Front Page Titles (by Subject) ACT III. - King Lear
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ACT III. - 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).
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A storm, with thunder and lightning. EnterKentand a Gentleman, meeting.
Who’s here, beside foul weather?
One minded like the weather, most unquietly.
I know you. Where’s the king?
Contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters ’bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out-scorn
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.
This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.
But who is with him?
None but the fool, who labours to out-jest
His heart-struck injuries.
Sir, I do know you;
And dare, upon the warrant of my note,
Commend a dear thing to you. There is division,
Although as yet the face of it be cover’d
With mutual cunning, ’twixt Albany and Cornwall;
Who have—as who have not, that their great stars
Thron’d and set high—servants, who seem no less,
Which are to France the spies and speculations
Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen,
Either in snuffs and packings of the dukes,
Or the hard rein which both of them have borne
Against the old kind king; or something deeper,
Whereof perchance these are but furnishings;
But, true it is, from France there comes a power
Into this scatter’d kingdom; who already,
Wise in our negligence, have secret feet
In some of our best ports, and are at point
To show their open banner. Now to you:
If on my credit you dare build so far
To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
Some that will thank you, making just report
Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow
The king hath cause to plain.
I am a gentleman of blood and breeding,
And from some knowledge and assurance offer
This office to you.
I will talk further with you.
No, do not.
For confirmation that I am much more
Than my out-wall, open this purse, and take
What it contains. If you shall see Cordelia,—
As doubt not but you shall,—show her this ring,
And she will tell you who your fellow is
That yet you do not know. Fie on this storm!
I will go seek the king.
Give me your hand. Have you no more to say?
Few words, but, to effect, more than all yet;
That, when we have found the king,—in which your pain
That way, I’ll this,—he that first lights on him
Holla the other.
Another Part of the Heath. Storm still.
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!
O nuncle, court holy-water in a dry house is better than this rain-water out o’ door. Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters’ blessing; here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.
Rumble thy bellyfull Spit, fire! spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children,
You owe me no subscription: then, let fall
Your horrible pleasure; here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despis’d old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join’d
Your high-engender’d battles ’gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! ’tis foul.
He that has a house to put his head in has a good head-piece.
For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.
No, I will be the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing.
Marry, here’s grace and a cod-piece; that’s a wise man and a fool.
Alas! sir, are you here? things that love night
Love not such nights as these; the wrathful skies
Gallow the very wanderers of the dark,
And make them keep their caves. Since I was man
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard; man’s nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear.
Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o’er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulged crimes,
Unwhipp’d of justice; hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjur’d, and thou simular of virtue
That art incestuous; caitiff, to pieces shake,
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practis’d on man’s life; close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn’d against than sinning.
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel;
Some friendship will it lend you ’gainst the tempest;
Repose you there while I to this hard house,—
More harder than the stone whereof ’tis rais’d,—
Which even but now, demanding after you,
Denied me to come in, return and force
Their scanted courtesy.
My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious. Come, your hovel.
Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.
True, my good boy. Come, bring us to this hovel.
This is a brave night to cool a courtezan.
I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go:
This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time.
A Room inGloucester’sCastle.
Alack, alack! Edmund, I like not this unnatural dealing. When I desired their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house; charged me, on pain of their perpetual displeasure, neither to speak of him, entreat for him, nor any way sustain him.
Most savage, and unnatural!
Go to; say you nothing. There is division between the dukes, and a worse matter than that. I have received a letter this night; ’tis dangerous to be spoken; I have locked the letter in my closet. These injuries the king now bears will be revenged home; there’s part of a power already footed; we must incline to the king. I will seek him and privily relieve him; go you and maintain talk with the duke, that my charity be not of him perceived. If he ask for me, I am ill and gone to bed. If I die for it, as no less is threatened me, the king, my old master, must be relieved. There is some strange thing toward, Edmund; pray you, be careful.
This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the duke
Instantly know; and of that letter too:
This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me
That which my father loses; no less than all:
The younger rises when the old doth fall.
The Heath. Before a Hovel.
EnterLear, Kent,and Fool.
Here is the place, my lord; good my lord, enter:
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature to endure.
Let me alone.
Good my lord, enter here.
Wilt break my heart?
I’d rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.
Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’dst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,
Thou’dst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free
The body’s delicate; the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,—
O! that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
Good, my lord, enter here.
Prithee, go in thyself; seek thine own ease:
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.
[To the Fool.] In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,—
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.
[Fool goes in.
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O! I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
[Within.] Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom!
[The Fool runs out from the hovel.
Come not in here, nuncle; here’s a spirit.
Help me! help me!
Give me thy hand. Who’s there?
A spirit, a spirit: he says his name’s poor Tom.
What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the straw?
EnterEdgardisguised as a madman.
Away! the foul fiend follows me!
Through the sharp hawthorn blow the winds.
Hum! go to thy cold bed and warm thee.
Didst thou give all to thy two daughters?
And art thou come to this?
Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew; set ratsbane by his porridge; made him proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inched bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor. Bless thy five wits! Tom’s a-cold. O! do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, starblasting, and taking! Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes. There could I have him now, and there, and there again, and there.
What! have his daughters brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed.
Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!
He hath no daughters, sir.
Death, traitor! nothing could have subdu’d nature
To such a lowness, but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
Judicious punishment! ’twas this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.
Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill:
Halloo, halloo, loo, loo!
This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
Take heed o’ the foul fiend. Obey thy parents; keep thy word justly; swear not; commit not with man’s sworn spouse; set not thy sweet heart on proud array. Tom’s a-cold.
What hast thou been?
A servingman, proud in heart and mind; that curled my hair, wore gloves in my cap, served the lust of my mistress’s heart, and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven; one that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly, and in woman out-paramoured the Turk: false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman: keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind; says suum, mun ha no nonny. Dolphin my boy, my boy; sessa! let him trot by.
Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s three on’s are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come; unbutton here.
[Tearing off his clothes.
Prithee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naughty night to swim in. Now a little fire in a wide field were like an old lecher’s heart; a small spark, all the rest on’s body cold. Look! here comes a walking fire.
EnterGloucesterwith a torch.
This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the harelip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth.
How fares your Grace?
Who’s there? What is’t you seek?
What are you there? Your names?
Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog; the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stock-punished, and imprisoned; who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin! peace, thou fiend.
What! hath your Grace no better company?
The prince of darkness is a gentleman;
Modo he’s call’d, and Mahu.
Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile,
That it doth hate what gets it.
Poor Tom’s a-cold.
Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer
To obey in all your daughters’ hard commands:
Though their injunction be to bar my doors,
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventur’d to come seek you out
And bring you where both fire and food is ready.
First let me talk with this philosopher.
What is the cause of thunder?
Good my lord, take his offer; go into the house.
I’ll talk a word with this same learned Theban.
What is your study?
How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
Let me ask you one word in private.
Importune him once more to go, my lord;
His wits begin to unsettle.
Canst thou blame him?
His daughters seek his death. Ah! that good Kent;
He said it would be thus, poor banish’d man!
Thou sayst the king grows mad; I’ll tell thee, friend,
I am almost mad myself. I had a son,
Now outlaw’d from my blood; he sought my life,
But lately, very late; I lov’d him, friend,
No father his son dearer; true to tell thee,
The grief hath craz’d my wits. What a night’s this!
I do beseech your Grace,—
O! cry you mercy, sir.
Noble philosopher, your company.
In, fellow, there, into the hovel: keep thee warm.
Come, let’s in all.
This way, my lord.
I will keep still with my philosopher.
Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the fellow.
Take him you on.
Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
Come, good Athenian.
No words, no words: hush.
A Room inGloucester’sCastle.
I will have my revenge ere I depart his house.
How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus gives way to loyalty, something fears me to think of.
I now perceive it was not altogether your brother’s evil disposition made him seek his death; but a provoking merit, set a-work by a reproveable badness in himself.
How malicious is my fortune, that I must repent to be just! This is the letter he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent party to the advantages of France. O heavens! that this treason were not, or not I the detector!
Go with me to the duchess.
If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.
True, or false, it hath made thee Earl of Gloucester. Seek out where thy father is, that he may be ready for our apprehension.
[Aside.] If I find him comforting the king, it will stuff his suspicion more fully. I will persever in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.
I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt find a dearer father in my love.
A Chamber in a Farmhouse adjoining the Castle.
EnterGloucester, Lear, Kent, Fool, andEdgar.
Here is better than the open air; take it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can: I will not be long from you.
All the power of his wits has given way to his impatience. The gods reward your kindness!
Frateretto calls me, and tells me Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.
Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman!
A king, a king!
No; he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son; for he’s a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before him.
To have a thousand with red burning spits
Come hizzing in upon ’em,—
The foul fiend bites my back.
He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.
It shall be done; I will arraign them straight.
[ToEdgar.] Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer;
[To the Fool.] Thou, sapient sir, sit here. Now, you she foxes!
Look, where he stands and glares! wantest thou eyes at trial, madam?
Come o’er the bourn, Bessy, to me,—
The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a nightingale. Hopdance cries in Tom’s belly for two white herring. Croak not, black angel; I have no food for thee.
How do you, sir? Stand you not so amaz’d:
Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?
I’ll see their trial first. Bring in their evidence.
[ToEdgar.] Thou robed man of justice, take thy place;
[To the Fool.] And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,
Bench by his side. [ToKent.] You are o’ the commission,
Sit you too.
Let us deal justly.
Purr! the cat is grey.
Arraign her first; ’tis Goneril. I here take my oath before this honourable assembly, she kicked the poor king her father.
Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?
She cannot deny it.
Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.
And here’s another, whose warp’d looks proclaim
What store her heart is made on. Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place!
False justicer, why hast thou let her ’scape?
Bless thy five wits!
O pity! Sir, where is the patience now
That you so oft have boasted to retain?
[Aside.] My tears begin to take his part so much,
They’ll mar my counterfeiting.
The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweet-heart, see, they bark at me.
Tom will throw his head at them.
Avaunt, you curs!
Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
Then let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts? [ToEdgar.] You, sir, I entertain you for one of my hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments: you will say, they are Persian attire; but let them be changed.
Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.
Make no noise, make no noise; draw the curtains: so, so, so. We’ll go to supper i’ the morning: so, so, so.
And I’ll go to bed at noon.
Come hither, friend: where is the king my master?
Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are gone.
Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy arms;
I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him.
There is a litter ready; lay him in ’t,
And drive toward Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master:
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
With thine, and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assured loss. Take up, take up;
And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.
Oppress’d nature sleeps:
This rest might yet have balm’d thy broken sinews,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.—[To the Fool.] Come, help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.
Come, come, away.
[ExeuntKent, Gloucester,and the Fool, bearing awayLear.
When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ the mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind;
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king bow;
He childed as I father’d! Tom, away!
Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray
When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles thee,
In thy just proof repeals and reconciles thee.
What will hap more to-night, safe ’scape the king!
A Room inGloucester’sCastle.
EnterCornwall, Regan, Goneril, Edmund,and Servants.
Post speedily to my lord your husband; show him this letter: the army of France is landed. Seek out the traitor Gloucester.
[Exeunt some of the Servants.
Hang him instantly.
Pluck out his eyes.
Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our sister company: the revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding. Advise the duke, where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister: farewell, my Lord of Gloucester.
How now? Where’s the king?
My Lord of Gloucester hath convey’d him hence:
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,
Hot questrists after him, met him at gate;
Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,
Are gone with him toward Dover, where they boast
To have well-armed friends.
Get horses for your mistress.
Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.
[Exeunt other Servants.
Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame but not control. Who’s there? The traitor?
Re-enter Servants, withGloucester.
Ingrateful fox! ’tis he.
Bind fast his corky arms.
What mean your Graces? Good my friends, consider
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends
Bind him, I say.
[Servants bind him.
Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!
Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.
To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt find—
[Reganplucks his beard.
By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.
So white, and such a traitor!
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,
Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:
With robbers’ hands my hospitable favours
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?
Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?
Be simple-answer’d, for we know the truth.
And what confederacy have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?
To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king?
I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one oppos’d.
Where hast thou sent the king?
Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charg’d at peril—
Wherefore to Dover? Let him answer that.
I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the course.
Wherefore to Dover?
Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endur’d, would have buoy’d up,
And quench’d the stelled fires;
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that dern time,
Thou shouldst have said, ‘Good porter, turn the key,’
All cruels else subscrib’d: but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
See ’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.
He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help! O cruel! O ye gods!
[Gloucester’seye put out.
One side will mock another; the other too.
If you see vengeance.—
Hold your hand, my lord:
I have serv’d you ever since I was a child,
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.
How now, you dog!
If you did wear a beard upon your chin,
I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?
Nay then, come on, and take the chance of anger.
[Draws. They fight.Cornwallis wounded.
Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus!
[Takes a sword and runs at him behind.
O! I am slain. My lord, you have one eye left
To see some mischief on him. O!
Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?
All dark and comfortless. Where’s my son Edmund?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature
To quit this horrid act.
Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call’st on him that hates thee; it was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us,
Who is too good to pity thee.
O my follies! Then Edgar was abus’d.
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!
Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell
His way to Dover. [Exit one withGloucester.] How is ’t, my lord? How look you?
I have receiv’d a hurt. Follow me, lady.
Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave
Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace:
Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm.
I’ll never care what wickedness I do
If this man come to good.
If she live long,
And, in the end, meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.
Let’s follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would: his roguish madness
Allows itself to any thing.
Go thou; I’ll fetch some flax, and whites of eggs,
To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!