King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. It is considered one of his greatest works. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king. It has been widely adapted for stage and screen, with the part of Lear played by many of the world's most accomplished actors.
Enter Kent, Gloucester and Edmund.
KENT.I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
GLOUCESTER.It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for qualities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety.
KENT.Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER.His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blush’d to acknowledge him that now I am braz’d to’t.
KENT.I cannot conceive you.
GLOUCESTER.Sir, this young fellow’s mother could; whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
KENT.I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
GLOUCESTER.But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
EDMUND.No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER.My Lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.
EDMUND.My services to your lordship.
KENT.I must love you, and sue to know you better.
EDMUND.Sir, I shall study deserving.
GLOUCESTER.He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The King is coming.
Enter Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia and Attendants.
LEAR.Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,Gloucester.
GLOUCESTER.I shall, my lord.
[Exeunt Gloucester and Edmund.]
LEAR.Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.Give me the map there. Know that we have dividedIn three our kingdom: and ’tis our fast intentTo shake all cares and business from our age;Conferring them on younger strengths, while weUnburden’d crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,And you, our no less loving son of Albany,We have this hour a constant will to publishOur daughters’ several dowers, that future strifeMay be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my daughters,—Since now we will divest us both of rule,Interest of territory, cares of state,—Which of you shall we say doth love us most?That we our largest bounty may extendWhere nature doth with merit challenge.—Goneril,Our eldest born, speak first.
GONERIL.Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter;Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;Beyond what can be valu’d, rich or rare;No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;As much as child e’er lov’d, or father found;A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA.[Aside.] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
LEAR.Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d,With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s issueBe this perpetual.—What says our second daughter,Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall? Speak.
REGAN.Sir, I am made of the self mettle as my sister,And prize me at her worth. In my true heartI find she names my very deed of love;Only she comes too short, that I professMyself an enemy to all other joysWhich the most precious square of sense possesses,And find I am alone felicitateIn your dear highness’ love.
CORDELIA.[Aside.] Then poor Cordelia,And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’sMore ponderous than my tongue.
LEAR.To thee and thine hereditary everRemain this ample third of our fair kingdom;No less in space, validity, and pleasureThan that conferr’d on Goneril.—Now, our joy,Although the last and least; to whose young loveThe vines of France and milk of BurgundyStrive to be interess’d; what can you say to drawA third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
CORDELIA.Nothing, my lord.
LEAR.Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
CORDELIA.Unhappy that I am, I cannot heaveMy heart into my mouth: I love your majestyAccording to my bond; no more nor less.
LEAR.How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,Lest you may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA.Good my lord,You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me: IReturn those duties back as are right fit,Obey you, love you, and most honour you.Why have my sisters husbands if they sayThey love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carryHalf my love with him, half my care and duty:Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,To love my father all.
LEAR.But goes thy heart with this?
CORDELIA.Ay, my good lord.
LEAR.So young, and so untender?
CORDELIA.So young, my lord, and true.
LEAR.Let it be so, thy truth then be thy dower:For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,The mysteries of Hecate and the night;By all the operation of the orbs,From whom we do exist and cease to be;Here I disclaim all my paternal care,Propinquity and property of blood,And as a stranger to my heart and meHold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,Or he that makes his generation messesTo gorge his appetite, shall to my bosomBe as well neighbour’d, pitied, and reliev’d,As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT.Good my liege,—
LEAR.Peace, Kent!Come not between the dragon and his wrath.I lov’d her most, and thought to set my restOn her kind nursery. [To Cordelia.] Hence and avoid my sight!So be my grave my peace, as here I giveHer father’s heart from her! Call France. Who stirs?Call Burgundy! Cornwall and Albany,With my two daughters’ dowers digest this third:Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.I do invest you jointly with my power,Pre-eminence, and all the large effectsThat troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,With reservation of an hundred knights,By you to be sustain’d, shall our abodeMake with you by due turn. Only we shall retainThe name, and all the addition to a king; the sway,Revenue, execution of the rest,Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,This coronet part between you.
[Giving the crown.]
KENT.Royal Lear,Whom I have ever honour’d as my king,Lov’d as my father, as my master follow’d,As my great patron thought on in my prayers.—
LEAR.The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
KENT.Let it fall rather, though the fork invadeThe region of my heart: be Kent unmannerlyWhen Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour’s boundWhen majesty falls to folly. Reverse thy state;And in thy best consideration checkThis hideous rashness: answer my life my judgement,Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;Nor are those empty-hearted, whose low soundsReverb no hollowness.
LEAR.Kent, on thy life, no more.
KENT.My life I never held but as a pawnTo wage against thine enemies; ne’er fear to lose it,Thy safety being the motive.
LEAR.Out of my sight!
KENT.See better, Lear; and let me still remainThe true blank of thine eye.
LEAR.Now, by Apollo,—
KENT.Now by Apollo, King,Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
LEAR.O vassal! Miscreant!
[Laying his hand on his sword.]
ALBANY and CORNWALL.Dear sir, forbear!
KENT.Kill thy physician, and the fee bestowUpon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
LEAR.Hear me, recreant! on thine allegiance, hear me!Since thou hast sought to make us break our vows,Which we durst never yet, and with strain’d prideTo come betwixt our sentences and our power,Which nor our nature, nor our place can bear,Our potency made good, take thy reward.Five days we do allot thee for provision,To shield thee from disasters of the world;And on the sixth to turn thy hated backUpon our kingdom: if, on the next day following,Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,This shall not be revok’d.
KENT.Fare thee well, King: sith thus thou wilt appear,Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.[To Cordelia.] The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,That justly think’st and hast most rightly said![To Goneril and Regan.] And your large speeches may your deeds approve,That good effects may spring from words of love.Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;He’ll shape his old course in a country new.
Flourish. Re-enter Gloucester, with France, Burgundy and Attendants.
CORDELIA.Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.
LEAR.My Lord of Burgundy,We first address toward you, who with this kingHath rivall’d for our daughter: what in the leastWill you require in present dower with her,Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY.Most royal majesty,I crave no more than hath your highness offer’d,Nor will you tender less?
LEAR.Right noble Burgundy,When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;But now her price is fall’n. Sir, there she stands:If aught within that little-seeming substance,Or all of it, with our displeasure piec’d,And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,She’s there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY.I know no answer.
LEAR.Will you, with those infirmities she owes,Unfriended, new adopted to our hate,Dower’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our oath,Take her or leave her?
BURGUNDY.Pardon me, royal sir;Election makes not up in such conditions.
LEAR.Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,I tell you all her wealth. [To France] For you, great king,I would not from your love make such a strayTo match you where I hate; therefore beseech youT’avert your liking a more worthier wayThan on a wretch whom nature is asham’dAlmost t’acknowledge hers.
FRANCE.This is most strange,That she, who even but now was your best object,The argument of your praise, balm of your age,The best, the dearest, should in this trice of timeCommit a thing so monstrous, to dismantleSo many folds of favour. Sure her offenceMust be of such unnatural degreeThat monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d affectionFall into taint; which to believe of herMust be a faith that reason without miracleShould never plant in me.
CORDELIA.I yet beseech your majesty,If for I want that glib and oily artTo speak and purpose not; since what I well intend,I’ll do’t before I speak,—that you make knownIt is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,No unchaste action or dishonour’d step,That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favour;But even for want of that for which I am richer,A still soliciting eye, and such a tongueAs I am glad I have not, though not to have itHath lost me in your liking.
LEAR.Better thou hadstNot been born than not to have pleas’d me better.
FRANCE.Is it but this?—a tardiness in natureWhich often leaves the history unspokeThat it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,What say you to the lady? Love’s not loveWhen it is mingled with regards that standsAloof from the entire point. Will you have her?She is herself a dowry.
BURGUNDY.Royal King,Give but that portion which yourself propos’d,And here I take Cordelia by the hand,Duchess of Burgundy.
LEAR.Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
BURGUNDY.I am sorry, then, you have so lost a fatherThat you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA.Peace be with Burgundy!Since that respects of fortunes are his love,I shall not be his wife.
FRANCE.Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;Most choice forsaken; and most lov’d, despis’d!Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:Be it lawful, I take up what’s cast away.Gods, gods! ’Tis strange that from their cold’st neglectMy love should kindle to inflam’d respect.Thy dowerless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France:Not all the dukes of waterish BurgundyCan buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:Thou losest here, a better where to find.
LEAR.Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for weHave no such daughter, nor shall ever seeThat face of hers again. Therefore be goneWithout our grace, our love, our benison.Come, noble Burgundy.
[Flourish. Exeunt Lear, Burgundy, Cornwall, Albany, Gloucester and Attendants.]
FRANCE.Bid farewell to your sisters.
CORDELIA.The jewels of our father, with wash’d eyesCordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;And like a sister am most loath to callYour faults as they are nam’d. Love well our father:To your professed bosoms I commit him:But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,I would prefer him to a better place.So farewell to you both.
REGAN.Prescribe not us our duties.
GONERIL.Let your studyBe to content your lord, who hath receiv’d youAt fortune’s alms. You have obedience scanted,And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
CORDELIA.Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:Who covers faults, at last shame derides.Well may you prosper.
FRANCE.Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt France and Cordelia.]
GONERIL.Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.
REGAN.That’s most certain, and with you; next month with us.
GONERIL.You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgement he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.
REGAN.’Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
GONERIL.The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look from his age to receive not alone the imperfections of long-engrafted condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
REGAN.Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.
GONERIL.There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you let us hit together: if our father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
REGAN.We shall further think of it.
GONERIL.We must do something, and i’ th’ heat.
Enter Edmund with a letter.
EDMUND.Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy lawMy services are bound. Wherefore should IStand in the plague of custom, and permitThe curiosity of nations to deprive me?For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshinesLag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base?When my dimensions are as well compact,My mind as generous, and my shape as trueAs honest madam’s issue? Why brand they usWith base? With baseness? bastardy? Base, base?Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, takeMore composition and fierce qualityThan doth within a dull stale tired bedGo to the creating a whole tribe of fopsGot ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:Our father’s love is to the bastard EdmundAs to the legitimate: fine word: legitimate!Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,And my invention thrive, Edmund the baseShall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper.Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
GLOUCESTER.Kent banish’d thus! and France in choler parted!And the King gone tonight! Prescrib’d his pow’r!Confin’d to exhibition! All this doneUpon the gad!—Edmund, how now! What news?
EDMUND.So please your lordship, none.
[Putting up the letter.]
GLOUCESTER.Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
EDMUND.I know no news, my lord.
GLOUCESTER.What paper were you reading?
EDMUND.Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER.No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
EDMUND.I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o’er-read; and for so much as I have perus’d, I find it not fit for your o’er-looking.
GLOUCESTER.Give me the letter, sir.
EDMUND.I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.
GLOUCESTER.Let’s see, let’s see!
EDMUND.I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as an essay, or taste of my virtue.
GLOUCESTER.[Reads.] ‘This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother EDGAR.’Hum! Conspiracy? ‘Sleep till I wake him, you should enjoy half his revenue.’—My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? A heart and brain to breed it in? When came this to you? Who brought it?
EDMUND.It was not brought me, my lord, there’s the cunning of it. I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
GLOUCESTER.You know the character to be your brother’s?
EDMUND.If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
GLOUCESTER.It is his.
EDMUND.It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is not in the contents.
GLOUCESTER.Has he never before sounded you in this business?
EDMUND.Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.
GLOUCESTER.O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I’ll apprehend him. Abominable villain, Where is he?
EDMUND.I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you should run a certain course; where, if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no other pretence of danger.
GLOUCESTER.Think you so?
EDMUND.If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction, and that without any further delay than this very evening.
GLOUCESTER.He cannot be such a monster.
EDMUND.Nor is not, sure.
GLOUCESTER.To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you: frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.
EDMUND.I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
GLOUCESTER.These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of Nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there’s son against father: the King falls from bias of nature; there’s father against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully.—And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his offence, honesty! ’Tis strange.
EDMUND.This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star. My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
Pat! he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o’Bedlam.—O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.
EDGAR.How now, brother Edmund, what serious contemplation are you in?
EDMUND.I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses.
EDGAR.Do you busy yourself with that?
EDMUND.I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against King and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
EDGAR.How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
EDMUND.Come, come! when saw you my father last?
EDGAR.The night gone by.
EDMUND.Spake you with him?
EDGAR.Ay, two hours together.
EDMUND.Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him, by word nor countenance?
EDGAR.None at all.
EDMUND.Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him: and at my entreaty forbear his presence until some little time hath qualified the heat of his displeasure; which at this instant so rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay.
EDGAR.Some villain hath done me wrong.
EDMUND.That’s my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak: pray ye, go; there’s my key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.
EDMUND.Brother, I advise you to the best; I am no honest man if there be any good meaning toward you: I have told you what I have seen and heard. But faintly; nothing like the image and horror of it: pray you, away!
EDGAR.Shall I hear from you anon?
EDMUND.I do serve you in this business.
A credulous father! and a brother noble,Whose nature is so far from doing harmsThat he suspects none; on whose foolish honestyMy practices ride easy! I see the business.Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit;All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.
Enter Goneril and Oswald.
GONERIL.Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?
GONERIL.By day and night, he wrongs me; every hourHe flashes into one gross crime or other,That sets us all at odds; I’ll not endure it:His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids usOn every trifle. When he returns from hunting,I will not speak with him; say I am sick.If you come slack of former services,You shall do well; the fault of it I’ll answer.
OSWALD.He’s coming, madam; I hear him.
GONERIL.Put on what weary negligence you please,You and your fellows; I’d have it come to question:If he distaste it, let him to our sister,Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,Not to be overruled. Idle old man,That still would manage those authoritiesThat he hath given away! Now, by my life,Old fools are babes again; and must be us’dWith checks as flatteries, when they are seen abus’d.Remember what I have said.
OSWALD.Very well, madam.
GONERIL.And let his knights have colder looks among you;What grows of it, no matter; advise your fellows so;I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall,That I may speak. I’ll write straight to my sisterTo hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.
Enter Kent, disguised.
KENT.If but as well I other accents borrow,That can my speech defuse, my good intentMay carry through itself to that full issueFor which I rais’d my likeness. Now, banish’d Kent,If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d,So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st,Shall find thee full of labours.
Horns within. Enter King Lear, Knights and Attendants.
LEAR.Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get it ready.
[Exit an Attendant.]
How now! what art thou?
KENT.A man, sir.
LEAR.What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
KENT.I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise and says little; to fear judgement; to fight when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
LEAR.What art thou?
KENT.A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.
LEAR.If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he’s for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
LEAR.Who wouldst thou serve?
LEAR.Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT.No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
LEAR.What services canst thou do?
KENT.I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
LEAR.How old art thou?
KENT.Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old to dote on her for anything: I have years on my back forty-eight.
LEAR.Follow me; thou shalt serve me. If I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho, dinner! Where’s my knave? my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.
[Exit an Attendant.]
You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?
OSWALD.So please you,—
LEAR.What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
[Exit a Knight.]
Where’s my fool? Ho, I think the world’s asleep.
How now! where’s that mongrel?
KNIGHT.He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
LEAR.Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?
KNIGHT.Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
LEAR.He would not?
KNIGHT.My lord, I know not what the matter is; but to my judgement your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there’s a great abatement of kindness appears as well in the general dependants as in the Duke himself also, and your daughter.
LEAR.Ha! say’st thou so?
KNIGHT.I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.
LEAR.Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception: I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness: I will look further into’t. But where’s my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
KNIGHT.Since my young lady’s going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.
LEAR.No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
Go you, call hither my fool.
[Exit another Attendant.]
O, you, sir, you, come you hither, sir: who am I, sir?
OSWALD.My lady’s father.
LEAR.My lady’s father! my lord’s knave: you whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
OSWALD.I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon.
LEAR.Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
OSWALD.I’ll not be struck, my lord.
KENT.Nor tripp’d neither, you base football player.
[Tripping up his heels.]
LEAR.I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll love thee.
KENT.Come, sir, arise, away! I’ll teach you differences: away, away! If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry; but away! go to; have you wisdom? So.
[Pushes Oswald out.]
LEAR.Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there’s earnest of thy service.
[Giving Kent money.]
FOOL.Let me hire him too; here’s my coxcomb.
[Giving Kent his cap.]
LEAR.How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?
FOOL.Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
FOOL.Why, for taking one’s part that’s out of favour. Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb: why, this fellow has banish’d two on’s daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will; if thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb. How now, nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
LEAR.Why, my boy?
FOOL.If I gave them all my living, I’d keep my coxcombs myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy daughters.
LEAR.Take heed, sirrah, the whip.
FOOL.Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when the Lady Brach may stand by the fire and stink.
LEAR.A pestilent gall to me!
FOOL.Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.
FOOL.Mark it, nuncle:Have more than thou showest,Speak less than thou knowest,Lend less than thou owest,Ride more than thou goest,Learn more than thou trowest,Set less than thou throwest;Leave thy drink and thy whore,And keep in-a-door,And thou shalt have moreThan two tens to a score.
KENT.This is nothing, fool.
FOOL.Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer, you gave me nothing for’t. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
LEAR.Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.
FOOL.[to Kent.] Prythee tell him, so much the rent of his land comes to: he will not believe a fool.
LEAR.A bitter fool.
FOOL.Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?
LEAR.No, lad; teach me.
FOOL.That lord that counsell’d theeTo give away thy land,Come place him here by me,Do thou for him stand.The sweet and bitter foolWill presently appear;The one in motley here,The other found out there.
LEAR.Dost thou call me fool, boy?
FOOL.All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.
KENT.This is not altogether fool, my lord.
FOOL.No, faith; lords and great men will not let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would have part on’t and ladies too, they will not let me have all the fool to myself; they’ll be snatching. Nuncle, give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
LEAR.What two crowns shall they be?
FOOL.Why, after I have cut the egg i’ the middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’ the middle and gav’st away both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.[Singing.]Fools had ne’er less grace in a year;For wise men are grown foppish,And know not how their wits to wear,Their manners are so apish.
LEAR.When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
FOOL.I have used it, nuncle, e’er since thou mad’st thy daughters thy mothers; for when thou gav’st them the rod, and put’st down thine own breeches,[Singing.]Then they for sudden joy did weep,And I for sorrow sung,That such a king should play bo-peep,And go the fools among.Prythee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie; I would fain learn to lie.
LEAR.An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped.
FOOL.I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are: they’ll have me whipped for speaking true; thou’lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o’thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle: thou hast pared thy wit o’both sides, and left nothing i’ the middle: here comes one o’ the parings.
LEAR.How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i’ the frown.
FOOL.Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning. Now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now. I am a fool, thou art nothing. [To Goneril.] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue. So your face bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum,He that keeps nor crust nor crum,Weary of all, shall want some.[Pointing to Lear.] That’s a shealed peascod.
GONERIL.Not only, sir, this your all-licens’d fool,But other of your insolent retinueDo hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forthIn rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir,I had thought, by making this well known unto you,To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,By what yourself too late have spoke and done,That you protect this course, and put it onBy your allowance; which if you should, the faultWould not scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,Might in their working do you that offenceWhich else were shame, that then necessityWill call discreet proceeding.
FOOL.For you know, nuncle,The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so longThat it’s had it head bit off by it young.So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
LEAR.Are you our daughter?
GONERIL.Come, sir,I would you would make use of that good wisdom,Whereof I know you are fraught; and put awayThese dispositions, which of late transform youFrom what you rightly are.
FOOL.May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee!
LEAR.Doth any here know me? This is not Lear;Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?Either his notion weakens, his discerningsAre lethargied. Ha! waking? ’Tis not so!Who is it that can tell me who I am?
LEAR.I would learn that; for by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge and reason, I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
FOOL.Which they will make an obedient father.
LEAR.Your name, fair gentlewoman?
GONERIL.This admiration, sir, is much o’ the favourOf other your new pranks. I do beseech youTo understand my purposes aright:As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;Men so disorder’d, so debosh’d and boldThat this our court, infected with their manners,Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lustMakes it more like a tavern or a brothelThan a grac’d palace. The shame itself doth speakFor instant remedy. Be, then, desir’dBy her that else will take the thing she begsA little to disquantity your train;And the remainder that shall still depend,To be such men as may besort your age,Which know themselves, and you.
LEAR.Darkness and devils!Saddle my horses; call my train together.Degenerate bastard! I’ll not trouble thee:Yet have I left a daughter.
GONERIL.You strike my people; and your disorder’d rabbleMake servants of their betters.
LEAR.Woe that too late repents!—[To Albany.] O, sir, are you come?Is it your will? Speak, sir.—Prepare my horses.Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,More hideous when thou show’st thee in a childThan the sea-monster!
ALBANY.Pray, sir, be patient.
LEAR.[to Goneril.] Detested kite, thou liest.My train are men of choice and rarest parts,That all particulars of duty know;And in the most exact regard supportThe worships of their name. O most small fault,How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!Which, like an engine, wrench’d my frame of natureFrom the fix’d place; drew from my heart all love,And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear![Striking his head.] Beat at this gate that let thy folly inAnd thy dear judgement out! Go, go, my people.
ALBANY.My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorantOf what hath moved you.
LEAR.It may be so, my lord.Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hearSuspend thy purpose, if thou didst intendTo make this creature fruitful!Into her womb convey sterility!Dry up in her the organs of increase;And from her derogate body never springA babe to honour her! If she must teem,Create her child of spleen, that it may liveAnd be a thwart disnatur’d torment to her!Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;Turn all her mother’s pains and benefitsTo laughter and contempt; that she may feelHow sharper than a serpent’s tooth it isTo have a thankless child! Away, away!
ALBANY.Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
GONERIL.Never afflict yourself to know more of it;But let his disposition have that scopeThat dotage gives it.
LEAR.What, fifty of my followers at a clap?Within a fortnight?
ALBANY.What’s the matter, sir?
LEAR.I’ll tell thee. [To Goneril.] Life and death! I am asham’dThat thou hast power to shake my manhood thus;That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!Th’untented woundings of a father’s cursePierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,And cast you with the waters that you loseTo temper clay. Ha! Let it be so.I have another daughter,Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:When she shall hear this of thee, with her nailsShe’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt findThat I’ll resume the shape which thou dost thinkI have cast off for ever.
[Exeunt Lear, Kent and Attendants.]
GONERIL.Do you mark that?
ALBANY.I cannot be so partial, Goneril,To the great love I bear you,—
GONERIL.Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho![To the Fool.] You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
FOOL.Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool with thee.A fox when one has caught her,And such a daughter,Should sure to the slaughter,If my cap would buy a halter;So the fool follows after.
GONERIL.This man hath had good counsel.—A hundred knights!’Tis politic and safe to let him keepAt point a hundred knights: yes, that on every dream,Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,He may enguard his dotage with their powers,And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!
ALBANY.Well, you may fear too far.
GONERIL.Safer than trust too far:Let me still take away the harms I fear,Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart.What he hath utter’d I have writ my sister:If she sustain him and his hundred knights,When I have show’d th’unfitness,—
How now, Oswald!What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
GONERIL.Take you some company, and away to horse:Inform her full of my particular fear;And thereto add such reasons of your ownAs may compact it more. Get you gone;And hasten your return.
No, no, my lord!This milky gentleness and course of yours,Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,You are much more attask’d for want of wisdomThan prais’d for harmful mildness.
ALBANY.How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
ALBANY.Well, well; the event.
Enter Lear, Kent and Fool.
LEAR.Go you before to Gloucester with these letters: acquaint my daughter no further with anything you know than comes from her demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.
KENT.I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.
FOOL.If a man’s brains were in’s heels, were’t not in danger of kibes?
FOOL.Then I prythee be merry; thy wit shall not go slipshod.
LEAR.Ha, ha, ha!
FOOL.Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly, for though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.
LEAR.What canst tell, boy?
FOOL.She’ll taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’the middle on’s face?
FOOL.Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose, that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.
LEAR.I did her wrong.
FOOL.Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?
FOOL.Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.
FOOL.Why, to put’s head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case.
LEAR.I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my horses ready?
FOOL.Thy asses are gone about ’em. The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
LEAR.Because they are not eight?
FOOL.Yes indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
LEAR.To tak’t again perforce!—Monster ingratitude!
FOOL.If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’ld have thee beaten for being old before thy time.
FOOL.Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.
LEAR.O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!
How now? are the horses ready?
GENTLEMAN.Ready, my lord.
FOOL.She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure,Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.
Enter Edmund and Curan, meeting.
EDMUND.Save thee, Curan.
CURAN.And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan his Duchess will be here with him this night.
EDMUND.How comes that?
CURAN.Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad; I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments?
EDMUND.Not I: pray you, what are they?
CURAN.Have you heard of no likely wars toward, ’twixt the two dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
EDMUND.Not a word.
CURAN.You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.
EDMUND.The Duke be here tonight? The better! best!This weaves itself perforce into my business.My father hath set guard to take my brother;And I have one thing, of a queasy question,Which I must act. Briefness and fortune work!Brother, a word, descend, brother, I say!
My father watches: O sir, fly this place;Intelligence is given where you are hid;You have now the good advantage of the night.Have you not spoken ’gainst the Duke of Cornwall?He’s coming hither; now, i’ the night, i’ the haste,And Regan with him: have you nothing saidUpon his party ’gainst the Duke of Albany?Advise yourself.
EDGAR.I am sure on’t, not a word.
EDMUND.I hear my father coming:—pardon me;In cunning I must draw my sword upon you:Draw: seem to defend yourself: now quit you well.Yield: come before my father. Light, ho, here!Fly, brother. Torches, torches!—So farewell.
Some blood drawn on me would beget opinionOf my more fierce endeavour: [Wounds his arm.]I have seen drunkardsDo more than this in sport. Father, father!Stop, stop! No help?
Enter Gloucester and Servants with torches.
GLOUCESTER.Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?
EDMUND.Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moonTo stand auspicious mistress.
GLOUCESTER.But where is he?
EDMUND.Look, sir, I bleed.
GLOUCESTER.Where is the villain, Edmund?
EDMUND.Fled this way, sir. When by no means he could,—
GLOUCESTER.Pursue him, ho! Go after.
—By no means what?
EDMUND.Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;But that I told him the revenging gods’Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;Spoke with how manifold and strong a bondThe child was bound to the father; sir, in fine,Seeing how loathly opposite I stoodTo his unnatural purpose, in fell motionWith his prepared sword, he charges homeMy unprovided body, latch’d mine arm;But when he saw my best alarum’d spirits,Bold in the quarrel’s right, rous’d to th’encounter,Or whether gasted by the noise I made,Full suddenly he fled.
GLOUCESTER.Let him fly far;Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;And found—dispatch’d. The noble Duke my master,My worthy arch and patron, comes tonight:By his authority I will proclaim it,That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,Bringing the murderous coward to the stake;He that conceals him, death.
EDMUND.When I dissuaded him from his intent,And found him pight to do it, with curst speechI threaten’d to discover him: he replied,‘Thou unpossessing bastard! dost thou think,If I would stand against thee, would the reposalOf any trust, virtue, or worth in theeMake thy words faith’d? No: what I should denyAs this I would; ay, though thou didst produceMy very character, I’d turn it allTo thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice:And thou must make a dullard of the world,If they not thought the profits of my deathWere very pregnant and potential spursTo make thee seek it.
GLOUCESTER.O strange and fast’ned villain!Would he deny his letter, said he? I never got him.
Hark, the Duke’s trumpets! I know not why he comes.All ports I’ll bar; the villain shall not scape;The Duke must grant me that: besides, his pictureI will send far and near, that all the kingdomMay have due note of him; and of my land,Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the meansTo make thee capable.
Enter Cornwall, Regan and Attendants.
CORNWALL.How now, my noble friend! since I came hither,Which I can call but now, I have heard strange news.
REGAN.If it be true, all vengeance comes too shortWhich can pursue th’offender. How dost, my lord?
GLOUCESTER.O madam, my old heart is crack’d, it’s crack’d!
REGAN.What, did my father’s godson seek your life?He whom my father nam’d? your Edgar?
GLOUCESTER.O lady, lady, shame would have it hid!
REGAN.Was he not companion with the riotous knightsThat tend upon my father?
GLOUCESTER.I know not, madam; ’tis too bad, too bad.
EDMUND.Yes, madam, he was of that consort.
REGAN.No marvel then though he were ill affected:’Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,To have the expense and waste of his revenues.I have this present evening from my sisterBeen well inform’d of them; and with such cautionsThat if they come to sojourn at my house,I’ll not be there.
CORNWALL.Nor I, assure thee, Regan.Edmund, I hear that you have shown your fatherA childlike office.
EDMUND.It was my duty, sir.
GLOUCESTER.He did bewray his practice; and receiv’dThis hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.
CORNWALL.Is he pursued?
GLOUCESTER.Ay, my good lord.
CORNWALL.If he be taken, he shall never moreBe fear’d of doing harm: make your own purpose,How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,Whose virtue and obedience doth this instantSo much commend itself, you shall be ours:Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;You we first seize on.
EDMUND.I shall serve you, sir, truly, however else.
GLOUCESTER.For him I thank your grace.
CORNWALL.You know not why we came to visit you?
REGAN.Thus out of season, threading dark-ey’d night:Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some poise,Wherein we must have use of your advice.Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,Of differences, which I best thought it fitTo answer from our home; the several messengersFrom hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,Lay comforts to your bosom; and bestowYour needful counsel to our business,Which craves the instant use.
GLOUCESTER.I serve you, madam:Your graces are right welcome.