Shakespeare, single moms, and the illegitimate

'King Lear''s Edmund is depicted as a villain and as someone who came into existence due to lust, that word which is much connected to Satan.

Mother holding baby
Photo by: REUTERS/Erik de Castro
Some years ago, I was a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Languages and Translation, Al-Azhar University, Egypt.  In English literature, we were studying King Lear, and although I liked the play, there was an important point I didn't get. Namely, what is the meaning of legitimate and illegitimate sons or daughters? What does Edmund in King Lear mean by bastard and legitimate when he says:

Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops
Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th' legitimate. Fine word- 'legitimate'!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th' legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

The two words "bastard" and "legitimate" are repeated so many times in the monologue and with different synonyms. Edmund looks so sad and depressed, but why?

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