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Transcripts - King lear
The Tragedy of
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The Tragedy of
His true Chronicle Historie of the life and death of
King Lear and his three daughters.
With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire
to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed
humor of Tom of Bedlam:
LEAR, King of Britain
KING OF FRANCE
DUKE OF BURGUNDY
DUKE OF CORNWALL
DUKE OF ALBANY
EARL OF KENT
EARL OF GLOUCESTER
EDGAR: Son to Gloucester.
EDMUND: bastard son to Gloucester.
CURAN: a courtier.
Old Man: tenant to Gloucester.
OSWALD: Steward to Goneril.
A Captain employed by Edmund
Gentleman attendant on Cordelia
Servants to Cornwall
REGAN: daughters to Lear.
Knights of Lear’s train, Captains, Messengers, Sol-
diers, and Attendants
SCENE: Prehistoric Britain.
by William Shakespeare
SCENE I: King Lear’s palace.
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 equalities
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 blushed to acknowledge
him, that now I am brazed to it.
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 hus-
band 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, sir, a son by order of law,
some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in
my account. Though this knave came something sauc-
ily into 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 hereaf-
ter as my honorable 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.
Sound a sennet. Enter one bearing a coronet; then
KING LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL,
REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants.
KING LEAR: Attend the lords of France and Bur-
GLOUCESTER: I shall, my liege.
Exeunt GLOUCESTER and EDMUND.
KING LEAR: Meantime we shall express our darker
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom: and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age;
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburthen’d crawl toward death. Our son of
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and
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 extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.
I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child e’er loved, 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 do? Love,
and be silent.
LEAR: Of all these bounds, even from this line to
With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s issue
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
REGAN: Sir, I am made of the self-same metal as my
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses;
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness’ love.
CORDELIA: [Aside] Then poor Cordelia!
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s
More richer than my tongue.
KING LEAR: To thee and thine, hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
CORDELIA: Nothing, my lord.
KING LEAR: Nothing!
KING LEAR: Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
CORDELIA: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.
KING LEAR: How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech
Lest it may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA: Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honor you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.
KING LEAR: But goes thy heart with this?
CORDELIA: Ay, good my lord.
KING LEAR: So young, and so untender?
CORDELIA: So young, my lord, and true.
KING 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 me
Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbor’d, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT: Good my liege,—
KING LEAR: Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved her most, and thought to set my rest
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her 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 effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights,
By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode
Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain
The name, and all the additions to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part betwixt you. [Giving the crown.]
KENT: Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honor’d as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master follow’d,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,—
KING LEAR: The bow is bent and drawn, make from
KENT: Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly,
When Lear is mad. What wilt thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak,
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
And, in thy best consideration, check
This hideous rashness: answer my life my judg
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
KING LEAR: Kent, on thy life, no
KENT: My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it,
Thy safety being the motive.
KING LEAR: Out of my sight!
KENT: See better, Lear; and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.
KING LEAR: Now, by Apollo,—
KENT: Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
KING LEAR: O, vassal! miscreant!
[Laying his hand on his sword.]
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom;
Or, whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,
I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
KING LEAR: Hear me, recreant!
On thine allegiance, hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,
Which we durst never yet, and with strain’d pride
To come between our sentence 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 diseases of the world;
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Dear sir, forbear.
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following,
Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! by Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.
KENT: Fare thee well, king: sith thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
That justly think’st, and hast most rightly said!
[To REGAN and GONERIL.]
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 KING OF
FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and Attendants.]
GLOUCESTER: Here’s France and Burgundy, my
KING LEAR: My lord of Burgundy.
We first address towards you, who with this king
Hath rivall’d for our daughter: what, in the least,
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY: Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than what your highness offer’d,
Nor will you tender less.
KING 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 pieced,
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,
She’s there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY: I know no answer.
KING 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 on such conditions.
KING LEAR: Then leave her, sir; for, by the power
that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.
[To KING OF FRANCE.]
For you, great king,
I would not from your love make such a stray,
To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed
Almost to acknowledge hers.
KING OF FRANCE: This is most strange,
That she, that even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle
So many folds of favor. Sure, her offence
Must be of such unnatural degree,
That monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d affection
Fall’n into taint: which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Could never plant in me.
CORDELIA: I yet beseech your majesty,—
If for I want that glib and oily art,
To speak and purpose not; since what I well intend,
I’ll do’t before I speak,—that you make known
It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action, or dishonor’d step,
That hath deprived me of your grace and favor;
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
KING LEAR: Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleased me
KING OF FRANCE: Is it but this,—a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.
BURGUNDY: Royal Lear,
Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.
KING LEAR: Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
BURGUNDY: I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA: Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,
I shall not be his wife.
KING OF FRANCE: Fairest Cordelia, that art most
rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised!
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’stneglect
My love should kindle to inflamed 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 Burgundy
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
KING LEAR: Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.
[Flourish. Exeunt all but KING OF FRANCE,
GONERIL, REGAN, and CORDELIA.]
KING OF FRANCE: Bid farewell to your sisters.
CORDELIA: The jewels of our father, with wash’d eyes
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Use 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 study
Be to content your lord, who hath received you
At fortune’s alms. You have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
CORDELIA: Time shall unfold what plaited cunning
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!
KING OF FRANCE: Come, my fair Cordelia.
[Exeunt KING OF FRANCE and CORDELIA.]
GONERIL: Sister, it is not a little I have to say of what
most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father
will hence to-night.
REGAN: That’s most certain, and with you; next month
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
judgment he hath now cast her off appears too
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 to receive from his
age, not alone the imperfections of long-
engraffedcondition, but therewithal the unruly way-
ardness 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 leavetaking
between France and him. Pray you, let’s hit together:
if our father carry authority with such dispositions as
he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
REGAN: We shall further think on’t.
GONERIL: We must do something, and i’ the heat.
SCENE II: The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.
[Enter EDMUND, with a letter.]
EDMUND: 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 moon-shines
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 the 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 the legitimate: fine word,—legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
GLOUCESTER: Kent banish’d thus! and France in
And the king gone to-night! subscribed his power!
Confined to exhibition! All this done
Upon 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
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 noth-
ing 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 perused, I find it not fit for your
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
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] ‘Thispolicyandreverenceof
but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may
you should half his revenue for ever, and live the be-
—Hum—conspiracy!—’Sleep till I waked 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
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: Hath he never heretofore 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 declining, 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, brut-
ish 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 shall run a certain course; where, if
you violently proceed against him, mistaking his pur-
pose, it would make a great gap in your own honor,
and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare
pawn down my life for him, that he hath wrote this
to feel my affection to your honor, and to no further
pretence of danger.
GLOUCESTER: Think you so?
EDMUND: If your honor 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 en-
tirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him
out: wind me into him, I pray you: frame the busi-
ness 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, friend-
ship 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: machina-
tions, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disor-
ders, follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this
villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it care-
fully. 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 surfeit
of our own behavior,—we make guilty of our disas-
ters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were
villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion;
knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predomi-
nance; 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 eva-
sion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposi-
tion to the charge of a star! My father compounded
with my mother under the dragon’s tail; and my na-
tivity was under Ursa major; so that it follows, I am
rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I
am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled
on my bastardizing. Edgar—
And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old com-
edy: my cue is villanous 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 about 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 male-
dictions 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 astro-
EDMUND: Come, come; when saw you my father
EDGAR: Why, 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 or countenance?
EDGAR: None at all.
EDMUND: Bethink yourself wherein you may have
offended him: and at my entreaty forbear his presence
till some little time hath qualified the heat of his displea-
sure; 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 conti-
nent forbearance till the spied 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,
EDGAR: Armed, brother!
EDMUND: Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed:
I am no honest man if there be any good meaning
towards 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 harms,
That he suspects none: on whose foolish honesty
My 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.
SCENE III: The Duke of Albany’s palace.
[Enter GONERIL, and OSWALD, her steward.]
GONERIL: Did my father strike my gentleman for
chiding of his fool?
OSWALD: Yes, madam.
GONERIL: By day and night he wrongs me; every
He 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 us
On 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
You and your fellows; I’ll have it come to question:
If he dislike it, let him to our sister,
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,
Not to be over-ruled. Idle old man,
That still would manage those authorities
That he hath given away! Now, by my life,
Old fools are babes again; and must be used
With checks as flatteries,—when they are seen abused.
Remember what I tell you.
OSWALD: Well, madam.
GONERIL: And let his knights have colder looks
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 sister,
To hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.
SCENE IV: A hall in the same.
[Enter KENT, disguised.]
KENT: If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech defuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I razed my likeness. Now, banish’d Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest,
Shall find thee full of labors.
[Horns within. Enter KING LEAR, Knights, and
KING LEAR: Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get
[Exit an Attendant.]
How now! what art thou?
KENT: A man, sir.
KING 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 judgment; to fight when I cannot choose;
and to eat no fish.
KING LEAR: What art thou?
KENT: A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as
KING LEAR: If thou be as poor for a subject as he is
for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
KING LEAR: Who wouldst thou serve?
KING LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT: No, sir; but you have that in your counte-
nance which I would fain call master.
KING LEAR: What’s that?
KING 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 quali-
fied in; and the best of me is diligence.
KING LEAR: How old art thou?
KENT: Not so young, sir, to love a woman for sing-
ing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing: I have
years on my back forty eight.
KING 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,—
KING LEAR: What says the fellow there? Call the
[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.
KING 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.
KING LEAR: He would not!
Knight: My lord, I know not what the matter is; but,
to my judgment, 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
KING LEAR: Ha! sayest 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.
KING 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 un-
kindness: 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.
KING LEAR: No more of that; I have noted it well. Go
you, and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
[Exit an Attendant.]
Go you, call hither my fool.
[Exit an Attendant.]
O, you sir, you, come you hither, sir: who am I, sir?
OSWALD: My lady’s father.
KING LEAR: ‘My lady’s father’! my lord’s knave: your
whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
OSWALD: I am none of these, my lord; I beseech
KING LEAR: Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
OSWALD: I’ll not be struck, my lord.
KENT: Nor tripped neither, you base football player.
[Tripping up his heels.]
KING LEAR: I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me,
and I’ll love thee.
KENT: Come, sir, arise, away! I’ll teach you differ-
ences: away, away! if you will measure your lubber’s
length again, tarry: but away! go to; have you wis-
[Pushes OSWALD out.]
KING 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.
[Offering KENT his cap.]
KING LEAR: How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?
Fool: Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
KENT: Why, fool?
Fool: Why, for taking one’s part that’s out of favor:
nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt
catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb: why, this
fellow has banished 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!
KING LEAR: Why, my boy?
Fool: If I gave them all my living, I’ld keep my cox-
combs myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy daugh-
KING LEAR: Take heed, sirrah; the whip.
Fool: Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped
out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and
KING LEAR: A pestilent gall to me!
Fool: Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.
KING LEAR: Do.
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 more
Than 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
KING LEAR: Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out
Fool: [To KENT] Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of
his land comes to: he will not believe a fool.
KING LEAR: A bitter fool!
Fool: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, be-
tween a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
KING LEAR: No, lad; teach me.
Fool: That lord that counsell’d thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand:
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear;
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
KING 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 fool to
myself; they’ll be snatching. Give me an egg, nuncle,
and I’ll give thee two crowns.
KING 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 gavest away
both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o’er the
dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown, when thou
gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in
this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
Fools had ne’er less wit in a year;
For wise men are grown foppish,
They know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.
KING LEAR: When were you wont to be so full of
Fool: I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest
thy daughters thy mothers: for when thou gavest
them the rod, and put’st down thine own breeches,
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.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.
KING LEAR: An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you
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
KING LEAR: How now, daughter! what makes that
frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i’ the
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.
Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids
me, though you say nothing.
He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.
[Pointing to KING LEAR.]
That’s a shealed peascod.
GONERIL: Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be endured riots.
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 on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not ‘scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
Fool: For, you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it’s had it head bit off by it young.
So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
KING 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 away
These dispositions, that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.
Fool: May not an ass know when the cart draws the
horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.
KING LEAR: Doth any here know me? This is not
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! waking? ’tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Fool: Lear’s shadow.
KING 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.
KING LEAR: Your name, fair gentlewoman?
GONERIL: This admiration, sir, is much o’ the savor
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To 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 bold,
That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy: be then desired
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainder, that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
And know themselves and you.
KING 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
Make servants of their betters.
KING LEAR: Woe, that too late repents,—
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 child
Than the sea-monster!
ALBANY: Pray, sir, be patient.
KING 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 support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
That, like an engine, wrench’d my frame of nature
From the fix’d place; drew from heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
[Striking his head.]
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
ALBANY: My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath moved you.
KING LEAR: It may be so, my lord.
Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase;
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honor her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured 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 benefits
To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!
ALBANY: Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
GONERIL: Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.
[Re-enter KING LEAR.]
KING LEAR: What, fifty of my followers at a clap!
Within a fortnight!
ALBANY: What’s the matter, sir?
KING LEAR: I’ll tell thee:
Life and death! I am ashamed
That 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
The untented woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, it is come to this?
Let is be so: yet have I left a daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever: thou shalt,
I warrant thee.
[Exeunt KING LEAR, KENT, and Attendants.]
GONERIL: Do you mark that, my lord?
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
’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights: yes, that, on every
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 the unfitness,—
How now, Oswald!
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
OSWALD: Yes, madam.
GONERIL: Take you some company, and away to
Inform her full of my particular fear;
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As 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 wisdom
Than praised for harmful mildness.
ALBANY: How far your eyes may pierce I can not tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
GONERIL: Nay, then—
ALBANY: Well, well; the event.
SCENE I: GLOUCESTER’s castle.
[Enter EDMUND, and CURAN meets him.]
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 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 to-night? The better!
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 said
Upon his party ‘gainst the Duke of Albany?
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 opinion.
[Wounds his arm.]
Of my more fierce endeavor: I have seen drunkards
Do 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
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress,—
GLOUCESTER: But where is he?
EDMUND: Look, sir, I bleed.
GLOUCESTER: Where is the villain,
EDMUND: Fled this way, sir. When by no means he
GLOUCESTER: Pursue him, ho! Go after.
[Exeunt some Servants.]
‘By no means’ what?
EDMUND: Persuade me to the murder of your
But that I told him, the revenging gods
‘Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;
Spoke, with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to the father; sir, in fine,
Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion,
With his prepared sword, he charges home
My unprovided body, lanced mine arm:
But when he saw my best alarum’d spirits,
Bold in the quarrel’s right, roused to the 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. The noble duke my master,
My worthy arch and patron, comes to-night:
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 speech
I threaten’d to discover him: he replied,
‘Thou unpossessing bastard! dost thou think,
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee
Make thy words faith’d? No: what I should deny,—
As this I would: ay, though thou didst produce
My very character,—I’ld turn it all
To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice:
And thou must make a dullard of the world,
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spurs
To make thee seek it.’
GLOUCESTER: Strong and fasten’d villain
Would he deny his letter? 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 picture
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have the due note of him; and of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means
To make thee capable.
[Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, and Attendants.]
CORNWALL: How now, my noble friend! since I
Which I can call but now, I have heard strange news.
REGAN: If it be true, all vengeance comes too short
Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?
GLOUCESTER: O, madam, my old heart is crack’d,
REGAN: What, did my father’s godson seek your
He whom my father named? your Edgar?
GLOUCESTER: O, lady, lady, shame would have it hid!
REGAN: Was he not companion with the riotous
That 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 af
’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 sister
Been well inform’d of them; and with such cautions,
That 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 father
A child-like office.
EDMUND: ’Twas my duty, sir.
GLOUCESTER: He did bewray his practice; and
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.
CORNWALL: Is he pursued?
GLOUCESTER: Ay, my good lord.
CORNWALL: If he be taken, he shall never more
Be fear’d of doing harm: make your own purpose,
How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
So 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
REGAN: Thus out of season, threading dark-eyed
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 least thought it fit
To answer from our home; the several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom; and bestow
Your needful counsel to our business,
Which craves the instant use.
GLOUCESTER: I serve you, madam:
Your graces are right welcome.
SCENE II: Before Gloucester’s castle.
[Enter KENT and OSWALD, severally.]
OSWALD: Good dawning to thee, friend: art of this
OSWALD: Where may we set our horses?
KENT: I’ the mire.
OSWALD: Prithee, if thou lovest me, tell me.
KENT: I love thee not.
OSWALD: Why, then, I care not for thee.
KENT: If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make
thee care for me.
OSWALD: Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.
KENT: Fellow, I know thee.
OSWALD: What dost thou know me for?
KENT: A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-
pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered,
action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-
serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave;
one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service,
and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beg-
gar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mon-
grel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whin-
ing, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.
OSWALD: Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou,
thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee nor
KENT: What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny
thou knowest me! Is it two days ago since I tripped
up thy heels, and beat thee before the king? Draw,
you rogue: for, though it be night, yet the moon shines;
I’ll make a sop o’ the moonshine of you:
draw, you whoreson cullionly barber-monger, draw.
[Drawing his sword.]
OSWALD: Away! I have nothing to do with thee.
KENT: Draw, you rascal: you come with letters against
the king; and take vanity the puppet’s part against the
royalty of her father: draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado
your shanks: draw, you rascal; come your ways.
OSWALD: Help, ho! murder! help!
KENT: Strike, you slave; stand, rogue, stand; you neat
OSWALD: Help, ho! murder! murder!
[Enter EDMUND, with his rapier drawn, CORNWALL,
REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and Servants.]
EDMUND: How now! What’s the matter?
KENT: With you, goodman boy, an you please: come,
I’ll flesh ye; come on, young master.
GLOUCESTER: Weapons! arms! What ‘s the matter here?
CORNWALL: Keep peace, upon your lives:
He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?
REGAN: The messengers from our sister and the king.
CORNWALL: What is your difference? speak.
OSWALD: I am scarce in breath, my lord.
KENT: No marvel, you have so bestirred your valor.
You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee: a tailor
CORNWALL: Thou art a strange fellow: a tailor make
KENT: Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone-cutter or painter could
not have made him so ill, though he had been but
two hours at the trade.
CORNWALL: Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
OSWALD: This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have
spared at suit of his gray beard,—
KENT: Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!
My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this
unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a
jakes with him. Spare my gray beard, you wagtail?
CORNWALL: Peace, sirrah!
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
KENT: Yes, sir; but anger hath a privilege.
CORNWALL: Why art thou angry?
KENT: That such a slave as this should wear a
Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse t’ unloose; smooth every
That in the natures of their lords rebel;
Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,
Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
I’ld drive ye cackling home to Camelot.
CORNWALL: Why, art thou mad, old fellow?
GLOUCESTER: How fell you out? say that.
KENT: No contraries hold more antipathy
Than I and such a knave.
CORNWALL: Why dost thou call him a knave?
What’s his offence?
KENT: His countenance likes me not.
CORNWALL: No more, perchance, does mine, nor
his, nor hers.
KENT: Sir, ’tis my occupation to be plain:
I have seen better faces in my time
Than stands on any shoulder that I see
Before me at this instant.
CORNWALL: This is some fellow,
Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect
A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb
Quite from his nature: he cannot flatter, he,
An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth!
An they will take it, so; if not, he’s plain.
These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness
Harbor more craft and more corrupter ends
Than twenty silly ducking observants
That stretch their duties nicely.
KENT: Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity,
Under the allowance of your great aspect,
Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire
On flickering Phoebus’ front,—
CORNWALL: What mean’st by this?
KENT: To go out of my dialect, which you
discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer:
he that beguiled you in a plain accent was a plain
knave; which for my part I will not be, though I should
win your displeasure to entreat me to ‘t.
CORNWALL: What was the offence you gave him?
OSWALD: I never gave him any:
It pleased the king his master very late
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, conjunct and flattering his displeasure,
Tripp’d me behind; being down, insulted, rail’d,
And put upon him such a deal of man,
That worthied him, got praises of the king
For him attempting who was self-subdued;
And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here again.
KENT: None of these rogues and cowards
But Ajax is their fool.
CORNWALL: Fetch forth the stocks!
You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,
We’ll teach you—
KENT: Sir, I am too old to learn:
Call not your stocks for me: I serve the king;
On whose employment I was sent to you:
You shall do small respect, show too bold malice
Against the grace and person of my master,
Stocking his messenger.
CORNWALL: Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life
There shall he sit till noon.
REGAN: Till noon! till night, my lord; and all night
KENT: Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog,
You should not use me so.
REGAN: Sir, being his knave, I will.
CORNWALL: This is a fellow of the self-same color
Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away the stocks!
[Stocks brought out.]
GLOUCESTER: Let me beseech your grace not to do
His fault is much, and the good king his master
Will check him for ‘t: your purposed low correction
Is such as basest and contemned’st wretches
For pilferings and most common trespasses
Are punish’d with: the king must take it ill,
That he’s so slightly valued in his messenger,
Should have him thus restrain’d.
CORNWALL: I’ll answer that.
REGAN: My sister may receive it much more worse,
To have her gentleman abused, assaulted,
For following her affairs. Put in his legs.
[KENT is put in the stocks.]
Come, my good lord, away.
[Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER and KENT.]
GLOUCESTER: I am sorry for thee, friend; ’tis the
Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
Will not be rubb’d nor stopp’d: I’ll entreat for thee.
KENT: Pray, do not, sir: I have watched andtravell’d
Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I’ll whistle.
A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels:
Give you good morrow!
GLOUCESTER: The duke’s to blame in this; ‘twill be
KENT: Good king, that must approve the common
Thou out of heaven’s benediction comest
To the warm sun!
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter! Nothing almost sees miracles
But misery: I know ’tis from Cordelia,
Who hath most fortunately been inform’d
Of my obscured course;
And shall find time
From this enormous state, seeking to give
Losses their remedies.
All weary and o’erwatch’d,
Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold
This shameful lodging.
Fortune, good night: smile once more: turn thy
SCENE IV: Before GLOUCESTER’s castle. KENT in
[Enter KING LEAR, Fool, and Gentleman.]
KING LEAR: ’Tis strange that they should so depart
And not send back my messenger.
Gentleman: As I learn’d,
The night before there was no purpose in them
Of this remove.
KENT: Hail to thee, noble master!
KING LEAR: Ha!
Makest thou this shame thy pastime?
KENT: No, my lord.
Fool: Ha, ha! he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied
by the heads, dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys
by the loins, and men by the legs: when a man’s
over-lusty at legs, then he wears wooden
KING LEAR: What’s he that hath so much thy place
To set thee here?
KENT: It is both he and she;
Your son and daughter.
KING LEAR: No.
KING LEAR: No, I say.
KENT: I say, yea.
KING LEAR: No, no, they would not.
KENT: Yes, they have.
KING LEAR: By Jupiter, I swear, no.
KENT: By Juno, I swear, ay.
KING LEAR: They durst not do ‘t;
They could not, would not do ‘t; ’tis worse than
To do upon respect such violent outrage:
Resolve me, with all modest haste, which way
Thou mightst deserve, or they impose, this usage,
Coming from us.
KENT: My lord, when at their home
I did commend your highness’ letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that show’d
My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
Stew’d in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
From Goneril his mistress salutations;
Deliver’d letters, spite of intermission,
Which presently they read: on whose contents,
They summon’d up their meiny, straight took horse;
Commanded me to follow, and attend
The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks:
And meeting here the other messenger,
Whose welcome, I perceived, had poison’d mine,—
Being the very fellow that of late
Display’d so saucily against your highness,—
Having more man than wit about me, drew:
He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
The shame which here it suffers.
Fool: Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind;
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne’er turns the key to the poor.
But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for
thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
KING LEAR: O, how this mother swells up toward
Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow,
Thy element’s below! Where is this daughter?
KENT: With the earl, sir, here within.
KING LEAR [to attendants]: Follow me not;
Gentleman: Made you no more offence but what
you speak of?
How chance the king comes with so small a train?
Fool: And thou hadst been set i’ the stocks for that
question, thou hadst well deserved it.
KENT: Why, fool?
Fool: We’ll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee
there’s no laboring i’ the winter. All that follow their
noses are led by their eyes but blind men; and there’s
not a nose among twenty but can smell him that’s
stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel
runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following
it: but the great one that goes up the hill, let him
draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better
counsel, give me mine again: I would have none but
knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm,
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool no knave, perdy.
KENT: Where learned you this, fool?
Fool: Not i’ the stocks, fool.
[Re-enter KING LEAR with GLOUCESTER.]
KING LEAR: Deny to speak with me? They are sick?
they are weary?
They have travell’d all the night? Mere fetches;
The images of revolt and flying off.
Fetch me a better answer.
GLOUCESTER: My dear lord,
You know the fiery quality of the duke;
How unremoveable and fix’d he is
In his own course.
KING LEAR: Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!
Fiery? what quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
I’ld speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
GLOUCESTER: Well, my good lord, I have inform’d
KING LEAR: Inform’d them! Dost thou understand
GLOUCESTER: Ay, my good lord.
KING LEAR: The king would speak with Cornwall;
the dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands her
Are they inform’d of this? My breath and blood!
Fiery? the fiery duke? Tell the hot duke that—
No, but not yet: may be he is not well:
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound; we are not ourselves
When nature, being oppress’d, commands the mind
To suffer with the body: I’ll forbear;
And am fall’n out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man. Death on my state! wherefore
[Looking on KENT.]
Should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion of the duke and her
Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
Go tell the duke and ‘s wife I’ld speak with them,
Now, presently: bid them come forth and hear me,
Or at their chamber-door I’ll beat the drum
Till it cry sleep to death.
GLOUCESTER: I would have all well betwixt you.
KING LEAR: O me, my heart, my rising heart! but,
Fool: Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels
when she put ‘em i’ the paste alive; she knapped ‘em
o’ the coxcombs with a stick, and cried ‘Down,
wantons, down!’ ’Twas her brother that, in pure
kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.
[Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and Servants.]
KING LEAR: Good morrow to you both.
CORNWALL: Hail to your grace!
[KENT is set at liberty.]
REGAN: I am glad to see your highness.
KING LEAR: Regan, I think you are; I know what
I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,
Sepulchring an adultress.
O, are you free?
Some other time for that. Beloved Regan,
Thy sister’s naught: O Regan, she hath tied
Sharp-tooth’d unkindness, like a vulture, here:
[Points to his heart.]
I can scarce speak to thee; thou’lt not believe
With how depraved a quality—O Regan!
REGAN: I pray you, sir, take patience: I have hope.
You less know how to value her desert
Than she to scant her duty.
KING LEAR: Say, how is that?
REGAN: I cannot think my sister in the least
Would fail her obligation: if, sir, perchance
She have restrain’d the riots of your followers,
‘Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end,
As clears her from all blame.
KING LEAR: My curses on her!
REGAN: O, sir, you are old.
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine: you should be ruled and led
By some discretion, that discerns your state
Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,
That to our sister you do make return;
Say you have wrong’d her, sir.
KING LEAR: Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
‘Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary: on my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.’
REGAN: Good sir, no more; these are unsightly
Return you to my sister.
KING LEAR: [Rising] Never, Regan:
She hath abated me of half my train;
Look’d black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart:
All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking airs, with lameness!
CORNWALL: Fie, sir, fie!
KING LEAR: You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck’d fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall and blast her pride!
REGAN: O the blest gods! so will you wish on me,
When the rash mood is on.
KING LEAR: No, Regan, thou shalt never have my
Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
Thee o’er to harshness: her eyes are fierce; but
Do comfort and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
And in conclusion to oppose the bolt
Against my coming in: thou better know’st
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude;
Thy half o’ the kingdom hast thou not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow’d.
REGAN: Good sir, to the purpose.
KING LEAR: Who put my man i’ the stocks?
CORNWALL: What trumpet’s that?
REGAN: I know’t, my sister’s: this approves her letter,
That she would soon be here.
Is your lady come?
KING LEAR: This is a slave, whose easy-borrow’d
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
Out, varlet, from my sight!
CORNWALL: What means your grace?
KING LEAR: Who stock’d my servant? Regan, I have
Thou didst not know on’t.
Who comes here? O heavens,
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
Make it your cause; send down, and take my part!
Art not ashamed to look upon this beard?
O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?
GONERIL: Why not by the hand, sir? How have I
All’s not offence that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.
KING LEAR: O sides, you are too tough;
Will you yet hold? How came my man i’ the stocks?
CORNWALL: I set him there, sir: but his own disorders
Deserved much less advancement.
KING LEAR: You! did you?
REGAN: I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me:
I am now from home, and out of that provision
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
KING LEAR: Return to her, and fifty men dismiss’d?
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity o’ the air;
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,—
Necessity’s sharp pinch! Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and, squire-like; pension beg
To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
To this detested groom.
[Pointing at OSWALD.]
GONERIL: At your choice, sir.
KING LEAR: I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad:
I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell:
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another:
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle,
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it:
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove:
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure:
I can be patient; I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.
REGAN: Not altogether so:
I look’d not for you yet, nor am provided
For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister;
For those that mingle reason with your passion
Must be content to think you old, and so—
But she knows what she does.
KING LEAR: Is this well spoken?
REGAN: I dare avouch it, sir: what, fifty followers?
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
Speak ‘gainst so great a number? How, in one house,
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? ’Tis hard; almost impossible.
GONERIL: Why might not you, my lord, receive
From those that she calls servants or from mine?
REGAN: Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to
We could control them. If you will come to me,—
For now I spy a danger,—I entreat you
To bring but five and twenty: to no more
Will I give place or notice.
KING LEAR: I gave you all—
REGAN: And in good time you gave it.
KING LEAR: Made you my guardians, my depositaries;
But kept a reservation to be follow’d
With such a number. What, must I come to you
With five and twenty, Regan? said you so?
REGAN: And speak’t again, my lord; no more with me.
KING LEAR: Those wicked creatures yet do look
When others are more wicked: not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise.
I’ll go with thee:
Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,
And thou art twice her love.
GONERIL: Hear me, my lord;
What need you five and twenty, ten, or five,
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?
REGAN: What need one?
KING LEAR: O, reason not the need: our basest
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life’s as cheap as beast’s: thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,—
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
If it be you that stir these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both,
That all the world shall—I will do such things,—
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep
No, I’ll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!
[Exeunt KING LEAR, GLOUCESTER, KENT, and Fool.]
[Storm and tempest.]
CORNWALL: Let us withdraw; ‘twill be a storm.
REGAN: This house is little: the old man and his
Cannot be well bestow’d.
GONERIL: ’Tis his own blame; hath put himself from
And must needs taste his folly.
REGAN: For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly,
But not one follower.
GONERIL: So am I purposed.
Where is my lord of Gloucester?
CORNWALL: Follow’d the old man forth: he is
GLOUCESTER: The king is in high rage.
CORNWALL: Whither is he going?
GLOUCESTER: He calls to horse; but will I know not
CORNWALL: ’Tis best to give him way; he leads
GONERIL: My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
GLOUCESTER: Alack, the night comes on, and the
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There’s scarce a bush.
REGAN: O, sir, to wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors:
He is attended with a desperate train;
And what they may incense him to, being apt
To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
CORNWALL: Shut up your doors, my lord; ’tis a wild
My Regan counsels well; come out o’ the storm.
SCENE I: A heath.
[Storm still. Enter KENT and a Gentleman, meeting.]
KENT: Who’s there, besides foul weather?
Gentleman: One minded like the weather, most
KENT: I know you. Where’s the king?
Gentleman: Contending with the fretful element:
Bids the winds blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled water ‘bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out-scorn
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.
This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.
KENT: But who is with him?
Gentleman: None but the fool; who labors to out-
His heart-struck injuries.
KENT: Sir, I do know you;
And dare, upon the warrant of my note,
Commend a dear thing to you. There is division,
Although as yet the face of it be cover’d
With mutual cunning, ‘twixt Albany and Cornwall;
Who have—as who have not, that their great stars
Throned and set high?—servants, who seem no less,
Which are to France the spies and speculations
Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen,
Either in snuffs and packings of the dukes,
Or the hard rein which both of them have borne
Against the old kind king; or something deeper,
Whereof perchance these are but furnishings;
But, true it is, from France there comes a power
Into this scatter’d kingdom; who already,
Wise in our negligence, have secret feet
In some of our best ports, and are at point
To show their open banner. Now to you:
If on my credit you dare build so far
To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
Some that will thank you, making just report
Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow
The king hath cause to plain.
I am a gentleman of blood and breeding;
And, from some knowledge and assurance, offer
This office to you.
Gentleman: I will talk further with you.
KENT: No, do not.
For confirmation that I am much more
Than my out-wall, open this purse, and take
What it contains. If you shall see Cordelia,—
As fear not but you shall,—show her this ring;
And she will tell you who your fellow is
That yet you do not know. Fie on this storm!
I will go seek the king.
Gentleman: Give me your hand: have you no
more to say?
KENT: Few words, but, to effect, more than all yet;
That, when we have found the king,—in which your
That way, I’ll this,—he that first lights on him
Holla the other.
SCENE II: Another part of the heath. Storm still.
[Enter KING LEAR and Fool.]
KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Fool: O nuncle, court holy-water in a dry house is
better than this rain-water out o’ door. Good nuncle,
in, and ask thy daughters’ blessing: here’s a night
pities neither wise man nor fool.
KING LEAR: Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children,
You owe me no subscription: then let fall
Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join’d
Your high engender’d battles ‘gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! ’tis foul!
Fool: He that has a house to put’s head in has a
The cod-piece that will house
Before the head has any,
The head and he shall louse;
So beggars marry many.
The man that makes his toe
What he his heart should make
Shall of a corn cry woe,
And turn his sleep to wake.
For there was never yet fair woman but she made
mouths in a glass.
KING LEAR: No, I will be the pattern of all patience; I
will say nothing.
KENT: Who’s there?
Fool: Marry, here’s grace and a cod-piece; that’s a
wise man and a fool.
KENT: Alas, sir, are you here? things that love night
Love not such nights as these; the wrathful skies
Gallow the very wanderers of the dark,
And make them keep their caves: since I was man,
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard: man’s nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear.
KING LEAR: Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o’er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulged crimes,
Unwhipp’d of justice: hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjured, and thou simular man of virtue
That art incestuous: caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practised on man’s life: close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn’d against than sinning.
KENT: Alack, bare-headed!
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel;
Some friendship will it lend you ‘gainst the tempest:
Repose you there; while I to this hard house—
More harder than the stones whereof ’tis raised;
Which even but now, demanding after you,
Denied me to come in—return, and force
Their scanted courtesy.
KING LEAR: My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy: how dost, my boy? art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious. Come, your
Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.
He that has and a little tiny wit—
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,—
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.
KING LEAR: True, my good boy. Come, bring us to
[Exeunt KING LEAR and KENT.]
Fool: This is a brave night to cool a courtezan.
I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go:
When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors;
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors;
When every case in law is right;
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues;
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold i’ the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion:
Then comes the time, who lives to see’t,
That going shall be used with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before
SCENE III: A wood.
EDGAR: I heard myself proclaim’d;
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,
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;
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 numb’d and mortified bare arms
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!
That’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am.
SCENE IV: The heath. Before a hovel.
[Enter KING LEAR, KENT, and Fool.]
KENT: Here is the place, my lord; good my lord,
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature to endure.
KING LEAR: Let me alone.
KENT: Good my lord, enter here.
KING LEAR: Wilt break my heart?
KENT: I had rather break mine own. Good my lord,
KING LEAR: Thou think’st ’tis much that this conten-
Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’ldst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou’ldst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the
The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,—
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
KENT: Good my lord, enter here.
KING LEAR: Prithee, go in thyself: seek thine own
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.
[To the Fool.]
In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,—
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.
[Fool goes in.]
Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
EDGAR: [Within] Fathom and half, fathom and half!
[The Fool runs out from the hovel.]
Fool: Come not in here, nuncle, here’s a spirit. Help
me, help me!
KENT: Give me thy hand. Who’s there?
Fool: A spirit, a spirit: he says his name’s poor Tom.
KENT: What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the
[Enter EDGAR disguised as a mad man.]
EDGAR: Away! the foul fiend follows me! Through
the sharp hawthorn blows the cold wind. Hum! go to
thy cold bed, and warm thee.
KING LEAR: Hast thou given all to thy two daugh-
ters? And art thou come to this?
EDGAR: Who gives any thing to poor Tom? whom
the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame,
and through ford and whirlipool e’er bog and quag-
mire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and hal-
ters in his pew; set ratsbane by his porridge; made
film proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse
over four-inched bridges, to course his own shadow
for a traitor. Bless thy five wits! Tom’s a-cold,—O, do
de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, star-
blasting, and taking! Do poor Tom some charity,
whom the foul fiend vexes: there could I have him
now,—and there,—and there again, and there.
KING LEAR: What! have his daughters brought him
to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
Fool: Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been
KING LEAR: Now, all the plagues that in the pendu-
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!
KENT: He hath no daughters, sir.
KING LEAR: Death, traitor! nothing could have
To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion, that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
Judicious punishment! ’twas this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.
EDGAR: Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill:
Halloo, halloo, loo, loo!
Fool: This cold night will turn us all to fools and mad-
EDGAR: Take heed o’ the foul fiend: obey thy par-
ents; keep thy word justly; swear not; commit not
with man’s sworn spouse; set not thy sweet heart on
proud array. Tom’s a-cold.
KING LEAR: What hast thou been?
EDGAR: A serving-man, proud in heart and mind;
that curled my hair; wore gloves in my cap; served
the lust of my mistress’ heart, and did the act of dark-
ness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words,
and broke them in the sweet face of heaven: one
that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it:
wine loved I deeply, dice dearly: and in woman out-
paramoured the Turk: false of heart, light of ear, bloody
of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greedi-
ness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creak-
ing of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor
heart to woman: keep thy foot out of brothels, thy
hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders’ books,
and defy the foul fiend Still through the hawthorn
blows the cold wind: Says suum, mun, ha, no, nonny.
Dolphin my boy, my boy, sessa! let him trot by.
KING LEAR: Why, thou wert better in thy grave than
to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of
the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him
well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide,
the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s
three on ‘s are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself:
unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor
bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings!
come unbutton here.
[Tearing off his clothes.]
Fool: Prithee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naughty
night to swim in. Now a little fire in a wild field were
like an old lecher’s heart; a small spark, all the
rest on’s body cold. Look, here comes a walking
[Enter GLOUCESTER, with a torch.]
EDGAR: This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he be-
gins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives
the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the
hare-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor
creature of earth.
S. Withold footed thrice the old;
He met the night-mare, and her nine-fold;
Bid her alight,
And her troth plight,
And, aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!
KENT: How fares your grace?
KING LEAR: What’s he?
KENT: Who’s there? What is’t you seek?
GLOUCESTER: What are you there? Your names?
EDGAR: Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog, the
toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt and the water; that
in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages,
eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and
the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the
standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to
tithing, and stock-punished, and imprisoned; who
hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his
Horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But mice and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.
Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin; peace, thou
GLOUCESTER: What, hath your grace no better
EDGAR: The prince of darkness is a gentleman:
Modo he’s call’d, and Mahu.
GLOUCESTER: Our flesh and blood, my lord, is
grown so vile,
That it doth hate what gets it.
EDGAR: Poor Tom’s a-cold.
GLOUCESTER: Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer
To obey in all your daughters’ hard commands:
Though their injunction be to bar my doors,
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventured to come seek you out,
And bring you where both fire and food is ready.
KING LEAR: First let me talk with this philosopher.
What is the cause of thunder?
KENT: Good my lord,
Take his offer; go into the house.
KING LEAR: I’ll talk a word with this same learned
What is your study?
EDGAR: How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
KING LEAR: Let me ask you one word in private.
KENT: Importune him once more to go, my lord;
His wits begin to unsettle.
GLOUCESTER: Canst thou blame him?
His daughters seek his death: ah, that good Kent!
He said it would be thus, poor banish’d man!
Thou say’st the king grows mad; I’ll tell thee, friend,
I am almost mad myself: I had a son,
Now outlaw’d from my blood; he sought my life,
But lately, very late: I loved him, friend;
No father his son dearer: truth to tell thee,
The grief hath crazed my wits. What a night’s this!
I do beseech your grace,—
KING LEAR: O, cry your mercy, sir.
Noble philosopher, your company.
EDGAR: Tom’s a-cold.
GLOUCESTER: In, fellow, there, into the hovel:
keep thee warm.
KING LEAR: Come let’s in all.
KENT: This way, my lord.
KING LEAR: With him;
I will keep still with my philosopher.
KENT: Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the
GLOUCESTER: Take him you on.
KENT: Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
KING LEAR: Come, good Athenian.
GLOUCESTER: No words, no words: hush.
EDGAR: Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still,—Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.
SCENE V: Gloucester’s castle.
[Enter CORNWALL and EDMUND.]
CORNWALL: I will have my revenge ere I depart his
EDMUND: How, my lord, I may be censured, that
nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me
to think of.
CORNWALL: I now perceive, it was not altogether
your brother’s evil disposition made him seek his
death; but a provoking merit, set a-work by a
reprovable badness in himself.
EDMUND: How malicious is my fortune, that I must
repent to be just! This is the letter he spoke of, which
approves him an intelligent party to the advantages
of France: O heavens! that this treason were not, or
not I the detector!
CORNWALL: Go with me to the duchess.
EDMUND: If the matter of this paper be certain, you
have mighty business in hand.
CORNWALL: True or false, it hath made thee earl of
Gloucester. Seek out where thy father is, that he may
be ready for our apprehension.
EDMUND: [Aside] If I find him comforting the king, it
will stuff his suspicion more fully.—I will persevere in
my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore
between that and my blood.
CORNWALL: I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt
find a dearer father in my love.
SCENE VI: A chamber in a farmhouse adjoining the
[Enter GLOUCESTER, KING LEAR, KENT, Fool, and
GLOUCESTER: Here is better than the open air; take
it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what
addition I can: I will not be long from you.
KENT: All the power of his wits have given way to
his impatience: the gods reward your kindness!
[Enter Lear, Edgar, and Fool.]
EDGAR: Frateretto calls me; and tells me Nero is an
angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and
beware the foul fiend.
Fool: Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be
a gentleman or a yeoman?
KING LEAR: A king, a king!
Fool: No, he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his
son; for he’s a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentle-
man before him.
KING LEAR: To have a thousand with red burning
Come hissing in upon ‘em,—
EDGAR: The foul fiend bites my back.
Fool: He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a
horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.
KING LEAR: It shall be done; I will arraign them
Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer;
[To the Fool.]
Thou, sapient sir, sit here. Now, you she foxes!
EDGAR: Look, where he stands and glares! Wantest
thou eyes at trial, madam?
Come o’er the bourn, Bessy, to me,—
Fool: Her boat hath a leak,
And she must not speak
Why she dares not come over to thee.
EDGAR: The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice
of a nightingale. Hopdance cries in Tom’s belly for
two white herring. Croak not, black angel; I have no
food for thee.
KENT: How do you, sir? Stand you not so amazed:
Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?
KING LEAR: I’ll see their trial first. Bring in the
Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;
[To the Fool.]
And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,
Bench by his side:
you are o’ the commission,
Sit you too.
EDGAR: Let us deal justly.
Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
Thy sheep be in the corn;
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm.
Pur! the cat is gray.
KING LEAR: Arraign her first; ’tis Goneril. I here take
my oath before this honorable assembly, she kicked
the poor king her father.
Fool: Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?
KING LEAR: She cannot deny it.
Fool: Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.
KING LEAR: And here’s another, whose warp’d
What store her heart is made on. Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place!
False justicer, why hast thou let her ‘scape?
EDGAR: Bless thy five wits!
KENT: O pity! Sir, where is the patience now,
That thou so oft have boasted to retain?
EDGAR: [Aside] My tears begin to take his part so
They’ll mar my counterfeiting.
KING LEAR: The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me.
EDGAR: Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt,
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
Mastiff, grey-hound, mongrel grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail,
Tom will make them weep and wail:
For, with throwing thus my head,
Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.
Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and
fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
KING LEAR: Then let them anatomize Regan; see
what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in
nature that makes these hard hearts?
You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I
do not like the fashion of your garments: you will
say they are Persian attire: but let them be changed.
KENT: Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.
KING LEAR: Make no noise, make no noise; draw
the curtains: so, so, so. We’ll go to supper i’ he morn-
ing. So, so, so.
Fool: And I’ll go to bed at noon.
GLOUCESTER: Come hither, friend: where is the king
KENT: Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are
GLOUCESTER: Good friend, I prithee, take him in
I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him:
There is a litter ready; lay him in ‘t,
And drive towards Dover, friend, where thou shalt
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master:
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
With thine, and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assured loss: take up, take up;
And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.
KENT: Oppressed nature sleeps:
This rest might yet have balm’d thy broken senses,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.
[To the Fool.]
Come, help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.
GLOUCESTER: Come, come, away.
[Exeunt all but EDGAR.]
EDGAR: When we our betters see bearing our
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ the mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind:
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’er skip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king
He childed as I father’d! Tom, away!
Mark the high noises; and thyself bewray,
When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles
In thy just proof, repeals and reconciles thee.
What will hap more to-night, safe ‘scape the king!
SCENE VII: Gloucester’s castle.
[Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GONERIL, EDMUND,
CORNWALL: Post speedily to my lord your husband;
show him this letter: the army of France is landed.
Seek out the villain Gloucester.
[Exeunt some of the Servants.]
REGAN: Hang him instantly.
GONERIL: Pluck out his eyes.
CORNWALL: Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund,
keep you our sister company: the revenges we are
bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit
for your beholding. Advise the duke, where you are
going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound
to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent
betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister: farewell, my lord of
How now! where’s the king?
OSWALD: My lord of Gloucester hath convey’d him
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,
Hot questrists after him, met him at gate;
Who, with some other of the lords dependants,
Are gone with him towards Dover; where they
To have well-armed friends.
CORNWALL: Get horses for your mistress.
GONERIL: Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
CORNWALL: Edmund, farewell.
[Exeunt GONERIL, EDMUND, and OSWALD.]
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.
[Exeunt other Servants.]
Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control. Who’s there? the traitor?
[Enter GLOUCESTER, brought in by two or three.]
REGAN: Ingrateful fox! ’tis he.
CORNWALL: Bind fast his corky arms.
GLOUCESTER: What mean your graces? Good my
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends.
CORNWALL: Bind him, I say.
[Servants bind him.]
REGAN: Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!
GLOUCESTER: Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.
CORNWALL: To this chair bind him. Villain, thou
[REGAN plucks his beard.]
GLOUCESTER: By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly
To pluck me by the beard.
REGAN: So white, and such a traitor!
GLOUCESTER: Naughty lady,
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,
Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:
With robbers’ hands my hospitable favors
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?
CORNWALL: Come, sir, what letters had you late
REGAN: Be simple answerer, for we know the truth.
CORNWALL: And what confederacy have you with
Late footed in the kingdom?
REGAN: To whose hands have you sent the lunatic
GLOUCESTER: I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one opposed.
REGAN: And false.
CORNWALL: Where hast thou sent the king?
GLOUCESTER: To Dover.
REGAN: Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not
charged at peril—
CORNWALL: Wherefore to Dover? Let him first
GLOUCESTER: I am tied to the stake, and I must
stand the course.
REGAN: Wherefore to Dover, sir?
GLOUCESTER: Because I would not see thy cruel
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endured, would have buoy’d up,
And quench’d the stelled fires:
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that stern time,
Thou shouldst have said ‘Good porter, turn the key,’
All cruels else subscribed: but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
CORNWALL: See’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.
GLOUCESTER: He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help! O cruel! O you gods!
REGAN: One side will mock another; the other too.
CORNWALL: If you see vengeance,—
First Servant: Hold your hand, my lord:
I have served you ever since I was a child;
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.
REGAN: How now, you dog!
First Servant: If you did wear a beard upon your
I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?
CORNWALL: My villain!
[They draw and fight.]
First Servant: Nay, then, come on, and take the