Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT I. - King Lear
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
ACT I. - William Shakespeare, King Lear 
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (The Oxford Shakespeare), ed. with a glossary by W.J. Craig M.A. (Oxford University Press, 1916).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
A Room of State inKing Lear’sPalace.
I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
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 blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.
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 a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came somewhat 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?
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. EnterLear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia,and Attendants.
Attend the Lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.
I shall, my liege.
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 eye-sight, 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 do? 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.
I am made of that self metal as my sister,
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 our 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 will 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; nor 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,—
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!
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 the 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 a hundred knights,
By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode
Make with you by due turn. Only we shall retain
The name and all th’ addition to a king;
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part between you.
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. Reserve 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.
Dear sir, forbear.
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 betwixt our sentence and our power,—
Which nor our nature nor our place can hear,—
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.
[ToCordelia.] The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
That justly think’st, and hast most rightly said!
[ToReganandGoneril.] 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-enterGloucester,withFrance, Burgundy,and Attendants.
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.—[ToFrance.] 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,
The best, the 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 into taint; which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Could 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 nor other 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
That I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
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 is not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.
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
Shall 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. ExeuntLear, Burgundy, Cornwall, Albany, Gloucester,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. 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.
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 covers faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!
Come, my fair 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-engraffed 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 on’t.
We must do something, and i’ the heat.
A Hall in theEarl of Gloucester’sCastle.
EnterEdmund,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!
Kent banished thus! And France in choler parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscrib’d his power!
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 perused, I find it not fit for your o’er-looking.
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.
This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways, not as it hath power, but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar.—Hum! Conspiracy! ‘Sleep till I 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 contents.
Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this business?
Never, my lord: but I have often heard him 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 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 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 satisfaction; 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 between 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 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. ’Sfoot! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar—
and pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue is villanous 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 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.
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, I advise you to the best; go armed; 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.
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.
A Room in theDuke of Albany’sPalace.
Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?
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.
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 my sister,
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,
Not to be over-rul’d. 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 cheeks as flatteries, when they are seen abus’d.
Remember what I have said.
And let his knights have colder looks among you;
What grown 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 source. Prepare for dinner.
A Hall in the Same.
If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I raz’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. EnterLear, 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 as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
Whom wouldst thou serve?
Dost thou know me, fellow?
No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
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 any thing; 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.
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. 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! sayest 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 him away.
No more of that; I have noted it well.
Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
[Exit an Attendant.
Go you, call hither my fool.
[Exit an Attendant.
O! you sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am
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?
I’ll not be struck, my lord.
Nor tripped 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.
Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there’s earnest of thy service.
Let me hire him too: here’s my coxcomb.
How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?
Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
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!
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 Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.
A pestilent gall to me!
[ToKent.] Sirrah, I’ll teach’ thee a speech.
Mark it, nuncle:—
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.
[ToKent.] Prithee, 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 fool?
No, lad; teach me.
Dost thou call me fool, boy?
All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.
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 ladies too: they will not let me have all fool to myself; they’ll be snatching. Nuncle, give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
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 gavest 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.
When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mothers; for when thou gavest them the rod and puttest down thine own breeches,
Prithee, 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.
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 now; I am a fool, thou art nothing. [ToGoneril.] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing.
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 trow, nuncle,
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Are you our daughter?
I would you would make use of your good wisdom,
Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away
These dispositions which 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.
Does any here know me? This is not Lear:
Does 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?
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, 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.
Woe, that too late repents;
[ToAlbany.] 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.
[ToGoneril.] 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 the cause;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.
What! fifty of my followers at a clap,
Within a fortnight?
What’s the matter, sir?
I’ll tell thee. [ToGoneril.] Life and death! 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 ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, is it come to this?
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; thou shalt, I warrant thee.
[ExeuntLear, 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, and take the fool with thee.
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 the unfitness,—
How now, Oswald!
What! have you writ that letter to my sister?
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. [ExitOswald.] 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 prais’d for harmful mildness.
How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
Well, well; the event.
Court before the Same.
EnterLear, Kent,and Fool.
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 before 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?
Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall not go slip-shod.
Ha, ha, ha!
Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; for though she’s as like this as a crab is like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.
What canst tell, boy?
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?
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 his 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 take it again perforce! Monster ingratitude!
If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time.
Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.
O! let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven;
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!
How now! Are the horses ready?
Ready, my lord.
She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.