King Lear, by William Shakespeare

Act V

Scene I. The British camp, near Dover.

Enter, with drum and colours, Edmund, Regan, Gentlemen, and Soldiers.

Edmund

Know of the duke if his last purpose hold,
Or whether since he is advised by aught
To change the course: he’s full of alteration
And self-reproving: bring his constant pleasure.

To a Gentleman, who goes out

Regan

Our sister’s man is certainly miscarried.

Edmund

’Tis to be doubted, madam.

Regan

Now, sweet lord,
You know the goodness I intend upon you:
Tell me — but truly — but then speak the truth,
Do you not love my sister?

Edmund

In honour’d love.

Regan

But have you never found my brother’s way
To the forfended place?

Edmund

That thought abuses you.

Regan

I am doubtful that you have been conjunct
And bosom’d with her, as far as we call hers.

Edmund

No, by mine honour, madam.

Regan

I never shall endure her: dear my lord,
Be not familiar with her.

Edmund

Fear me not:
She and the duke her husband!

Enter, with drum and colours, Albany, Goneril, and Soldiers

Goneril

[Aside] I had rather lose the battle than that sister
Should loosen him and me.

Albany

Our very loving sister, well be-met.
Sir, this I hear; the king is come to his daughter,
With others whom the rigor of our state
Forced to cry out. Where I could not be honest,
I never yet was valiant: for this business,
It toucheth us, as France invades our land,
Not bolds the king, with others, whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.

Edmund

Sir, you speak nobly.

Regan

Why is this reason’d?

Goneril

Combine together ’gainst the enemy;
For these domestic and particular broils
Are not the question here.

Albany

Let’s then determine
With the ancient of war on our proceedings.

Edmund

I shall attend you presently at your tent.

Regan

Sister, you’ll go with us?

Goneril

No.

Regan

’Tis most convenient; pray you, go with us.

Goneril

[Aside] O, ho, I know the riddle. — I will go.

As they are going out, enter Edgar disguised

Edgar

If e’er your grace had speech with man so poor,
Hear me one word.

Albany

  I’ll overtake you. Speak.

Exeunt all but Albany and Edgar

Edgar

Before you fight the battle, ope this letter.
If you have victory, let the trumpet sound
For him that brought it: wretched though I seem,
I can produce a champion that will prove
What is avouched there. If you miscarry,
Your business of the world hath so an end,
And machination ceases. Fortune love you.

Albany

Stay till I have read the letter.

Edgar

I was forbid it.
When time shall serve, let but the herald cry,
And I’ll appear again.

Albany

Why, fare thee well: I will o’erlook thy paper.

Exit Edgar

Re-enter Edmund

Edmund

The enemy’s in view; draw up your powers.
Here is the guess of their true strength and forces
By diligent discovery; but your haste
Is now urged on you.

Albany

We will greet the time.

Exit

Edmund

To both these sisters have I sworn my love;
Each jealous of the other, as the stung
Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take?
Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoy’d,
If both remain alive: to take the widow
Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril;
And hardly shall I carry out my side,
Her husband being alive. Now then we’ll use
His countenance for the battle; which being done,
Let her who would be rid of him devise
His speedy taking off. As for the mercy
Which he intends to Lear and to Cordelia,
The battle done, and they within our power,
Shall never see his pardon; for my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate.

Exit

Scene II. A field between the two camps.

Alarum within. Enter, with drum and colours, King Lear, Cordelia, and Soldiers, over the stage; and exeunt

Enter Edgar and Gloucester

Edgar

Here, father, take the shadow of this tree
For your good host; pray that the right may thrive:
If ever I return to you again,
I’ll bring you comfort.

Gloucester

Grace go with you, sir!

Exit Edgar

Alarum and retreat within. Re-enter Edgar

Edgar

Away, old man; give me thy hand; away!
King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en:
Give me thy hand; come on.

Gloucester

No farther, sir; a man may rot even here.

Edgar

What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all: come on.

Gloucester

And that’s true too.

Exeunt

Scene III. The British camp near Dover.

Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, Edmund, King Lear and Cordelia, prisoners; Captain, Soldiers, & c

Edmund

Some officers take them away: good guard,
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure them.

Cordelia

We are not the first
Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false fortune’s frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?

King Lear

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

Edmund

Take them away.

King Lear

Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep: we’ll see ’em starve first. Come.

Exeunt King Lear and Cordelia, guarded

Edmund

Come hither, captain; hark.
Take thou this note;

Giving a paper

go follow them to prison:
One step I have advanced thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes: know thou this, that men
Are as the time is: to be tender-minded
Does not become a sword: thy great employment
Will not bear question; either say thou’lt do ’t,
Or thrive by other means.

Captain

I’ll do ’t, my lord.

Edmund

About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it so
As I have set it down.

Captain

I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
If it be man’s work, I’ll do ’t.

Exit

Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, another Captain, and Soldiers

Albany

Sir, you have shown to-day your valiant strain,
And fortune led you well: you have the captives
That were the opposites of this day’s strife:
We do require them of you, so to use them
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.

Edmund

Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention and appointed guard;
Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
An turn our impress’d lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the queen;
My reason all the same; and they are ready
To-morrow, or at further space, to appear
Where you shall hold your session. At this time
We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are cursed
By those that feel their sharpness:
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.

Albany

Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.

Regan

  That’s as we list to grace him.
Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded,
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers;
Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy may well stand up,
And call itself your brother.

Goneril

Not so hot:
In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
More than in your addition.

Regan

In my rights,
By me invested, he compeers the best.

Goneril

That were the most, if he should husband you.

Regan

Jesters do oft prove prophets.

Goneril

Holla, holla!
That eye that told you so look’d but a-squint.

Regan

Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach. General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine:
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.

Goneril

Mean you to enjoy him?

Albany

The let-alone lies not in your good will.

Edmund

Nor in thine, lord.

Albany

Half-blooded fellow, yes.

Regan

[To Edmund] Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.

Albany

Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
This gilded serpent

Pointing to Goneril

For your claim, fair sister,
I bar it in the interest of my wife:
’Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your bans.
If you will marry, make your loves to me,
My lady is bespoke.

Goneril

An interlude!

Albany

Thou art arm’d, Gloucester: let the trumpet sound:
If none appear to prove upon thy head
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge;

Throwing down a glove

I’ll prove it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim’d thee.

Regan

Sick, O, sick!

Goneril

[Aside] If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.

Edmund

There’s my exchange:

Throwing down a glove

what in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies:
Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.

Albany

A herald, ho!

Edmund

  A herald, ho, a herald!

Albany

Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.

Regan

My sickness grows upon me.

Albany

She is not well; convey her to my tent.

Exit Regan, led

Enter a Herald

Come hither, herald — Let the trumpet sound,
And read out this.

Captain

Sound, trumpet!

A trumpet sounds

Herald

[Reads] ‘If any man of quality or degree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet: he is bold in his defence.’

Edmund

Sound!

First trumpet

Herald

Again!

Second trumpet

Herald

Again!

Third trumpet

Trumpet answers within

Enter Edgar, at the third sound, armed, with a trumpet before him

Albany

Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o’ the trumpet.

Herald

What are you?
Your name, your quality? and why you answer
This present summons?

Edgar

Know, my name is lost;
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.

Albany

  Which is that adversary?

Edgar

What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?

Edmund

Himself: what say’st thou to him?

Edgar

Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice: here is mine.
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession: I protest,
Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor;
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
Conspirant ’gainst this high-illustrious prince;
And, from the extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou ‘No,’
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits, are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
Thou liest.

Edmund

In wisdom I should ask thy name;
But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn:
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head;
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart;
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!

Alarums. They fight. Edmund falls

Albany

Save him, save him!

Goneril

This is practise, Gloucester:
By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish’d,
But cozen’d and beguiled.

Albany

Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it: Hold, sir:
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil:
No tearing, lady: I perceive you know it.

Gives the letter to Edmund

Goneril

Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine:
Who can arraign me for’t.

Albany

Most monstrous! oh!
Know’st thou this paper?

Goneril

Ask me not what I know.

Exit

Albany

Go after her: she’s desperate; govern her.

Edmund

What you have charged me with, that have I done;
And more, much more; the time will bring it out:
’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.

Edgar

  Let’s exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more thou hast wrong’d me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us:
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.

Edmund

  Thou hast spoken right, ’tis true;
The wheel is come full circle: I am here.

Albany

Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee:
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father!

Edgar

Worthy prince, I know’t.

Albany

Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?

Edgar

By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale;
And when ’tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape,
That follow’d me so near — O, our lives’ sweetness!
That we the pain of death would hourly die
Rather than die at once! — taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags; to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain’d: and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost: became his guide,
Led him, begg’d for him, saved him from despair;
Never — O fault! — reveal’d myself unto him,
Until some half-hour past, when I was arm’d:
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask’d his blessing, and from first to last
Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw’d heart,
Alack, too weak the conflict to support!
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.

Edmund

This speech of yours hath moved me,
And shall perchance do good: but speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.

Albany

If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.

Edgar

  This would have seem’d a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity.
Whilst I was big in clamour came there in a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn’d my abhorr’d society; but then, finding
Who ’twas that so endured, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck, and bellow’d out
As he’ld burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear received: which in recounting
His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
Began to crack: twice then the trumpets sounded,
And there I left him tranced.

Albany

But who was this?

Edgar

Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent; who in disguise
Follow’d his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.

Enter a Gentleman, with a bloody knife

Gentleman

Help, help, O, help!

Edgar

What kind of help?

Albany

Speak, man.

Edgar

What means that bloody knife?

Gentleman

’Tis hot, it smokes;
It came even from the heart of — O, she’s dead!

Albany

Who dead? speak, man.

Gentleman

Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister
By her is poisoned; she hath confess’d it.

Edmund

I was contracted to them both: all three
Now marry in an instant.

Edgar

Here comes Kent.

Albany

Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead:
This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
Touches us not with pity.

Exit Gentleman

Enter Kent

O, is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.

Kent

I am come
To bid my king and master aye good night:
Is he not here?

Albany

  Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the king? and where’s Cordelia?
See’st thou this object, Kent?

The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in

Kent

Alack, why thus?

Edmund

  Yet Edmund was beloved:
The one the other poison’d for my sake,
And after slew herself.

Albany

Even so. Cover their faces.

Edmund

I pant for life: some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia:
Nay, send in time.

Albany

  Run, run, O, run!

Edgar

To who, my lord? Who hath the office? send
Thy token of reprieve.

Edmund

Well thought on: take my sword,
Give it the captain.

Albany

Haste thee, for thy life.

Exit Edgar

Edmund

He hath commission from thy wife and me
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.

Albany

The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.

Edmund is borne off

Re-enter King Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms; Edgar, Captain, and others following

King Lear

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’ld use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.

Kent

Is this the promised end

Edgar

Or image of that horror?

Albany

Fall, and cease!

King Lear

This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.

Kent

[Kneeling] O my good master!

King Lear

Prithee, away.

Edgar

’Tis noble Kent, your friend.

King Lear

A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have saved her; now she’s gone for ever!
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.

Captain

’Tis true, my lords, he did.

King Lear

Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o’ the best: I’ll tell you straight.

Kent

If fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
One of them we behold.

King Lear

This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?

Kent

The same,
Your servant Kent: Where is your servant Caius?

King Lear

He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He’ll strike, and quickly too: he’s dead and rotten.

Kent

No, my good lord; I am the very man —

King Lear

I’ll see that straight.

Kent

That, from your first of difference and decay,
Have follow’d your sad steps.

King Lear

You are welcome hither.

Kent

Nor no man else: all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
Your eldest daughters have fordone them selves,
And desperately are dead.

King Lear

Ay, so I think.

Albany

He knows not what he says: and vain it is
That we present us to him.

Edgar

Very bootless.

Enter a Captain

Captain

Edmund is dead, my lord.

Albany

That’s but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come
Shall be applied: for us we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power:

To Edgar and Kent

you, to your rights:
With boot, and such addition as your honours
Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!

King Lear

And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!

Dies

Edgar

He faints! My lord, my lord!

Kent

Break, heart; I prithee, break!

Edgar

Look up, my lord.

Kent

Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass! he hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.

Edgar

He is gone, indeed.

Kent

The wonder is, he hath endured so long:
He but usurp’d his life.

Albany

Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.

To Kent and Edgar

Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.

Kent

I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.

Albany

The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Exeunt, with a dead march

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