King Lear, by William Shakespeare

Act I

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 husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?

Kent

I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.

Gloucester

But I have, 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 saucily 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 hereafter as my honourable friend.

Edmund

My services to your lordship.

Kent

I must love you, and sue to know you better.

Edmund

Sir, I shall study deserving.

Gloucester

He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.

Sennet. Enter King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and Attendants

King Lear

Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.

Gloucester

I shall, my liege.

Exeunt Gloucester and Edmund

King Lear

Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
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 Cornwall,
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 Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my daughters —
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state —
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.

Goneril

Sir, 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, honour;
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 this,
With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s 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 that my sister is,
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!

Cordelia

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 a little,
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 honour 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 carry
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 neighbour’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 honour’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 the shaft.

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 honour’s bound,
When majesty stoops to folly. Reverse thy doom;
And, in thy best consideration, cheque
This hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,
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 more.

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

Albany

Cornwall

Dear sir, forbear.

Kent

Do:
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom;
Or, whilst I can vent clamour 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
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.

To Cordelia

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.

Exit

Flourish. Re-enter Gloucester, with King Of France, Burgundy, and Attendants

Gloucester

Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.

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 favour. 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 dishonour’d step,
That hath deprived me of your grace and favour;
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 better.

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’st neglect
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 hides:
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 with us.

Goneril

You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.

Regan

’Tis the infirmity of his age: yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.

Goneril

The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.

Regan

Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.

Goneril

There is further compliment of 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.

Exeunt

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!

Enter Gloucester

Gloucester

Kent banish’d thus! and France in choler parted!
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 that letter?

Edmund

I know no news, my lord.

Gloucester

What paper were you reading?

Edmund

Nothing, my lord.

Gloucester

No? What needed, then, that terrible dispatch of it into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see: come, if it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

Edmund

I beseech you, sir, pardon me: it is a letter from my brother, that I have not all o’er-read; and for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o’er-looking.

Gloucester

Give me the letter, sir.

Edmund

I shall offend, either to detain or give it.
The contents, as in part I understand them, are to blame.

Gloucester

Let’s see, let’s see.

Edmund

I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

Gloucester

[Reads] ‘This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny; who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar.’

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 brother’s?

Edmund

If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.

Gloucester

It is his.

Edmund

It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is not in the contents.

Gloucester

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, brutish villain! worse than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I’ll apprehend him: abominable villain! Where is he?

Edmund

I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain course; where, if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he hath wrote this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no further pretence of danger.

Gloucester

Think you so?

Edmund

If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction; and that without any further delay than this very evening.

Gloucester

He cannot be such a monster —

Edmund

Nor is not, sure.

Gloucester

To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out: wind me into him, I pray you: frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate myself, to be in a due resolution.

Edmund

I will seek him, sir, presently: convey the business as I shall find means and acquaint you withal.

Gloucester

These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects: love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there’s son against father: the king falls from bias of nature; there’s father against child. We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his offence, honesty! ’Tis strange.

Exit

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 disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail; and my nativity was under Ursa major; so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar —

Enter Edgar

And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy: 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 maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

Edgar

How long have you been a sectary astronomical?

Edmund

Come, come; when saw you my father last?

Edgar

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 displeasure; which at this instant so rageth in him, that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely allay.

Edgar

Some villain hath done me wrong.

Edmund

That’s my fear. I pray you, have a continent forbearance till the 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, go armed.

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.

Exit Edgar

A credulous father! and a brother noble,
Whose nature is so far from doing harms,
That he suspects none: on whose foolish honesty
My practises 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.

Exit

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 hour
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.

Horns within

Goneril

Put on what weary negligence you please,
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 cheques as flatteries — when they are seen abused.
Remember what I tell you.

Oswald

Well, madam.

Goneril

And let his knights have colder looks among you;
What grows of it, no matter; advise your fellows so:
I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall,
That I may speak: I’ll write straight to my sister,
To hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.

Exeunt

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 labours.

Horns within. Enter King Lear, Knights, and Attendants

King Lear

Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get it ready.

Exit an Attendant

How now! what art thou?

Kent

A man, sir.

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 the king.

King Lear

If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?

Kent

Service.

King Lear

Who wouldst thou serve?

Kent

You.

King Lear

Dost thou know me, fellow?

Kent

No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.

King Lear

What’s that?

Kent

Authority.

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 qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.

King Lear

How old art thou?

Kent

Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, 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

Enter Oswald

You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?

Oswald

So please you —

Exit

King Lear

What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.

Exit a Knight

Where’s my fool, ho? I think the world’s asleep.

Re-enter Knight

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 your daughter.

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 unkindness: I will look further into’t. But where’s my fool? I have not seen him this two days.

Knight

Since my young lady’s going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.

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

Re-enter Oswald

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 your pardon.

King Lear

Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?

Striking him

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 differences: away, away! if you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry: but away! go to; have you wisdom? so.

Pushes Oswald out

King Lear

Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there’s earnest of thy service.

Giving Kent money

Enter Fool

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 favour: 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 coxcombs myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy daughters.

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 stink.

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 nothing, nuncle?

King Lear

Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.

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, between 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.

Singing

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 songs, sirrah?

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,

Singing

Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.

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 whipped.

Fool

I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are: they’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o’ thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides, and left nothing i’ the middle: here comes one o’ the parings.

Enter Goneril

King Lear

How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on?
Methinks you are too much of late i’ the frown.

Fool

Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.

To Goneril

Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum,
He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.

Pointing to 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. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done.
That you protect this course, and put it 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 Lear:
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
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 savour
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 disorder’d rabble
Make servants of their betters.

Enter Albany

King Lear

Woe, that too late repents —

To Albany

O, sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous when thou show’st thee in a 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 honour 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!

Exit

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:

To Goneril

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 upon thee!
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.

Exit

Goneril

This man hath had good counsel:— a hundred knights!
’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights: yes, that, on every dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!

Albany

Well, you may fear too far.

Goneril

Safer than trust too far:
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart.
What he hath utter’d I have writ my sister
If she sustain him and his hundred knights
When I have show’d the unfitness —

Re-enter Oswald

How now, Oswald!
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

Oswald

Yes, madam.

Goneril

Take you some company, and away to horse:
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.

Exit Oswald

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.

Exeunt

Scene V. Court before the same.

Enter King Lear, Kent, and Fool

King Lear

Go you before to Gloucester with these letters. Acquaint my daughter no further with any thing you know than comes from her demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.

Kent

I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.

Exit

Fool

If a man’s brains were in’s heels, were’t not in danger of kibes?

King Lear

Ay, boy.

Fool

Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall ne’er go slip-shod.

King Lear

Ha, ha, ha!

Fool

Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; for though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.

King Lear

Why, what canst thou tell, my boy?

Fool

She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’ the middle on’s face?

King Lear

No.

Fool

Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose; that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.

King Lear

I did her wrong —

Fool

Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?

King Lear

No.

Fool

Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.

King Lear

Why?

Fool

Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case.

King Lear

I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my horses ready?

Fool

Thy asses are gone about ’em. The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.

King Lear

Because they are not eight?

Fool

Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

King Lear

To take ’t again perforce! Monster ingratitude!

Fool

If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’ld have thee beaten for being old before thy time.

King Lear

How’s that?

Fool

Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

King Lear

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad!

Enter Gentleman

How now! are the horses ready?

Gentleman

Ready, my lord.

King Lear

Come, boy.

Fool

She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.

Exeunt

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30