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The Tragedy of King Lear by William Shakespeare [Collins edition]

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by William Shakespeare

Persons Represented.

Lear, King of Britain.
King of France.
Duke of Burgundy.
Duke of Cornwall.
Duke of Albany.
Earl of Kent.
Earl of Gloster.
Edgar, Son to Gloster.
Edmund, Bastard Son to Gloster.
Curan, a Courtier.
Old Man, Tenant to Gloster.
Oswald, steward to Goneril.
An Officer employed by Edmund.
Gentleman, attendant on Cordelia.
A Herald.
Servants to Cornwall.

Goneril, daughter to Lear.
Regan, daughter to Lear.
Cordelia, daughter to Lear.

Knights attending on the King, Officers, Messengers, Soldiers,
and Attendants.



Scene I. A Room of State in King Lear's Palace.

[Enter Kent, Gloster, and Edmund.]

I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than

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.

Is not this your son, my lord?

His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often
blush'd to acknowledge him that now I am braz'd to't.

I cannot conceive you.

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?

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

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,

No, my lord.

My Lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.

My services to your lordship.

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

Sir, I shall study deserving.

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

[Sennet within.]

[Enter Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and

Attend the lords of France and Burgundy,

I shall, my liege.

[Exeunt Gloster and Edmund.]

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
Unburden'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.

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valu'd, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e'er lov'd, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

[Aside.] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

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.

Sir, I am made of the selfsame 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.

[Aside.] Then poor Cordelia!
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's
More richer than my tongue.

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.

Nothing, my lord.



Nothing can come of nothing: speak again.

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; no more nor less.

How, how, Cordelia? mend your speech a little,
Lest you may mar your fortunes.

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, lov'd 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.

But goes thy heart with this?

Ay, good my lord.

So young, and so untender?

So young, my lord, and true.

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 reliev'd,
As thou my sometime daughter.

Good my liege,--

Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I lov'd her most, and thought to set my rest
On her kind nursery.--Hence, and avoid my sight!--[To Cordelia.]
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 in 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.]

Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honour'd as my king,
Lov'd as my father, as my master follow'd,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers.--

The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.

Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound
When majesty falls to folly. Reverse thy state;
And in thy best consideration check
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.

Kent, on thy life, no more.

My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,
Thy safety being the motive.

Out of my sight!

See better, Lear; and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

Now, by Apollo,--

Now by Apollo, king,
Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.

O vassal! miscreant!

[Laying his hand on his sword.]

Alb. and Corn.
Dear sir, forbear!

Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,
Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,
I'll tell thee thou dost evil.

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 revok'd.

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.


[Flourish. Re-enter Gloster, with France, Burgundy, and

Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.

My Lord of Burgundy,
We first address toward 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?

Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offer'd,
Nor will you tender less.

Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands:
If aught within that little seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure piec'd,
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,
She's there, and she is yours.

I know no answer.

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?

Pardon me, royal sir;
Election makes not up on such conditions.

Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.--[To France] For you, great king,
I would not from your love make such a 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 asham'd
Almost to acknowledge hers.

This is most strange,
That she, who 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
Should never plant in me.

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 depriv'd me of your grace and favour;
But even for want of that for which I am richer,--
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.

Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleas'd me better.

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 stands
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.

Royal king,
Give but that portion which yourself propos'd,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.

Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.

I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.

Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,
I shall not be his wife.

Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most lov'd, despis'd!
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:
Be it lawful, I take up what's cast away.
Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
My love should kindle to inflam'd respect.--
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France:
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy
Can buy this unpriz'd precious maid of me.--
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.

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 Lear, Burgundy, Cornwall, Albany, Gloster,
and Attendants.]

Bid farewell to your sisters.

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 nam'd. Love well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him:
But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.
So, farewell to you both.

Prescribe not us our duties.

Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath receiv'd you
At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:
Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!

Come, my fair Cordelia.

[Exeunt France and Cordelia.]

Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly
appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.

That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.

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.

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

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-ingraffed condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness
that infirm and choleric years bring with them.

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

There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and
him. Pray you let us hit together: if our father carry authority
with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his
will but offend us.

We shall further think of it.

We must do something, and i' th' heat.


Scene II. A Hall in the Earl of Gloster's Castle.

[Enter Edmund with a letter.]

Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to 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 Gloster.]

Kent banish'd thus! and France in choler parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscrib'd his pow'r!
Confin'd to exhibition! All this done
Upon the gad!--Edmund, how now! What news?

So please your lordship, none.

[Putting up the letter.]

Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?

I know no news, my lord.

What paper were you reading?

Nothing, my lord.

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.

I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother
that I have not all o'er-read; and for so much as I have perus'd,
I find it not fit for your o'erlooking.

Give me the letter, sir.

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

Let's see, let's see!

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

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

It was not brought me, my lord, there's the cunning of it; I
found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.

You know the character to be your brother's?

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.

It is his.

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

Hath he never before sounded you in this business?

Never, my lord: but I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit
that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declined, the father
should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.

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?

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

Think you so?

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
and that without any further delay than this very evening.

He cannot be such a monster.

Nor is not, sure.

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.

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

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.


This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
sick in fortune,--often the surfeit of our own behaviour,--we
make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as
if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion;
knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance;
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.

[Enter Edgar.]

Pat!--he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue
is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam.--O,
these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi.

How now, brother Edmund! what serious contemplation are you in?

I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day,
what should follow these eclipses.

Do you busy yourself with that?

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.

How long have you been a sectary astronomical?

Come, come! when saw you my father last?

The night gone by.

Spake you with him?

Ay, two hours together.

Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by word
or countenance?

None at all.

Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him: and at my
entreaty forbear his presence until some little time hath
qualified the heat of his displeasure; which at this instant so
rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would
scarcely allay.

Some villain hath done me wrong.

That's my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till the
speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me to
my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord
speak: pray you, go; there's my key.--If you do stir abroad, go

Armed, brother!

Brother, I advise you to the best; I am no honest man
if there be any good meaning toward you: I have told you what I
have seen and heard but faintly; nothing like the image and
horror of it: pray you, away!

Shall I hear from you anon?

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 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. A Room in the Duke of Albany's Palace.

[Enter Goneril and Oswald.]

Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?

Osw. Ay, madam.

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.

He's coming, madam; I hear him.

[Horns within.]

Put on what weary negligence you please,
You and your fellows; I'd have it come to question:
If he distaste it, let him to our sister,
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,
Not to be overruled. Idle old man,
That still would manage those authorities
That he hath given away!--Now, by my life,
Old fools are babes again; and must be us'd
With checks as flatteries,--when they are seen abus'd.
Remember what I have said.

Very well, madam.

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.


Scene IV. A Hall in Albany's Palace.

[Enter Kent, disguised.]

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 rais'd my likeness.--Now, banish'd Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov'st,
Shall find thee full of labours.

[Horns within. Enter King Lear, Knights, and Attendants.]

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

[Exit an Attendant.]

How now! what art thou?

A man, sir.

What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?

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.

What art thou?

A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.

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


Who wouldst thou serve?


Dost thou know me, fellow?

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

What's that?


What services canst thou do?

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.

How old art thou?

Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing; nor so old to
dote on her for anything: I have years on my back forty-eight.

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?

So please you,--


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?

He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.

Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?

Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.

He would not!

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.

Ha! say'st thou so?

I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty
cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.

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.

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

No more of that; I have noted it well.--Go you and tell my
daughter I would speak with her.--

[Exit Attendant.]

Go you, call hither my fool.

[Exit another Attendant.]

[Re-enter Oswald.]

O, you, sir, you, come you hither, sir: who am I, sir?

My lady's father.

My lady's father! my lord's knave: you whoreson dog! you slave!
you cur!

I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon.

Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
[Striking him.]

I'll not be struck, my lord.

Nor tripp'd neither, you base football player.
[Tripping up his heels.]

I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I'll love thee.

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.]

Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there's earnest of thy
[Giving Kent money.]

[Enter Fool.]

Fool. Let me hire him too; here's my coxcomb.
[Giving Kent his cap.]

How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?

Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.

Why, 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 hath banish'd two on's
daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will; if
thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.--How now,
nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!

Why, my boy?

If I gave them all my living, I'd keep my coxcombs myself.
There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.

Take heed, sirrah,--the whip.

Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when
the lady brach may stand by the fire and stink.

A pestilent gall to me!

Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.


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.

This is nothing, 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?

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

[to Kent] Pr'ythee tell him, so much the rent of his land
comes to: he will not believe a fool.

A bitter fool!

Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and
a sweet one?

No, lad; teach me.

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.

Dost thou call me fool, boy?

All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born

This is not altogether fool, my lord.

No, faith; lords and great men will not let me: if I had a
monopoly out, they would have part on't and loads too: they
will not let me have all the fool to myself; they'll be
snatching.--Nuncle, give me an egg, and I'll give thee two

What two crowns shall they be?

Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle and eat up the
meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i'
the middle and gav'st away both parts, thou borest thine 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 grace in a year;
For wise men are grown foppish,
And know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.

When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?

I have used it, nuncle, e'er since thou mad'st thy daughters thy
mothers; for when thou gav'st them the rod, and puttest 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.

Pr'ythee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to
lie; I would fain learn to lie.

An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.

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.]

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

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; I am a fool, thou art nothing.--Yes, forsooth, I
will hold my tongue. So your face [To Goneril.] bids me, though
you say nothing. Mum, mum,
He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.--
[Pointing to Lear.] That's a shealed peascod.

Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd 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.

For you know, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long
That it had it head bit off by it young.
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.

Are you our daughter?

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.

May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?--Whoop, Jug! I
love thee!

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?

Lear's shadow.

I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty,
Knowledge, and reason,
I should be false persuaded I had daughters.

Which they will make an obedient father.

Your name, fair gentlewoman?

This admiration, sir, is much o' the favour
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 grac'd palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy: be, then, desir'd
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,
Which know themselves, and you.

Darkness and devils!--
Saddle my horses; call my train together.--
Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee:
Yet have I left a daughter.

You strike my people; and your disorder'd rabble
Make servants of their betters.

[Enter Albany.]

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!

Pray, sir, be patient.

[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!
Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
From the fix'd place; drew from my 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.

My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath mov'd you.

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 disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains and 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!


Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

Never afflict yourself to know more of it;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.

[Re-enter Lear.]

What, fifty of my followers at a clap!
Within a fortnight!

What's the matter, sir?

I'll tell thee.--Life and death!--[To Goneril] I am asham'd
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!
Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee!--Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck you out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Ha!
Let it be so: I have another daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her 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.

[Exeunt Lear, Kent, and Attendants.]

Do you mark that?

I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you,--

Pray you, content.--What, Oswald, ho!
[To the Fool] You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.

Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry,--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.


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!--

Well, you may fear too far.

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

[Re-enter Oswald.]

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

Ay, madam.

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 it not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
Than prais'd for harmful mildness.

How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

Nay then,--

Well, well; the event.


Scene V. Court before the Duke of Albany's Palace.

[Enter Lear, Kent, and Fool.]

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

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


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

Ay, boy.

Then I pr'ythee be merry; thy wit shall not go slipshod.

Ha, ha, ha!

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.

What canst tell, boy?

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


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

I did her wrong,--

Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?


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


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

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

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

Because they are not eight?

Yes indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

To tak't again perforce!--Monster ingratitude!

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

How's that?

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

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?

Ready, my lord.

Come, boy.

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



Scene I. A court within the Castle of the Earl of Gloster.

[Enter Edmund and Curan, meeting.]

Save thee, 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.

How comes that?

Nay, I know not.--You have heard of the news abroad; I mean the
whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments?

Not I: pray you, what are they?

Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 'twixt the two dukes
of Cornwall and Albany?

Not a word.

You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.


The Duke be here to-night? The better! best!
This weaves itself perforce into my business.
My father hath set guard to take my brother;
And I have one thing, of a queasy question,
Which I must act:--briefness and fortune work!--
Brother, a word!--descend:--brother, I say!

[Enter Edgar.]

My father watches:--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?
Advise yourself.

I am sure on't, not a word.

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.

[Exit Edgar.]

Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion
Of my more fierce endeavour: [Wounds his arm.]
I have seen drunkards
Do more than this in sport.--Father, father!
Stop, stop! No help?

[Enter Gloster, and Servants with torches.]

Now, Edmund, where's the villain?

Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress,--

But where is he?

Look, sir, I bleed.

Where is the villain, Edmund?

Fled this way, sir. When by no means he could,--

Pursue him, ho!--Go after.

[Exeunt Servants.]

--By no means what?

Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;
But that I told him the revenging gods
'Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;
Spoke with how manifold and strong a 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, lanc'd mine arm;
But when he saw my best alarum'd spirits,
Bold in the quarrel's right, rous'd to the encounter,
Or whether gasted by the noise I made,
Full suddenly he fled.

Let him fly far;
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;
And found--dispatch'd.--The noble duke my master,
My worthy arch and patron, comes 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.

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'd 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.

Strong and fast'ned villain!
Would he deny his letter?--I never got him.

[Trumpets within.]

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 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.]

How now, my noble friend! since I came hither,--
Which I can call but now,--I have heard strange news.

If it be true, all vengeance comes too short
Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?

O madam, my old heart is crack'd,--it's crack'd!

What, did my father's godson seek your life?
He whom my father nam'd? your Edgar?

O lady, lady, shame would have it hid!

Was he not companion with the riotous knights
That tend upon my father?

I know not, madam:--
It is too bad, too bad.

Yes, madam, he was of that consort.

No marvel then though he were ill affected:
'Tis they have put him on the old man's death,
To have the expense and waste of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my 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.

Nor I, assure thee, Regan.--
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A childlike office.

'Twas my duty, sir.

He did bewray his practice; and receiv'd
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.

Is he pursu'd?

Ay, my good lord.

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.

I shall serve you, sir,
Truly, however else.

For him I thank your grace.

You know not why we came to visit you,--

Thus out of season, threading dark-ey'd night:
Occasions, noble Gloster, of some poise,
Wherein we must have use of your advice:--
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home; the several messengers
From hence attend despatch. Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom; and bestow
Your needful counsel to our business,
Which craves the instant use.

I serve you, madam:
Your graces are right welcome.


Scene II. Before Gloster's Castle.

[Enter Kent and Oswald, severally.]

Good dawning to thee, friend: art of this house?


Where may we set our horses?

I' the mire.

Pr'ythee, if thou lov'st me, tell me.

I love thee not.

Why then, I care not for thee.

If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make thee care for me.

Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.

Fellow, I know thee.

What dost thou know me for?

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, whoreson,
glass-gazing, superserviceable, 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, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel
bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou
denyest the least syllable of thy addition.

Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that's
neither known of thee nor knows thee?

What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me! Is
it two days ago since I beat thee and tripped up thy heels 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 barbermonger, draw!

[Drawing his sword.]

Away! I have nothing to do with thee.

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!

Help, ho! murder! help!

Strike, you slave; stand, rogue, stand; you neat slave, strike!

[Beating him.]

Help, ho! murder! murder!

[Enter Edmund, Cornwall, Regan, Gloster, and Servants.]

How now! What's the matter?

With you, goodman boy, an you please: come, I'll flesh you; come
on, young master.

Weapons! arms! What's the matter here?

Keep peace, upon your lives;
He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?

The messengers from our sister and the king.

What is your difference? speak.

I am scarce in breath, my lord.

No marvel, you have so bestirr'd your valour. You cowardly
rascal, nature disclaims in thee; a tailor made thee.

Thou art a strange fellow: a tailor make a man?

Ay, a tailor, sir: a stonecutter or a painter could not have
made him so ill, though he had been but two hours at the trade.

Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?

This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of
his grey


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