kill Lear and become the King of England himself. He is unsure who should be his queen. Having made advances to both Regan and Goneril, he knows they are both enamored with him. He also knows if he marries one, it will make the other very angry. If both sisters remain alive, his difficulty will be great; therefore, he must soon choose and act.
Albany, now a representative of good, clearly states that his only intention in battle is to repel the French invaders; his plan is to make sure that Lear and Cordelia are protected. Edmund is a sharp contrast to him. He shows himself to be an opportunistic, double- dealing manipulator, who encourages both Goneril and Regan's affections for him. As the sisters vie for his love, Edmund schemes for his future. He wants to make sure that Albany is killed, either by Goneril or in battle; he will also make certain that Lear is captured and killed. Then by marrying one of the sisters, Edmund plans to make himself King of England.
Edgar comes into the scene briefly to hand over to Albany the letter that Goneril has written to Edmund. He does not wait for it to be opened or read. Edgar, quickly departing, will next appear in the final scene of the play as the defender of righteousness.