King Lear

Back to List of Characters


Oswald is a character in the renowned play King Lear written by William Shakespeare. He serves as a loyal and devoted servant to Goneril, one of Lear's treacherous daughters. Although Oswald's role may seem minor in comparison to other characters, his actions play a significant part in the overall plot and themes of the play.

Oswald's character is portrayed as a cunning and manipulative individual who is willing to go to great lengths to serve his mistress. He is often seen carrying out Goneril's deceitful plans, including mistreating Lear and his loyal followers. Oswald's loyalty to Goneril is unwavering, and he becomes a symbol of the corruption and betrayal that permeates the play.

One of the most memorable scenes involving Oswald is his encounter with the banished Kent, who is disguised as Caius. In this scene, Oswald underestimates Kent's intelligence and engages in a witty verbal exchange. Kent cleverly exposes Oswald's true nature, calling him a "base football player" and a "slave." This encounter highlights Oswald's arrogance and lack of respect for those he deems beneath him.

The Fatal Duel

Oswald's fate takes a dramatic turn when he becomes entangled in a fatal duel with Edgar, who is disguised as Poor Tom, a mad beggar. This climactic scene occurs towards the end of the play and showcases Oswald's final act of treachery.

As the duel unfolds, Oswald's true colors are revealed once again. He fights dirty, attempting to stab Edgar from behind, which ultimately leads to his own demise. Edgar manages to defend himself and mortally wounds Oswald, avenging the mistreatment of Lear and his loyal followers.

Oswald's character serves as a cautionary tale and symbolizes the consequences of blind loyalty and betrayal. Through his actions, Shakespeare presents the theme of moral decay and the corrupting influence of power. Oswald's demise serves as a reminder that deceit and treachery ultimately lead to downfall.

While Oswald may not be the most prominent character in King Lear," his presence and actions have a significant impact on the overall narrative. He represents the darker aspects of human nature and serves as a catalyst for the tragic events that unfold in the play.