King Lear simplified

Synopsis

Lear was king in about 845 B.C. in the land known as Britain.  Britain must have then been an area that is about the same as present day Great Britain.  Although Lear was recognized as king, he was no longer young and was no longer as quick as he must at one time have been.  Lear has three daughters and two sons-in-law and for estate planning purposes has decided to divide his kingdom into three parts, saying “we have divided in three our kingdom.” His plan is to give one part to each daughter.  Giving his kingdom to his daughters turns out to be a terrible mistake.

We learn as the play begins that Lear has decided to test his daughters in a most unusual way, saying “Tell me, my daughters, which of you shall we say doth love us most.”  Goneril and Regan, the two older daughters, let him know that he means just about everything to them, Goneril, the oldest, saying “Sir, I love you beyond what can be valued, no less than life.”  Regan, the middle daughter, saying “I find my sister comes too short, for I find I am alone made happy in your dear Highness’ love.”  But Cordelia, his youngest and who Lear has called “our joy,” being surprisingly open and direct, says to her father “I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less” and “when I shall wed, that lord shall carry half my love with him.” An infuriated Lear lashes out at her, turning away from her, calling her “my sometime daughter,” saying “Hence and avoid my sight.”  He tells his two sons-in-law that “with my two daughters’ dowers digest the third. Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.”  The Earl of Kent, one of Shakespeare’s great guys, overplays his hand by questioning the king’s judgment. Lear finally says “Peace, Kent. Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”  Not backing off, Kent says things like “Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestow upon the foul disease” and “I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.” The king proceeds to banish him from Britain.  As Kent leaves, the king of France enters.  Lear tells the king of France “she’s there, and she is yours,” France’s king having been courting Cordelia.  A happy king of France says to Lear “Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance, is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.”  As Cordelia and the French king leave, Cordelia wishes her sisters well saying “the jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you.”  Sweetheart Cordelia will not be heard from again until late in the play.

Sorting out the players in these plays is always a challenge; this being one of the more demanding. Goneril is married to Albany; Regan to Cornwall.  Shakespeare has given important roles to Edgar, Kent, Cordelia, Gloucester and Albany, and uses them to make his points, all of them having characteristics that reflect the best humanity has to offer.  But then some of the others in the play offer the worst. Shakespeare uses this play, probably more than others, to display severe comparisons between people, drawing written pictures of how kind and then how unkind people can be one to another. 

The Earl of Gloucester is old and has been a long time aide and friend of Lear’s. He has two sons, the younger being Edmund, insecure (it seems) because of his “base” or illegitimate birth.  Edmund deviously plans to turn his father against his older son Edgar, Edmund’s guileless, one-year older and vulnerable brother. Aside, Edmund tells us that it should be easy to take advantage of the two of them, his father being weak, innocent, and gullible and his brother being so noble.  Edmund lets his father see the letter he has forged, written as if it were from Edgar; a demented letter that falsely details Edgar’s purported plan to kill their father, and then of Edgar’s fabricated suggestion that the two of them split the inheritance from their father.  Seeing Edmund’s letter, appearing to be from Edgar, the too-accepting Gloucester immediately turns on Edgar, not questioning Edmund’s make-believe story.
Lear has now left himself homeless, having now divided his kingdom into two parts and given them to his two older daughters.  He decides that he and his entourage will for at least a while live with Goneril and her husband, the duke of Albany.  But Lear irritates his daughter soon after he arrives, she saying “by day and night he wrongs me.”  She asks “did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his Fool?” having learned from her steward Oswald that he had. We here learn the essence of the play when Goneril says “Idle old man that still would manage those authorities that he hath given away.”

The banished Earl of Kent, now disguised, boldly risking his life by not leaving the country, audaciously persuades Lear to hire him as a servant. All the while Lear’s Fool is telling the king what a fool he is. Goneril soon tells her father that he is no longer welcome in her home and must leave, saying “here do you keep a hundred knights and squires, men so disordered, so debauched and bold, that this our court, infected with their manners, shows like a riotous inn.”  An irrational Lear cries out at Goneril “darkness and devils. Saddle my horses. Call my train together. 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 face.”  Kent and the Fool join Lear and his knights as they leave for Regan’s estate; Regan being Goneril’s younger sister.  Separately, Goneril has had a conversation with Oswald and later calls him forward asking “have you writ that letter to my sister?”  He has.  Lear has the disguised Kent move on ahead of him asking him to “go you before to Regan with these letters.” Lear’s plan is to let her know that he and his entourage will soon arrive.  A loyal Kent responds “I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.” 

The trusting Edgar greets his not-to-be-trusted brother Edmund.  Edmund immediately tells him that their father is very angry with him. Separately, Edmund has been cozying up to Lear’s daughter Regan and her husband Cornwall.  Having been talked into a fictitious duel by Edmund, Edgar exits the stage when Edmund says “I hear my father coming” and “Fly, brother. Torches, torches!”  

A furious Gloucester, another old man losing his bearings, believing everything Edmund has been telling him, yells out “Let him fly far!  Not in this land shall he remain uncaught, and found.”  He tells everyone “that he which finds him (Edgar) shall deserve our thanks, bringing the murderous coward to the stake.”  But, ah ha, in dramatic fashion, Edgar soon returns to the play disguised as a madman-beggar, calling himself “Poor Tom.”  We soon learn from Regan that “I have this present evening from my sister been well informed of them (her father Lear and his entourage), and with such cautions that if they come to stay at my house I’ll not be there.”

The disguised Kent and Oswald get into a sword fight at Gloucester’s castle. Cornwall, Regan’s husband, enters, stops the fight, and puts Kent in the stocks and exits. The next morning an angry Lear and his Fool find Kent confined to the stocks and free him. At that moment, Regan, her husband Cornwall and Gloucester enter.  Lear immediately says to his daughter “Beloved Regan, thy sister’s worthless.  O Regan, she hath tried sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture.”  Regan says to her father “O sir, you are old.  You should be ruled and led by the discretion of someone whose condition is better than yourself.  Say you have wrong her.”  Lear says “Ask her forgiveness?”  Regan says ‘Return you to my sister.”  Lear lets her know he’ll not return to Goneril’s, saying “Never, Regan.” Goneril soon enters saying “How have I offended?”   Regan tells her father “You will return and stay with my sister, dismissing half your train, come then to me.”  But, infuriating her father further, Goneril says “What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five?” Regan then says “What need one?” Unable to cope with the thought of this kind of severe downgrade, while accompanied by the Fool, Kent and Gloucester, Lear leaves Regan’s home “in high rage.”  The king is not only homeless but they have absolutely nowhere to go to protect themselves from the elements.  A serious storm develops; a very serious storm. Separately, the disguised good-guy Kent, recognizing the seriousness of the situation, sends the king’s ring with a Gentleman, instructing him to get the ring to Cordelia, a signal that will let her know that her father needs her help. Lear irrationally cries-out “blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! You oak-cleaving thunderbolts, singe my white head.”  Kent enters, encouraging Lear and his friends to seek shelter in a hovel, which they do, finding it occupied by a disguised Edgar, pretending to be the madman-beggar “Poor Tom.”  It’s been a long trip down for King Lear.

An unconscionable Edmund, learning from his father that the French have landed in Britain, falsely tells Cornwall that his father is not to be trusted, claiming he has been providing intelligence to the French.  Cornwall in turn tells him that he will be rewarded, and that his father will be punished.  

Back in the hovel, Edgar, reinforcing his madman-beggar image, enters into a fantasy dialog with Lear, a dialog that includes a mock trail, arraigning Goneril.  Edgar cringes at the king’s deterioration.  All the while the weather is just awful.

At about this point Cornwall calls for Gloucester’s arrest, claiming he’s a traitor.  The king’s older daughters suggest Gloucester be severely punished.  Gloucester enters, he being on his way to Dover to seek help from Cordelia and the French king.  He is soon captured by Cornwall’s men. Cornwall has him bound to a chair and forces out his eyes.  A servant, distraught over the mistreatment of this old, gentle and loyal man, draws his sword, seriously wounding Cornwall. In turn, Regan stabs the servant in the back, killing him.  A now blind Gloucester learns that it was his son Edmund who had been claiming that he had been helping the French.

Eyeless Gloucester and an Old Man are on stage as Gloucester’s son Edgar enters.  Gloucester asks Edgar to lead him to the edge of the Cliffs at Dover, unaware that he is his son.  Edgar does.  Meanwhile, Goneril flirts with Edmund, giving him a kiss.  He exits as her husband Albany enters.  Albany and Goneril argue, he calling her “vile;” she calling him “milk-livered.”  They learn Cornwall has died as a result of the wound from the servant’s sword.  Good-guy Albany learns that Gloucester has lost his eyes.  Meanwhile, Cordelia, along with a Doctor and the Gentleman who delivered the ring, are now in Britain searching for her father.  Regan jealously senses Goneril’s interest in Edmund, believing that she, now being a widow, having just lost her husband Cornwall, is the more “convenient” to link up with him. Goneril, continuing to be upset with her husband, Albany, considering him too meek and mild, openly expresses her interest in the more flamboyant Edmund, further upsetting Regan.

Edgar has now led Gloucester near to the edge of the Cliffs at Dover, but not too near.  Wanting to fall over the cliffs and die, Gloucester kneels and falls harmlessly.  Now disguised as a peasant, Edgar calls him father, telling Gloucester it’s a miracle he survived the fall.  A disoriented Lear enters. Gloucester and Edgar become even more disheartened after listening to Lear, his mind about gone.  The Gentleman enters telling Lear that Cordelia is looking for him.  Lear runs off. Oswald enters, sees Gloucester and draws his sword.  Protecting his blind father, Edgar takes up a sword and duels with Oswald.  Oswald falls and dies.  Edgar finds a letter in Oswald’s pocket from Goneril to Edmund.  The always pleasant Cordelia finds and comforts her father. They learn Cornwall has died.  Separately, Regan shifts her anger from her sister to Edmund; upset as she is with the attention he’s paying to Goneril. Edmund denies to her that he has any interest in her sister.  Continuing to be disguised as a peasant, Edgar enters and gives Albany the letter to Edmund from Goneril.  Lear and Cordelia are captured.  Edgar suggests his father move to a better location.  Gloucester responds, “No further.”  He soon dies. 

Edmund enters with Lear and Cordelia as his prisoners with plans to send them to prison.  Cordelia says “For thee, oppressed king, I am cast down.”  But looking forward to being with his daughter, Lear says “no, no, no.  Come, let’s away to prison.  We two alone will sing like birds in th’ cage.  So we’ll live, and sing and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news.” Edmund declares “Take them away.”  Edmund gives the Captain a note instructing him to make sure they don’t leave the prison alive.  Albany challenges Edmund to a duel.  Regan becomes sick and exits.  A still disguised Edgar enters and challenges his brother Edmund, drawing his sword.  They fight and Edmund falls, seriously wounded.  Goneril quietly exits.  Albany embraces Edgar. They learn Goneril had fatally poisoned Regan and has now fatally stabbed herself. A dying Edmund tells Edgar and Albany that he gave instructions that Cordelia be hanged. As he discards his disguise, Edgar says “I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund.  Edmund soon dies. A sadly confused Lear enters carrying Cordelia, now dead.  Kent cautions all, saying, “He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer.”  Lear soon dies.  Albany tells Kent and Edgar that they must be the successor rulers of the realm and “sustain the state.”  Shakespeare could have named this play: The good, the bad and the ugly.  But the “good guys” are real good.

Principal Characters

Albany.  Albany is married to Goneril, Lear’s oldest daughter.  He is a thoughtful, considerate man, diplomatically towing a difficult line, trying to do his best to navigate the tough love route towards Lear taken by Goneril, Cornwall and Regan.  His wife thinks he is too kind and soft.  Shakespeare paints him as one of the good guys. 

Cordelia.  Cordelia is Lear’s youngest daughter and always his favorite, so her sisters say, but she was left out of the distribution of her father’s kingdom for not telling him she loved him totally.  She marries the King of France, becoming France’s Queen.  She returns to Britain late in the play and again, as she did early on, plays the role of a consummate sweetheart. 

Edgar.  Edgar is Gloucester’s older son, one year ahead of Edmund.  He is Lear’s godson. It was Lear who suggested to Gloucester that he name his first son Edgar.  Edgar treats his father as well as any father could ever hope to be treated by a son. 

Edmund.  Edmund is Gloucester’s younger and illegitimate son, crafted by Shakespeare as a totally devious soul, who treats his father, brother and the king’s daughters unnaturally badly.  But in the doing, by creating Edmund as an offset, Shakespeare causes others in the play to look real good.

Fool.  The Fool is active early in the play, staying close to Lear and protecting him, relinquishing that role as a disguised Kent over time becomes Lear’s key aide.  Lear and the Fool have a nice relationship even though the Fool continually and playfully mocks him.  Shakespeare puts him there to remind us that it is not always easy to tell who the fool is and who is the wise man.  The Fool addresses the king as “Nuncle” and gets away with it. 

Gloucester.  Gloucester and Lear have long been friends, but Shakespeare never develops that relationship.   Gloucester is an old man and naively kind, a characteristic that subjects him to misuse by one son, but a characteristic that lets Shakespeare show us how kind a son can be to an old and mentally and physically weakened father.

Goneril.  Goneril is Lear’s oldest daughter, recipient of one-half of his realm.  Her father continues his downward descent when he angrily leaves her house, she demanding he keep less followers and treat her staff better, particularly Oswald.  She displays a tough side with both her father, Gloucester, and her husband, the duke of Albany.  She later falls for Edmund. 

Kent.  Kent is the consummate loyalist; so loyal to Lear that when banished by the king he disguises himself “in accents and appearance” and gains employment with Lear as a servant, serving the king as a surrogate son, much as Edgar in disguise serves Gloucester, his father. 

Lear.  Lear is the king who graciously, but mistakenly, gives his kingdom to his daughters, an act that leaves him homeless, his older daughters rejecting him, they say, because of his conduct and entourage.  He’s a well-meaning man, old, senile and confused, who needed protection, not ridicule. 

Regan.  Regan is Lear’s second daughter, married to Cornwall, both of them being really bad news.  She displays little sympathy for her father when he visits her, looking as he is for a place to stay.   She then suggests harsh treatment for Gloucester, her father’s good friend, when he is by his own son falsely accused of treason.

The Play


  • Act 1, Scene 1
  • Kent, Gloucester and Edmund enter.
  • KENT
  • I thought the King had been more partial to the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • It did always seem so to us, but now in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most.
  • KENT
  • Is not this your son, my lord?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am hardened to ‘t. Sir, this young fellow’s mother had indeed, sir, a son ere she had a husband.
  • KENT
  • I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
  • EDMUND
  • No, my lord.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • My lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter as my honorable friend. The King is coming.
  • King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia and others enter.
  • LEAR
  • Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.
  • Gloucester exits.
  • LEAR
  • Know that we have divided in three our kingdom, and ‘tis our fast intent to shake all cares and business from our age. Tell me, my daughters, which of you shall we say doth love us most. Goneril, our eldest born, speak first.
  • GONERIL
  • Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter, dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty, beyond what can be valued, rich or rare, no less than life.
  • LEAR POINTING TO THE MAP
  • To thine and Albany’s issue be this perpetual. What says our second daughter, our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?
  • REGAN
  • I am made of that self mettle 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. I am alone made happy in your dear Highness’ love.
  • LEAR
  • To thee and thine hereditary ever remain this ample third of our fair kingdom, no less in space, validity and pleasure than that conferred on Goneril. Now, our joy, although our last and least, what can you say to draw a third more opulent than your sisters?
  • CORDELIA
  • Nothing, my lord.
  • LEAR
  • Nothing?
  • CORDELIA
  • Nothing.
  • LEAR
  • Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.
  •  
  •  
  • Cordelia to Lear, No. 1
  •  
  • Hard as this is for me, I cannot heave
  • My heart to say I love you all and leave
  • No love for a husband. Your Majesty
  • I love according to my bond, no more
  • Nor less. You fathered me, bred me, loved me.
  • I return those duties back, as called for
  • To obey you, love you, most honor you.
  • Why have my sisters husbands if they do
  • Love you all? He with my plight shall carry
  • Half my love with him, when comes that dear hour
  • I wed, and he shall take half my duty
  • And care, unlike my sisters to love our
  • Father all. My heart may appear to you
  • Untender, but my lord it’s young and true.
  • LEAR
  • Let it be so, my sometime daughter.
  • KENT
  • Good my liege------
  • LEAR
  • Peace, Kent. Come not between the dragon and his wrath. I loved her most and thought to set my rest on her kind nursery.
  • LEAR TO CORDELIA
  • Hence and avoid my sight! Cornwall and Albany, with my two daughters’ dowers digest the third. Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
  • KENT
  • What wouldst thou do, old man? Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows? Reserve thy state, and in thy best consideration check this hideous rashness. The youngest daughter does not love thee least.
  • LEAR
  • Kent, on thy life, no more.
  • KENT
  • Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestow upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift, or whilst I can vent clamor from my throat, I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
  • LEAR
  • Hear me, traitor; on thine allegiance, hear me! Five days we do allot thee for provision to shield thee from disasters of the world, and on the sixth to turn thy hated back upon our kingdom. If on the tenth day following thy banished trunk be found in our dominions, the moment is thy death. This shall not be revoked.
  • KENT
  • Fare thee well, king. Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
  • He exits. Gloucester enters with France and Burgundy.
  • LEAR
  • My lord of Burgundy, we first address toward you, who with this king hath rivaled for our daughter. What is the least will you require in present dower with her, or cease your quest of love?
  • BURGUNDY
  • I crave no more than hath your Highness offered, nor will you tender less.
  • LEAR
  • When she was dear to us, we did hold her so. But now her price is fallen. She’s there, and she is yours.
  • BURGUNDY
  • I know no answer.
  • LEAR
  • Will you, with those infirmities she owes, unfriended, now-adopted to our hate, dowered with our curse and strangered with our oath, take her or leave her?
  • BURGUNDY
  • Pardon me, royal sir, election makes not up in such conditions.
  • LEAR
  • Then leave her, sir. For you, great king, I beseech you to turn your liking a more worthier way than on a wretch whom Nature is ashamed almost t’ acknowledge hers.
  • FRANCE
  • This is most strange, that she whom even but now was your best object, the argument of your praise.
  • CORDELIA
  • I yet beseech your Majesty------that you make known it is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness, that hath deprived me of your grace and favor.
  • LEAR
  • Better thou hadst not been born than not t’ have pleased me better.
  • FRANCE
  • My lord of Burgundy, what say you to the lady?
  • BURGUNDY TO LEAR
  • Royal king, give but that portion which yourself proposed.
  • LEAR
  • Nothing. I have sworn. I am firm.
  • BURGUNDY TO CORDELIA
  • I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father that you must lose a husband.
  • CORDELIA
  • Peace be with Burgundy. Since that respect and fortunes are his love, I shall not be his wife.
  • FRANCE
  • Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor; most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised. Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon, be it lawful I take up what’s cast away. Thy dowerless daughter, king thrown to my chance, is queen to us, or ours, and our fair France.
  • LEAR
  • Thou hast her, France. Let her be thine, for we have no such daughter, nor shall ever see that face of hers again.
  • LEAR TO CORDELIA
  • Therefore begone without our grace, our love, our blessing. Come, noble Burgundy.
  • All but France, Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan exit.
  • FRANCE
  • Bid farewell to your sisters.
  • CORDELIA
  • The jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you. Love well our father. So farewell you both.
  • REGAN
  • Prescribe not us our duty.
  • GONERIL
  • Let your study be to content your lord.
  • CORDELIA
  • Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides, who covers faults at last with shame derides. Well may you prosper.
  • FRANCE
  • Come, my fair Cordelia.
  • France and Cordelia exit.
  • GONERIL
  • He always loved our sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.
  • REGAN
  • ‘Tis the infirmity of his age.
  • GONERIL
  • The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash.
  • REGAN
  • Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.
  • GONERIL
  • Pray you, let us sit together. If our father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
  • REGAN
  • We shall further think of it.
  • They exit.
  • Act 1, Scene 2
  • Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, enters.
  •  
  •  
  • Edmund to himself, No. 1
  •  
  • That which is natural is my goddess
  • And to that law I’m bound. Why am I less
  • In the custom of nations that deprives
  • Me that I lag an elder brother? Why
  • “Bastard” when my own dimension derives
  • In shape as true as issues who come by
  • Honest madams? Why brand they us with “base,”
  • Who, in the lusty stealth of nature face
  • A fiercer being than those created
  • Within a stale, tired bed got between sleep
  • And wake? Legitimate Edgar, I bid
  • To have your land. Equal love he doth keep
  • For his sons, yet this letter could all but
  • Lead Edmund to top th’ legitimate.
  • The Earl of Gloucester enters.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Kent banished thus? And France in anger parted? All this done on a sudden impulse? Edmund, how now? What news?
  • EDMUND
  • So please your Lordship, none.
  • He puts a paper in his pocket.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?
  • EDMUND
  • It is a letter from my brother that I have not all o’erread; and for much as I have perused, I find it not fit for your o’erlooking.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Give me the letter, sir. Let’s see. Let’s see.
  • Edmund give him the paper.
  • GLOUCESTER READS
  • “This policy and reverence of age makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish them. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever and live the beloved of your brother.” Signed, Edgar.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • “Sleep till I wake him, you should enjoy half his revenue.” My son Edgar! When came you to this? Who brought it?
  • EDMUND
  • I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet. It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the contents.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Has he never before sounded you in this business?
  • EDMUND
  • Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • O villain, villain! Where is he?
  • EDMUND
  • I do not well know, my lord. I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your Honor, and to no other pretense of danger.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Think you so?
  • EDMUND
  • If your Honor judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him! Edmund, seek him out and insinuate yourself into his confidence, I pray you.
  • EDMUND
  • I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
  •  
  •  
  • Gloucester to Edmund
  •  
  • These late eclipses in the sun and moon
  • Portend no good. Events that follow soon
  • After these eclipses affect us all,
  • Though wisdom of mind tells us otherwise.
  • Love cools, brothers divide, friendship doth fall
  • Off. In cities and countries discord lies;
  • Treason resides in palaces. We see
  • The loving bond ‘twixt families cracked. Here we
  • Son against father and now with the king,
  • Father against child, as he misbehaves.
  • With the best of our time past, we now bring
  • Disorders that follow us to our graves.
  • And the noble, true-hearted Kent to range
  • Banished! His offense, honesty! ‘Tis strange.
  • He exits.
  • EDMUND
  • This is the excellent foolishness of the world, that when we are sick in fortune we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity.
  • Edgar enters.
  • EDGAR
  • How now, brother Edmund, what serious contemplation are you in?
  • EDMUND
  • I am thinking what should follow these eclipses. I promise you, the unnaturalness between the child and the parent, dissolutions of ancient amities, banishment of friends, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
  • EDGAR
  • How long have you been a believer in astronomical?
  • EDMUND
  • Come, come, when saw you my father last?
  • EDGAR
  • The night gone by.
  • EDMUND
  • Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him. 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 calm.
  • EDGAR
  • Some villain hath done me wrong.
  • EDMUND
  • That’s my fear. Retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to her my lord speak. If you stir abroad, go armed.
  • EDGAR
  • Armed?
  • EDMUND
  • Brother, I am no honest man if there be any good meaning toward you. Pray you, away.
  • Edgar exits.
  • EDMUND
  • 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.
  • He exits.
  • Act 1, Scene 3
  • Goneril and Oswald, her steward, enter.
  • GONERIL
  • Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding his Fool?
  • OSWALD
  • Ay, madam.
  •  
  •  
  • Goneril to Oswald
  •  
  • By day and night he wrongs me. Every hour
  • He lashes out at one or another
  • Of us, upsetting us all. His knights grow
  • Surly and he upbraids us on every
  • Trifle. I’ll not endure it. If you go
  • About your duties poorer, you’ll find me
  • Defending you. Be weary negligent,
  • And if he distaste it I’ll have him sent
  • To my fair sister, who won’t give in, she
  • And I being of one mind. Idle old
  • Man that would try to control that which he
  • Hath given away. Old fools, truth be told,
  • Become babes again and must be restrained
  • When they act as this, being delusioned.
  • GONERIL
  • Remember what I have said.
  • OSWALD
  • Well, madam.
  • GONERIL
  • And let his knights have colder looks among you. I’ll write straight to my sister to hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.
  • They exit in different directions.
  • Act 1, Scene 4
  • Kent enters in disguise.
  • KENT
  • If I can disguise my accents as well as my outward appearance, then my good intent may carry through itself to that full issue.
  • Lear enters.
  • LEAR
  • How now, what art thou?
  • KENT
  • A man, sir.
  • LEAR
  • What doth thou profess? What services canst do? How old art thou?
  •  
  •  
  • Kent to Lear
  •  
  • I do profess to be no less than I
  • Seem, to love him that is honest, to lie
  • Not to him that will put me in trust, to
  • Fight when no other choice, to at no time
  • Eat fish, to hold communion with him who
  • Is wise, and am an honest fellow. I’m
  • Not so young to love women for singing,
  • Nor so old to dote on them for nothing,
  • Can deliver a plain message bluntly,
  • And that which ordinary men are fit
  • For I am qualified in. And with me
  • Diligence is loyal, and the best of wit
  • Is my true counsel; I’m good at running
  • And can mar a good tale in the telling.
  • LEAR
  • Follow me. Thou shalt serve me----if I like thee no worse after dinner. Where’s my knave, my Fool? Ho! I think the world’s asleep.
  • A Knight enters.
  • KNIGHT
  • My lord, my judgment your Highness is not treated with that ceremonious affection as you were used to.
  • LEAR
  • Sayst thou so?
  • KNIGHT
  • My duty cannot be silent when I think your Highness wronged.
  • LEAR
  • I have perceived a most faint neglect of late. I will look further into ‘t. Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her. Go you call hither my Fool.
  • Attendants exit. Oswald enters.
  • LEAR
  • Who am I, sir?
  • OSWALD
  • My lady’s father.
  • LEAR
  • “My lady’s father”?
  • Lear strikes him.
  • OSWALD
  • I’ll not be stricken, my lord.
  • Kent trips him.
  • KENT
  • Nor tripped neither.
  • LEAR
  • I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll love thee.
  • KENT TO OSWALD
  • Come, sir, arise. Away. I’ll teach you differences.
  • Oswald exits.
  • LEAR
  • I thank thee. There’s earnest of thy service.
  • He gives Kent a purse. The Fool enters.
  • FOOL
  • Let me hire him too.
  • The Fool offers Kent his fool’s cap.
  • LEAR
  • Why, my boy?
  • FOOL
  • Why?
  •  
  •  
  • Fool to Kent, No. 1
  •  
  • For taking sides with that out of favor,
  • Take my fool’s cap, Man. If thou canst waver
  • With the wind thou’lt catch cold. He hath banished
  • Two of his daughters; blessed a third counter
  • His will. I’d keep the Fool’s caps if I’d wished
  • All my living to them. He that confer
  • With thee to give away all his land is
  • As bitter a fool as thee. Nuncle, ‘tis
  • Little wit in thy bald crown; beseeches
  • One to keep the golden one. Gav’st you
  • Them the rod and put’st down thine breeches.
  • Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster who
  • Can teach thy Fool to lie before he die.
  • If thou would’st do, I’d here learn to lie.
  • LEAR
  • If you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped.
  • FOOL
  • I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying.
  • Goneril enters.
  • LEAR
  • How now, daughter? Methinks you are too much of late i’ th’ frown.
  • FOOL
  • Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning. Now thou art a zero without a figure. I am better than thou art now. I am a Fool. Thou art nothing. For you know, nuncle, the hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long, that it had its head bit off by its young. May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?
  • LEAR
  • Does any here know me? Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Who is it that can tell me who I am?
  • FOOL
  • Lear’s shadow.
  • LEAR
  • I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
  • FOOL
  • Which they will make an obedient father.
  • LEAR
  • Your name, fair gentlewoman?
  • GONERIL
  • As you are old and reverend, should be wise. Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires, men so disordered, so debauched and bold, that this our court, infected with their manners, shows like a riotous inn. Be then desired, by her that else will take the thing she begs, a little to disquantity your train.
  • LEAR
  • Darkness and devils! Saddle my horses. Call my train together.
  • Some exit.
  • LEAR
  • I’ll not trouble thee. Yet have I left a daughter.
  • GONERIL
  • You strike my people, and your disordered rabble make servants of their betters.
  • Albany enters.
  • LEAR
  • Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, more hideous when thou show’st thee in a child than the sea monster!
  • ALBANY
  • Pray, sir, be patient.
  • LEAR TO GONERIL
  • Detested vulture, thou liest. My train are men of choice and rarest parts.
  • ALBANY
  • My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant of what hath moved you.
  • LEAR
  • It may be so, my lord. 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!
  • Lear, the Fool, a disguised Kent and the rest of his train exit.
  • ALBANY
  • Whereof come this?
  • GONERIL
  • Never afflict yourself to know more of it.
  • Lear and the Fool re-enter.
  • ALBANY
  • What’s the matter, sir.
  • LEAR
  • I’ll tell thee.
  • LEAR TO GONERIL
  • I am ashamed that thou hast power to shake my manhood thus. 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.
  • He exits.
  • GONERIL
  • Do you mark that?
  • FOOL
  • Nuncle Lear, Nuncle Lear, tarry. Take the Fool with thee.
  • He exits.
  • GONERIL
  • This man hath had good counsel. A hundred knights! ‘Tis politic and safe to let him keep at point a hundred knights! He may enguard his dotage with their powers and hold our lives in mercy.
  • ALBANY
  • Well, you may fear too far.
  • GONERIL
  • Safer than trust too far. What he hath uttered I have writ my sister.
  • Oswald enters.
  • GONERIL
  • How now, Oswald? Have you writ that letter to my sister?
  • OSWALD
  • Ay, madam.
  • GONERIL
  • Take you some company and away to horse. Inform her full of my particular fear, and thereto add such reasons of your own as may compact it more. And hasten your return.
  • Oswald exits.
  • GONERIL
  • This milky gentleness and course of yours, though I condemn not, yet, under pardon, you are much more at task for want of wisdom than praised for harmful mildness.
  • ALBANY
  • How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell. Shriving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
  • They exit.
  • Act 1, Scene 5
  • King Lear, Kent in disguise, and the Fool enter. They are on the way to Regan’s home.
  • LEAR TO KENT
  • Go you with these letters. Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you know that comes from her demand out of the letter.
  • Kent exits.
  • FOOL
  • Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly, for, though she’s as like this as a crabapple’s like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.
  • LEAR
  • What canst tell, boy?
  • FOOL
  • Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’ th’ middle of ‘s face?
  • LEAR
  • No.
  • FOOL
  • Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side ‘s nose, that what a man cannot smell out he may spy into.
  • LEAR
  • I did her wrong.
  • FOOL
  • Can you tell why a snail has a house?
  • LEAR
  • Why?
  • FOOL
  • Why, to put ‘s head in, not to give it away to his daughters and leave his horns without a case.
  • LEAR
  • I will forget my nature. So kind a father!
  • FOOL
  • If thou wert my Fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for a being old before thy time. Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.
  • LEAR
  • O, let me not be mad. Keep me in temper.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 1
  • Edmund and Curan enter separately. Curan is an aide to Gloucester.
  • CURAN
  • 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. Have you heard of no likely wars toward ‘twixt the dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
  • EDMUND
  • Not a word.
  • CURAN
  • You may do, then, in time.
  • He exits. Edgar enters.
  • EDMUND
  • My father watches. O 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’ th’ night, and Regan with him. Have you nothing said upon his party ‘gainst the Duke of Albany?
  • EDGAR
  • I am sure on ‘t, not a word.
  • EDMUND
  • I hear my father coming. Pardon me. In cunning I must draw my sword upon you. Draw. Seem to defend yourself.
  • They draw.
  • EDMUND ASIDE TO EDGAR
  • Fly, brother. Torches, torches!
  • Edgar exits.
  • EDMUND TO HIMSELF
  • Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion of my more fierce endeavor.
  • He wounds his arm. Gloucester with servants and torches enter.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?
  • EDMUND
  • Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out. Look, sir, I bleed.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Where is the villain, Edmund?
  • EDMUND
  • Fled this way, sir.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Pursue him, ho! Go after.
  • Servants exit.
  • EDMUND
  • Persuade me to the murder of your Lordship.
  •  
  •  
  • Edmund to Gloucester
  •  
  • When I spoke of how complex and strong a
  • Bond was ‘tween father and son, and that the
  • Gods seek revenge on unfaithful sons, he
  • Saw how loathly opposite I stood to
  • His purpose, he drew his sword, wounding me
  • Before he fled. When asked why would he do
  • It, he cried, “Thou unpossessing bastard,
  • Dost thou think any would believe one word
  • You say, if I disagreed? I’d deny
  • You, though my very character thou did
  • Produce; I’d turn it as a desperate cry,
  • A plot of your making. If thou did bid
  • To gain from my death, those with peace to give
  • Would be most dull not to see your motive.”
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Let him fly far! Not in this land shall he remain uncaught, and found. He which finds him shall deserve our thanks; he that conceals him, death.
  • A trumpet sounds.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • The villain shall not ‘scape. The Duke must grant me that. And of my land, loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means to make thee capable of inheriting.
  • Cornwall and Ragan enter.
  • CORNWALL
  • I have heard strange news.
  • REGAN
  • If it be true, all vengeance comes too short which can pursue th’ offender. How dost, my lord?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • O madam, my old heart is cracked.
  • REGAN
  • Did my father’s godson seek your life? He whom my father named, your Edgar?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • O lady, lady, shame would have it hid!
  • REGAN
  • Was he not companion with the riotous knights that tended upon my father?
  • EDMUND
  • Yes, madam, he was of that consort.
  • REGAN
  • I have this present evening from my sister been well informed of them, and with such cautions that if they come to sojourn at my house I’ll not be there.
  • CORNWALL
  • If he be taken, he shall never more be feared of doing harm. For you, Edmund, whose virtue and obedience doth this instant so much commend itself, you shall be ours.
  • EDMUND
  • I shall serve you, sir.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • For him I thank your Grace.
  • CORNWALL
  • You know not why we came to visit you-------
  • REGAN
  • Noble Gloucester, wherein we must have use of your advice. Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister, of differences.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I serve you, madam. Your Graces are right welcome.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 2
  • Kent in disguise and Oswald (Goneril’s steward) enter separately at Gloucester’s castle. Both are there having delivered letters to Regan.
  • OSWALD
  • Where may we set our horses? If thou lov’st me, tell me.
  • KENT
  • I love thee not.
  • OSWALD
  • Why then, I care not for thee. What dost thou know me for?
  • KENT
  • A knave, a rascal, a base, proud, shallow lily livered finical rogue.
  • OSWALD
  • Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee nor knows thee!
  • KENT
  • Draw, you rogue, for though it be night, yet the moon shines.
  • OSWALD
  • Away! I have nothing to do with thee.
  • KENT
  • You come with letters against the King and take Goneril’s part against the royalty of her father.
  • He beats Oswald. Edmund, Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester and servants enter.
  • CORNWALL
  • Keep peace. He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?
  • REGAN
  • The messengers from our sister and the King.
  • OSWALD
  • I am scarce in breath, my lord.
  • CORNWALL
  • Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
  • OSWALD
  • This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of his gray beard-----
  • KENT
  • Spare my gray beard, you wagtail?
  • CORNWALL
  • Peace, sirrah!
  • KENT
  • But anger hath a privilege.
  • CORNWALL
  • Why art thou angry?
  • KENT
  • That such a slave as this should wear a sword, who wears no honesty.
  • CORNWALL TO OSWALD
  • What was th’ offense you gave him?
  • OSWALD
  • I never gave him any.
  • CORNWALL
  • Fetch forth the stocks. We’ll teach you.
  • KENT
  • Sir, I am too old to learn. Call not your stocks for me. I serve the King, on whose employment I was sent to you.
  • CORNWALL
  • Fetch forth the stocks. There shall he sit till noon.
  • REGAN
  • Till noon? Till night, my lord, and all night, too.
  • KENT
  • Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog, you should not use me so.
  • REGAN
  • Sir, being his knave, I will.
  • Stocks brought out.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Let me beseech your Grace not to do so. The King must take it ill that he, so slightly valued in his messenger, should have him thus restrained.
  • REGAN
  • My sister may receive it much more worse to have her gentleman abused, assaulted for following her affairs. Put in his legs.
  • Kent is put in the stocks. All but Gloucester and Kent exit.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I am sorry for thee, friend. ‘Tis the Duke’s pleasure. I’ll plead for thee.
  • KENT
  • Pray, do not, sir. Some time I shall sleep out; the rest I’ll whistle.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • The Duke’s to blame in this.
  • He exits. Kent takes out a letter.
  • KENT
  • I know ‘tis from Cordelia, who hath most fortunately been informed of my obscured course. Fortune, good night. Smile once more; change my luck.
  • He sleeps.
  • Act 2, Scene 3
  • Kent remains on stage. Separately, Edgar has disguised himself as a madman-beggar to escape his death sentence.
  •  
  •  
  • Edgar to himself, No. 1
  •  
  • By hiding in the hollow of a tree
  • I escaped them hearing they after me.
  • Though all places are guarded well I can
  • Preserve myself if I do disguise in
  • Human’s basest shape in contempt of man
  • Taking me near to a beast. I’ll begin
  • By twisting my hair in knots, griming my
  • Face and protecting my nakedness by
  • Covering my loins with a cloth, shielding
  • Me from persecutions of the sky. This
  • Country provides me precedent, proving
  • Low-lying beggars from weak farms don’t miss
  • Poor paltry villages in poverty,
  • And with their prayers, enforce their charity.
  • EDGAR
  • “Edgar” I nothing am.
  • He exits.
  • Act 2, Scene 4
  • King Lear and the Fool enter.
  • LEAR
  • ‘Tis strange that they should so depart from home and not send back my messenger.
  • Kent wakens.
  • KENT
  • Hail to thee, noble master.
  • LEAR
  • What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook to set thee here?
  • KENT
  • It is both he and she, your son and daughter.
  • LEAR
  • No.
  • KENT
  • Yes. My lord, when at their home I did commend your Highness’ letters to them, which presently they read. Meeting here the other messenger (Oswald), whose welcome, I perceived, had poisoned mine, being the very fellow which of late displayed so saucily against your Highness, having more man than wit about me, I drew. Your son and daughter found this trespass worth the shame which here it suffers.
  • LEAR
  • Where is this daughter?
  • Lear exits.
  • FOOL
  • Thou hadst been set i th’ stocks for that question, thou’dst well deserved it.
  • KENT
  • Why, Fool?
  •  
  •  
  • Fool to Kent, No. 2
  •  
  • If thou taught by ants thou’d learn to expend
  • Little labor when little hope. Depend
  • On their eyes, men do, when following their
  • Noses, but blind men, and they can smell him
  • That stinks. When a great wheel begins to wear
  • Down hill, let go it, lest thou break a limb
  • As it goes. When a wise man gives better
  • Counsel, you may offer mine, but mine were
  • For knaves, me being a fool. That loyalless
  • Knave who serves for his own gain will pack when
  • It starts to rain; will in the wilderness
  • Leave thee. But the fool will stay, letting then
  • The wise man flee. He who chooses to flee
  • Becomes a fool; this fool no knave you see.
  • KENT
  • Where learned you this, Fool?
  • FOOL
  • Not i’ th’ stocks, fool.
  • Lear and Gloucester enter.
  • LEAR
  • Deny to speak with me? They are sick? Fetch me a better answer.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • My dear lord, you know the fiery quality of the Duke.
  • LEAR
  • “Fiery”? What “quality”? I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I have informed them so.
  • LEAR
  • “Informed them”?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Ay, my good lord.
  • LEAR
  • The King would speak with Cornwall. Are they “informed” of this? Tell the hot duke that----No, not yet. Maybe he is not well. We are not ourselves when nature, being oppressed, commands the mind to suffer with the body.
  • The King notices Kent.
  • LEAR
  • Should he sit here? Do tell the Duke and ‘s wife I’d speak with them
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I would have all well betwixt you.
  • He exits.
  • LEAR
  • O me, my heart, my rising heart!
  • FOOL
  • Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she put ‘em i th’ paste alive. ‘Twas her brother that in pure kindness to his horse buttered his hay.
  • Cornwall, Regan and Gloucester enter.
  • CORNWALL
  • Hail to your Grace.
  • Kent is set free.
  • LEAR TO KENT
  • O, are you free? O Regan, she hath tied sharp-toothed unkindness.
  • REGAN
  • I pray you, sir, take patience.
  • LEAR
  • Say? How is that?
  • REGAN
  • I cannot think my sister in the least would fail her obligation.
  • LEAR
  • My curses on her.
  • REGAN
  • O sir, you are old. You should be ruled and led by some discretion that discerns your state better than you yourself. Say you have wronged her.
  • LEAR
  • Ask for forgiveness?
  • Lear kneels.
  • LEAR
  • Dear daughter, on my knees I beg that you’ll vouchsafe me bed and food.
  • REGAN
  • Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks. Return you to my sister.
  • LEAR RISING
  • Never, Regan. She hath bated me of half my train, looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue most serpentine upon the very heart.
  • CORNWALL
  • Fie, sir, fie!
  • LEAR
  • You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames into her scornful eyes!
  • REGAN
  • So will you wish on me when the rash mood is on.
  • LEAR
  • No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse. ‘Tis not in thee to grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train, to oppose the bolt against my coming in. Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot, wherein I thee endowed.
  • REGAN
  • Good sir, to’ th’ purpose.
  • LEAR
  • Who put my man i’ th’ stocks?
  • Oswald enters.
  • LEAR
  • This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows. Out, rascal, from my sight!
  • CORNWALL
  • What means your Grace?
  • LEAR
  • Who stocked my servant? Regan, I have good hope thou didst not know on ‘t.
  • Goneril enters.
  • LEAR
  • O heavens, if you do love old men, make it your cause. Art not ashamed to look upon this beard?
  • GONERIL
  • How have I offended?
  • LEAR
  • How came my man i’ th’ stocks?
  • CORNWALL
  • I set him there, sir.
  • LEAR
  • You? Did you?
  • REGAN
  • If till the expiration of your month you will return and sojourn with my sister dismissing half your train, come then to me.
  • LEAR
  • Return to her? And fifty men dismissed? No!
  •  
  •  
  • Lear to Regan and Goneril, No. 1
  •  
  • Rather than return to her with fifty
  • Less men I’ll with the wolf, and owl and thee
  • Elements live in the open air. Why
  • I’d as soon kneel at the throne of the hot-
  • Blooded France, begging hand-outs to keep my
  • Base life afoot than return there. My lot
  • A slave to detested Oswald? Prithee,
  • Goneril, my daughter, we’ll no more see
  • Each other; yet thou art my flesh, rather
  • A disease that’s in my flesh, a boil still
  • Unpierced in my corrupted blood. Further,
  • I’ll not chide thee; shame come when it will.
  • I’ll not bid the gods to exhort their mights.
  • I’ll stay with Regan with my hundred knights.
  • REGAN
  • Not altogether so. I looked not for you yet, nor am provided for your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister. She knows what she does.
  • LEAR
  • Is this well spoken?
  • REGAN
  • I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers? What should you need of more?
  • GONERIL
  • Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance from those that she calls servants, or from mine?
  • REGAN
  • Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack you, we could control them. If you will come to me, I entreat you to bring but five-and-twenty.
  • LEAR
  • What, must I come to you with five-and-twenty? Regan, said you so?
  • REGAN
  • And speak ‘t again, my lord.
  • LEAR TO GONERIL
  • I’ll go with thee. Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty, and thou art twice her love.
  • GONERIL
  • Hear me, my lord. What need you five-and-twenty, ten or five.
  • REGAN
  • What need one?
  •  
  •  
  • Lear to Regan and Goneril, No. 2
  •  
  • Don’t reason with me about need. Even
  • The basest beggars own something more than
  • They need. If man has no more than nature
  • Needs, his life’s as cheap as a beast’s. There’s no
  • Need for what you wear, if being warm were
  • The need for your gorgeous clothes, which you know
  • Scarcely keeps thee warm. You see me, you gods,
  • An old man, full of grief as age, at odds
  • With these two daughters. If it be you who
  • Stirs these daughters’ hearts against their father,
  • Fool me not; teach me that this I come to
  • Tamely bear. Touch me noble anger.
  • I’ll go mad before I’ll weep. A fool seeks
  • Women’s weapons; not to stain my man’s cheeks!
  • Lear, Kent, Fool and Gloucester exit.
  • CORNWALL
  • Let us withdraw. ‘Twill be a storm.
  • REGAN
  • This house is little. The old man and ‘s people cannot be well bestowed.
  • GONERIL
  • ‘Tis his own blame.
  • REGAN
  • For him in particular, I’ll receive him gladly, but not one follower.
  • GONERIL
  • So am I purposed.
  • Gloucester enters.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • The King is in high rage.
  • CORNWALL
  • ‘Tis best to give him way. He leads himself.
  • GONERIL TO GLOUCESTER
  • My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds do sorely ruffle.
  • REGAN
  • O sir, to willful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters.
  • CORNWALL
  • Shut up your doors, my lord. ‘Tis a wild night.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 1
  • The storm rages. Kent in disguise and a Gentleman enter separately.
  • KENT
  • Who’s there, besides foul weather?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • One minded like the weather, most unquietly.
  • KENT
  • I know you. Where’s the King?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Contending with the fretful elements.
  • KENT
  • But who is with him?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • None but the Fool, who labors to outjest his heart-struck injuries.
  •  
  •  
  • Kent to Gentleman
  •  
  • Sir, knowing you, I trust to you a dear
  • Matter. The dukes have their rifts and it’s clear
  • They have servants providing France knowledge
  • Of our weakened state. Whether it’s in sooth
  • The rages ‘tween themselves or the hard wedge
  • They’ve formed against the kind old king, the truth
  • Is a power from France comes into this
  • Scattered kingdom, wise in our wayward bliss,
  • With feet in some of our best ports, about
  • To announce itself. With word of our curse
  • Speed to Dover, finding along this route
  • Some who will thank you. Here, take what this purse
  • Contains. With this ring to Cordelia go,
  • And she’ll tell you this man you do not know.
  • KENT
  • Fie on this storm! I will go seek the King.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Give me your hand. Have you no more to say?
  • KENT
  • When we have found the king-----he that first lights on him holla the other.
  • They exit separately.
  • Act 3, Scene 2
  • The storm continues. Lear and the Fool enter.
  • LEAR
  • Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! You oak-cleaving thunderbolts, singe my white head.
  • FOOL
  • O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rainwater out o’ door. Ask thy daughters’ blessing. Here’s a night pities neither wise men nor fools.
  • LEAR
  • Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain! I accuse not you, you elements, with unkindness. I never called you children. You owe me no allegiance.
  • FOOL
  • He that has a house to put ‘s head in has a good headpiece.
  • LEAR
  • No, I will be the pattern of all patience. I will say nothing.
  • In disguise, Kent enters.
  • KENT
  • Who’s there?
  • FOOL
  • Marry, here’s a wise man and a fool.
  • KENT
  • Things that love night love not such nights as these.
  • LEAR
  • Let the great gods that keep this dreadful confusion o’er our heads find out their enemies now. I am a man more sinned against that sinning.
  • KENT
  • Alack, bareheaded? Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel. Some friendship will it lend you ‘gainst the tempest.
  • LEAR
  • How dost, my boy? Art cold? I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow? The art of our necessities is strange and can make vile things precious.
  • Lear and Kent exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 3
  • Gloucester and Edmund enter.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • When I desired their leave that I might pity him, they took from me the use of mine own house.
  • EDMUND
  • Most savage and unnatural.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • 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. There is a part of a power already footed. We must take the side of the King. I will look him and secretly relieve him. Go you and maintain talk with the Duke. If he ask for me, I am ill and gone to bed. There is strange things toward, Edmund. Pray you, be careful.
  • He exits.
  • EDMUND
  • Your forbidden kindness to the King shall the Duke instantly know, and of that letter too. The younger rises when the old doth fall.
  • He exits.
  • Act 3, Scene 4
  • Lear, the Fool and a disguised Kent enter.
  • KENT
  • Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter.
  • The storm rages.
  • LEAR
  • Filial ingratitude! 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.
  • KENT
  • Good my lord, enter here.
  • LEAR
  • Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease. But I’ll go in.
  • EDGAR WITHIN
  • Poor Tom!
  • FOOL
  • Come not in here, nuncle; here’s a spirit.
  • KENT
  • Who’s there?
  • FOOL
  • A spirit! He says his name’s Poor Tom.
  • KENT
  • What art thou that dost grumble there i’ th’ straw?
  • In disguise, Edgar enters.
  • EDGAR
  • Away. The foul fiend follows me.
  • LEAR
  • Didst thou give all to thy daughters? And art thou come to this?
  • EDGAR
  • Who give anything to Poor Tom. Tom’s a-cold. Do Poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes.
  • The storm rages.
  • LEAR
  • Has his daughters brought him to this pass?
  • KENT
  • He hath no daughters, sir.
  • LEAR
  • Nothing could have subdued nature to such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
  • FOOL
  • This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
  • EDGAR
  • Take heed o’ th’ foul fiend. Obey thy parents, keep thy word’s justice, swear not. Tom’s a-cold.
  • LEAR
  • What hast thou been?
  • EDGAR
  • A servingman, proud in heart and mind. Wine loved I, dice dearly, and in woman out-paramoured the sultan, false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand.
  • The storm rages.
  • LEAR
  • Is man no more than this? Thou ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool.
  • Lear tears at his clothes.
  • FOOL
  • Prithee, nuncle, be contented.
  • Gloucester enters with a torch.
  • FOOL
  • Look, here comes a walking fire.
  • EDGAR
  • He begins at curfew and walks till dawn.
  • KENT
  • How fares your Grace?
  • LEAR
  • What’s he?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • What are you there? Your names?
  • EDGAR
  • Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, drinks the green mantle of the standing pool, who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stocked, punished, and imprisoned.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • What, hath your Grace no better company?
  • EDGAR
  • Poor Tom’s a-cold.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Go in with me. I have ventured to come seek you out and bring you where both fire and food is ready.
  • LEAR TO EDGAR
  • What is the cause of thunder?
  • KENT
  • Good my lord, take his offer; go into th’ house.
  • LEAR
  • What is your study?
  • EDGAR
  • How to prevent the fiend and to kill vermin.
  • They talk aside.
  • KENT TO GLOUCESTER
  • His wits begin t’ unsettle.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Canst thou blame him?
  • The storm rages.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Thou sayest the King grows mad; I’ll tell thee friend, I am almost mad myself. I had a son, now outlawed from my blood. I loved him, no father his son dearer.
  • LEAR TO EDGAR
  • Noble philosopher, your company.
  • EDGAR
  • Tom’s a-cold.
  • GLOUCESTER TO EDGAR
  • In fellow, there, into th’ hovel.
  • Lear points to Edgar.
  • LEAR
  • I will keep still with my philosopher.
  • KENT TO EDGAR
  • Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
  • EDGAR
  • “Fie, foh, fum, I smell the blood of a British man.”
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 5
  • Cornwall enters and Edmund enters with a paper.
  • CORNWALL
  • I now perceive it was not altogether your brother’s evil disposition made him seek his death.
  • EDMUND
  • 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.
  • CORNWALL
  • Go with me to the Duchess.
  • EDMUND
  • If the matter of this paper be certain, you have mighty business in hand.
  • CORNWALL
  • True or false, it hath made thee Earl of Gloucester. Seek out where thy father is, that he may be ready for our arrest. I will lay trust upon thee.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 6
  • Kent, still in disguise, enters with Gloucester.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I will increase the comfort with what addition I can. I will not be long from you.
  • KENT
  • All the power of his wits have given way to his incapacity to endure more suffering. The gods reward your kindness!
  • Gloucester exits. Edgar in disguise, Lear and the Fool enter.
  • LEAR TO EDGAR
  • Come, sit thou here, most learned justice.
  • KENT
  • Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions.
  • LEAR
  • I’ll see their trial first. Bring in their evidence.
  • EDGAR
  • Let us deal justly.
  • LEAR
  • Arraign her first; ‘tis Goneril.
  • FOOL
  • Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?
  • LEAR
  • She cannot deny it. Stop her there! Why hast thou let her ‘scape?
  • KENT TO LEAR
  • Sir, where is the patience now that you so oft have boasted to retain?
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • My tears begin to take his part so much they mar my counterfeiting.
  • LEAR
  • The little dogs and all, see, they bark at me.
  • KENT
  • Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.
  • LEAR LYING DOWN
  • Make no noise, we’ll go to supper i’ th’ morning.
  • FOOL
  • And I’ll go to bed at noon.
  • Gloucester enters.
  • GLOUCESTER TO KENT
  • Where is the King my master?
  • KENT
  • Here, sir, but trouble him not; his wits are gone.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • 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.
  • KENT
  • Oppressed nature sleeps.
  • KENT TO THE FOOL
  • Come, help to bear thou master. Thou must not stay behind.
  • All but Edgar exit, carrying Lear.
  •  
  •  
  • Edgar to himself, No. 2
  •  
  • When we see those better than we suffer
  • From woes, we see woes we bear as lesser
  • Foes. Those who suffer grief alone mostly
  • Suffer in the mind, leaving happy shows
  • And life’s free joys behind. But we do see
  • Suff’ring grief doth o’erskip, relieving woes
  • When it hath mates, bearing sweet fellowship.
  • How light my pain, seeing grief that doth grip
  • The king, suffering from his children as
  • I from my father. I must listen to
  • The high-placed noises, forsaking what has
  • Been this disguise, throwing off wrongs that do
  • Defile me. I’ll end this charade and bring
  • Reconciliation. Safe ‘scape, my king.
  • He exits.
  • Act 3, Scene 7
  • Cornwall, Regan, Goneril and Edmund enter.
  • CORNWALL TO GONERIL
  • Post speedily to my lord your husband. Show him this letter. The army of France is landed. Seek out the traitor Gloucester.
  • REGAN
  • Hang him instantly.
  • GONERIL
  • Pluck out his eyes.
  • CORNWALL
  • Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, the revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding.
  • Oswald enters.
  • CORNWALL
  • Where’s the King?
  • OSWALD
  • My lord of Gloucester hath conveyed him hence. Some five or six and thirty of knights are gone with him toward Dover.
  • CORNWALL
  • Get horses for your mistress.
  • Oswald exits.
  • GONERIL
  • Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
  • Goneril and Edmund exit.
  • CORNWALL
  • Go seek the traitor Gloucester. Bind him like a thief; bring him before us. Our power shall do court’sy to our wrath, which men may blame but not control.
  • Gloucester and servants enter.
  • REGAN
  • Ingrateful fox! ‘Tis he.
  • CORNWALL
  • Bind fast his corky arms.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • What means your Graces? Do me no foul play, friends.
  • REGAN
  • O filthy traitor!
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.
  • Servants bind Gloucester to a chair.
  • CORNWALL
  • Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I have a letter written without certainty which came from one that’s of a neutral heart, and not from one opposed.
  • CORNWALL
  • Where hast thou sent the King?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • To Dover.
  • REGAN
  • Wherefore to Dover?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • 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.
  • CORNWALL
  • See ‘t shalt thou never. Fellow, hold the chair.
  • Cornwall forces out one of Gloucester’s eyes.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • O cruel! O you gods!
  • REGAN
  • One side will mock another.
  • SERVANT
  • I have served you ever since I was a child, but better service have I never done you than now to bid you hold.
  • Cornwall and the Servant draw and fight.
  • REGAN TO AN ATTENDANT
  • Give me thy sword.
  • She takes a sword and running up behind him kills the servant. Cornwall was wounded.
  • CORNWALL
  • Lest it see more, prevent it.
  • Cornwall forces out Gloucester’s other eye.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature to quit this horrid act.
  • REGAN
  • Out, treacherous villain! Thou call’st on him that hates thee. It was he that made the overture of thy treasons to us.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Then Edgar was abused. Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him.
  • REGAN
  • Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell his way to Dover.
  • Some servants exit with Gloucester.
  • CORNWALL
  • I have received a hurt. Regan, I bleed apace. Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm.
  • Cornwall and Regan exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 1
  • Edgar enters in disguise.
  • EDGAR
  • The lowest and most dejected think of fortune stands still in hope, lives not in fear.
  • Gloucester and an old man enter.
  • EDGAR
  • My father, poorly led? World, world, O world.
  • OLD MAN
  • O my good lord, I have been your tenant and your father’s tenant these fourscore years.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Away, get thee away.
  • OLD MAN
  • You cannot see your way.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I have no way and therefore want no eyes. I stumbled when I saw.
  • OLD MAN
  • Who’s there.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • I am worse than e’er I was.
  • OLD MAN
  • ‘Tis poor mad Tom.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • And worse I may be yet. The worst is not so long as we can say “This is the worst.”
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Is it a beggar-man?
  • OLD MAN
  • Madman and beggar too.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • He has some reason, else he could not beg. I’ th’ last night’s storm, I such a fellow saw, which made me think a man a worm. My son came then into my mind, and yet mind was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since. As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods; they kill us for their sport.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • How should this be? Bless thee, master.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Is that the naked fellow?
  • OLD MAN
  • Ay, my lord.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Get thee away. Bring some covering for this naked soul, whom I’ll entreat to lead me.
  • OLD MAN
  • Alack, sir, he is mad.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • ‘Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind. Do as I bid thee. Above the rest, begone.
  • OLD MAN
  • I’ll bring him the best ‘parel that I have.
  • He exits.
  • EDGAR
  • Poor Tom’s a-cold.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • I cannot daub it further. And yet I must. Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Know’st thou the way to Dover?
  • EDGAR
  • Both stile and gate, horseway and footpath.
  • Gloucester gives him money.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Here, take this purse. Dost thou know Dover?
  • EDGAR
  • Ay, master.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • There is a cliff. Bring me but to the very brim of it, and I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear with something rich about me. From that place I shall no leading need.
  • EDGAR
  • Give me thy arm. Poor Tom shall lead thee.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 2
  • Goneril and Edmund enter.
  • GONERIL
  • Welcome, my lord.
  • Oswald enters.
  • GONERIL
  • Now, where’s your master?
  • OSWALD
  • Madam, within, but never man so changed. I told him of the army that was landed; he smiled at it. I told him you were coming; his answer was “The worse.”
  • GONERIL TO EDMUND
  • It is the cowardly terror of his spirit, that dares not undertake. He’ll not feel wrongs which require him to retaliate. Wear this; spare speech.
  • She gives him a favor. She kisses him.
  • GONERIL
  • This kiss, if it durst speak, would stretch thy spirits up into the air.
  • Edmund exits. Albany enters.
  • ALBANY
  • You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face.
  • GONERIL
  • No more. The text is foolish.
  • ALBANY
  • Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile. What have you done? Tigers, not daughters, what have you performed?
  • GONERIL
  • Milk-livered man, that bear’st a cheek for blows; a head for wrongs. Where’s thy drum? France spreads his banners in our noiseless land.
  • ALBANY
  • See thyself, devil!
  • GONERIL
  • O vain fool!
  • ALBANY
  • Howe’er thou art a fiend, a woman’s shape doth shield thee.
  • A Messenger enters.
  • ALBANY
  • What news?
  • MESSENGER
  • O, my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead, slain by his servant, going to put out the other eye of Gloucester.
  • ALBANY
  • Gloucester’s eyes?
  • MESSENGER
  • Both, both, my lord. This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer.
  • He gives her a paper.
  • MESSENGER
  • ‘Tis from your sister.
  • GONERIL ASIDE
  • One way I like this well. Another way the news is not so sour.
  • GONERIL
  • I’ll read, and answer.
  • She exits.
  • ALBANY
  • Where was his son when they did take his eyes?
  • MESSENGER
  • Come with my lady hither.
  • ALBANY
  • He is not here. Knows he the wickedness?
  • MESSENGER
  • Ay, my good lord.
  • ALBANY
  • Gloucester, I live to thank thee for the love thou show’d’st the King, and to revenge thine eyes. Come hither, friend. Tell me what more thou know’st.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 3
  • Kent in disguise and a Gentleman enter a French camp.
  • KENT
  • Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back know you no reason?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Something he left imperfect in the state. His personal return was most required.
  • KENT
  • Who hath he left behind him s general.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • The Marshall of France, Monsieur La Far.
  • KENT
  • Did the Queen receive your letters?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Ay, sir, she took them, read them in my presence, and now and then an ample tear trilled down her delicate cheek.
  • KENT
  • O, then it moved her.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • You have seen sunshine and rain at once. Faith, pantingly forth, she cried “Sisters, sisters, shame of ladies, sisters! Kent, father, sisters! What, i’ th’ storm, i th’ night?” There she shook the holly water from her heavenly eyes, and clamor moistened.
  • KENT
  • You spoke not with her since?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • No.
  • KENT
  • Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear’s i’ th’ town, and by not means will yield to see his daughter.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Why, good sir?
  • KENT
  • He gave her dear rights to his dog-hearted daughters-----these things sting his mind so venomously that burning shame detains him from Cordelia.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Alack, poor gentleman!
  • KENT
  • Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers you heard not?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • ‘Tis so. They are afoot.
  • KENT
  • Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master Lear and leave you to attend him.
  • Act 4, Scene 4
  • Cordelia, Doctor, Gentlemen and Soldiers enter.
  • CORDELIA
  • Search every acre in the high-grown field and bring him to our eye.
  • Soldiers exit.
  • CORDELIA
  • Seek, seek for him, lest his ungoverned rage dissolve the life that wants the means to lead it.
  • Messenger enters.
  • MESSENGER
  • The British powers are marching hitherward.
  • CORDELIA
  • ‘Tis known before. Our preparation stands in expectation of them. O dear father, it is thy business that I go about. Soon may I hear and see him.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 5
  • Regan and Oswald enter, Regan questioning Oswald about Goneril and Edmund.
  • OSWALD
  • Your sister is the better soldier.
  • REGAN
  • It was great ignorance, Gloucester’s eyes being out, to let him live. Where he arrives he moves all hearts against us.
  • OSWALD
  • I must after Edmund, madam, with my letter.
  • REGAN
  • Why should she write to Edmund? Let me unseal the letter.
  • OSWALD
  • Madam, I had rather-----
  • REGAN
  • I know your lady does not love her husband. She gave strange loving looks to noble Edmund. I know you have her confidence.
  • OSWALD
  • I, madam?
  • REGAN
  • I speak in understanding. Therefore I do advise you take this note: my lord is dead; Edmund and I have talked and more convenient is he for my hand than for your lady’s. If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor, preferment falls on him that cuts him off.
  • OSWALD
  • Would I could meet him, madam, I should show what party I do follow.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 6
  • Gloucester enters, led by the disguised Edgar.
  • EDGAR
  • Hark, do you hear the sea?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • No, truly.
  • EDGAR
  • Why then, your other senses grow imperfect by your eyes’ anguish.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • So may it be indeed. Methinks thy voice is altered and thou speak’st in better phrase and manner than thou didst.
  • EDGAR
  • You’re much deceived; in nothing am I changed but in my garments.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Methinks you’re better spoken.
  • EDGAR
  • The fishermen that walk upon the beach appear like mice. I’ll look no more lest my brain turn and the deficient sight topple down headlong.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Set me where you stand.
  • EDGAR
  • You are now within a foot of th’ extreme verge.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Here, friend, ‘s another purse; in it a jewel well worth a poor man’s taking.
  • He gives Edgar a purse.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Go thou further off. Bid me farewell, and let me her thee going.
  • Edgar walks away.
  • EDGAR
  • Now fare you well, good sir.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • This world I do renounce, and in your sights shake patiently my great affliction off. If Edgar live, bless him!
  • He kneels and falls. Edgar is now disguised as a peasant.
  • EDGAR
  • Sir, speak. Yet he revives. Ten masts at each make not the altitude which thou hast perpendicularly fell. Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • But have I fall’n or no?
  • EDGAR
  • From the dread summit of this chalky bourn. Look up a-height. Do but look up.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Alack, I have no eyes. Is wretchedness deprived that benefit to end itself by death?
  • EDGAR
  • Give me your arm.
  • He raises Gloucester.
  • EDGAR
  • Feel you your legs? You stand.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Too well, too well.
  • EDGAR
  • This is above all strangeness. What think was that which parted from you?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • A poor unfortunate beggar.
  • EDGAR
  • It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father, think that the clearest gods, who make them honors of men’s impossibilities, have preserved thee.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • That thing you speak of, I took it for a man. Often ‘twould say “The fiend, the fiend!” He led me to that place.
  • Lear enters.
  • EDGAR
  • But who comes here?
  • LEAR
  • I am the King himself.
  • EDGAR
  • O, thou heart-rending sight!
  • LEAR
  • That fellow handles his bow like a crow keeper. Draw me a clothier’s yard. Look, look, a mouse!
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I know that voice.
  •  
  •  
  • Lear to Gloucester
  •  
  • Ay, every inch a king. When I do stare
  • My subjects quake, yet my two daughters care
  • For me as they do a dog, but I sure
  • Smelt ‘em out. Let adultery thrive; Gloucester
  • Had a bastard kinder to his father
  • Than my daughters got ‘tween lawful sheets. Sir,
  • When born, not asking to enter, man cries
  • That he come to this stage of fools. Get eyes
  • Of glass and like scurvy politicians see
  • Things thou dost not. A man who looks with his
  • Ears may with his lights sadly gone find he
  • May yet see how this cruel world goes. Strange is
  • How ‘gainst the thief doth justice in his brief
  • Time rail; which is justice, which is the thief?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • O ruined piece of nature! Dost thou know me?
  • LEAR
  • I remember thine eyes well enough.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Were all thy letters suns, I could not see.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • My heart breaks at it.
  • LEAR
  • Read.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • What, with the sockets for eyes?
  • LEAR
  • No eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you see how this world goes.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • I see it feelingly.
  • LEAR
  • A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears. See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Change places and, which is the justice, which is the thief?
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Ay, sir.
  • LEAR
  • Through tattered clothes small vices do appear. Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold, and the strong lance of justice hurtles breaks. Arm it in rags, a pygmy’s straw does pierce it. Get thee glass eyes, and like a scurvy politician seem to see the things thou dost not. Now, now, pull off my boots. Harder, harder.
  • EDGAR ASIDE
  • O, matter and impertinency mixed, reason in madness!
  • LEAR
  • If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes. I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester. Thou must be patient.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Alack, alack the day!
  • LEAR
  • When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
  • A Gentleman enters. He notices Lear.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • O, here he is. Lay hand upon him. Sir, your most dear daughter------
  • LEAR
  • What, a prisoner? I am even the natural fool of fortune. Let me have surgeons; I am cut to’ th’ brains.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • You shall have anything.
  • LEAR
  • Come, come, I am a king. Masters, know you that?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • You are a royal one, and we obey you.
  • LEAR
  • You shall get it by running.
  • The King exits running. Attendants pursue him.
  • EDGAR
  • Hail, gentle sir.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • What’s our will?
  • EDGAR
  • Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Most sure and vulgar.
  • EDGAR
  • But, by your favor, how near ‘s the other army?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Near and on speedy foot. The Queen on special cause is here. Her army is moved on.
  • EDGAR
  • I thank you, sir.
  • The Gentleman exits.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me.
  • EDGAR
  • Well pray you, father.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Now, good sir, what are you?
  • EDGAR
  • A most poor man, made tame to fortune’s blows, who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows, am pregnant to good pity.
  • He takes Gloucester’s hand. Oswald enters and draws his sword.
  • OSWALD
  • A proclaimed prize! Most happy! Thou old unhappy traitor, the sword is out that must destroy thee.
  • Edgar steps between Gloucester and Oswald.
  • OSWALD
  • Wherefore, bold peasant. Dost thou support a published traitor? Let go his arm.
  • EDGAR
  • Good gentlemen, go your gait, and let poor volk pas. Nay, come not near th’ old man.
  • They fight. Oswald falls.
  • OSWALD
  • Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse. Give the letters which thou find’st about me to Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out upon the English party.
  • Oswald dies.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • What, is he dead?
  • EDGAR
  • Sit you down, father, rest you. Let’s see these pockets. He’s dead.
  • He opens the letter.
  • EDGAR READS
  • “Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. There is nothing done if he return the conqueror. Then I am the prisoner. Your (wife, so I would say) affectionate servant.” Goneril.
  • EDGAR
  • O indistinguished space of woman’s will! A plot upon her virtuous husband’s life, and the exchange my brother. For him ‘tis well that of thy death and business I can tell.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • The King is mad. Better I were distract. So should my thoughts be severed from my griefs.
  • A drum sounds far off.
  • EDGAR
  • Give me your hand. Come, father, I’ll bestow you with a friend.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 7
  • Cordelia, Kent (in disguise), a Doctor and Gentlemen enter.
  • CORDELIA
  • O, thou good Kent, how shall I live and work to match thy goodness?
  • KENT
  • To be acknowledged, madam, if o’erpaid.
  • CORDELIA
  • How does the King?
  • DOCTOR
  • Madam, sleeps still.
  • CORDELIA
  • O, you kind gods, cure this great breach in his abused nature!
  • DOCTOR
  • So please your Majesty that we may wake the King?
  • CORDELIA
  • Be governed by your knowledge.
  • Lear enters in a chair carried by servants.
  • DOCTOR
  • Be by, good madam, when we do awake him.
  • CORDELIA
  • Very well.
  • She kisses her father.
  •  
  •  
  • Cordelia to Lear, No. 2
  •  
  • O, my dear father, let this kiss repair
  • These violent harms to their father this pair
  • Of sisters hath made. Your white hair required
  • Their pity, had you not been their father.
  • Is this a face to endure being jarred
  • By winds; to stand ‘gainst dread-bolted thunder,
  • In the terrible, nimble stroke one sees
  • Of quick cross-lightening? Should mine enemy’s
  • Dog, though he had bit me, have stood that night
  • Against the fire. Wast thou willing, father,
  • To hovel thee with rogues who’d lost all fight
  • In short and musty straw? ‘Tis a wonder
  • That at once thy life and wits though now dim
  • Had not ended. He wakes. I’ll speak to him.
  • CORDELIA
  • How does my royal lord?
  • LEAR
  • You do me wrong to take me out o’ th’ grave. Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears do scald like molten lead.
  • CORDELIA
  • Sir, do you know me?
  • LEAR
  • You are a spirit, I know. Where did you die?
  • DOCTOR
  • He’s scarce awake. Let him alone awhile.
  • LEAR
  • Where am I? Fair daylight? I should e’en die with pity to see another thus.
  • CORDELIA
  • O, look upon me, sir, and hold your hand in benediction o’er me. No sir, you must not kneel.
  • LEAR
  • I am a very foolish fond old man, fourscore and upward, and to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind. Methinks I should know you and know this man. Do not laugh at me, for, as I am a man, I think this lady to be my child Cordelia.
  • Cordelia weeps.
  • CORDELIA
  • And so I am; I am.
  • LEAR
  • If you have poison for me, I will drink it. I know you do not love me, for your sisters have, as I do remember, done me wrong. You have some cause; they have not.
  • CORDELIA
  • No cause, no cause.
  • LEAR
  • Am I in France?
  • KENT
  • In your own kingdom, sir.
  • DOCTOR
  • Be comforted, good madam. Trouble him no more till further settling.
  • CORDELIA
  • Will ‘t please your Highness walk?
  • LEAR
  • Pray you now, forget, and forgive. I am old and foolish.
  • They exit. Kent and Gentleman remain.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Holds it true, sir, that the Duke of Cornwall was so slain?
  • KENT
  • Most certain, sir.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Who is conductor of his people?
  • KENT
  • As ‘tis said, the bastard son of Gloucester.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • They say Edgar, his banished son, is with the Earl of Kent in Germany.
  • KENT
  • Report is changeable. ‘Tis time to look about. The powers of the kingdom approach apace.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • The settlement of the suit is likely to be bloody.
  • The exit separately.
  • Act 5, Scene 1
  • Edmund, Regan and a Gentleman enter.
  • EDMUND TO GENTLEMAN
  • Let me know if Albany still holds to his last position. He’s full of alteration.
  • Gentleman exits.
  • REGAN
  • Our sister’s man, Oswald, is certainly perished.
  • EDMUND
  • ‘Tis to be doubted, madam.
  • REGAN
  • Now, sweet lord, tell me but truly, do you not love my sister?
  • EDMUND
  • In honorable love.
  • REGAN
  • I fear you have been intimate with her.
  • EDMUND
  • No, by mine honor, madam.
  • REGAN
  • Dear my lord, be not familiar with her.
  • EDMUND
  • Fear me not.
  • Albany and Goneril enter.
  • GONERIL ASIDE
  • I had rather lose the battle than that sister should loosen him and me.
  • ALBANY
  • Sir, this I heard
  • the King is come to his daughter. For this business, it touches us as France invades our land.
  • EDMUND
  • Sir, you speak nobly.
  • GONERIL
  • Combine together ‘gainst the enemy.
  • EDMUND
  • I shall attend you presently at your tent.
  • REGAN
  • Sister, you’ll go with us? Pray, go with us.
  • GONERIL
  • I will go.
  • They begin to exit. Edgar enters dressed as a peasant.
  • EDGAR TO ALBANY
  • If e’er your Grace had speech with man so poor, hear me one word.
  • ALBANY
  • Speak.
  • Edgar gives Albany a letter.
  • EDGAR
  • Before you fight the battle, open this letter. If you have victory, let the trumpet sound for him that brought it. If you miscarry, your business of the world hath so an end. Fortune love you.
  • ALBANY
  • Stay till I have read the letter.
  • EDGAR
  • When time shall serve, let but the herald cry and I’ll appear again.
  • He exits.
  • ALBANY
  • I will o’erlook thy paper.
  • Edmund enters.
  • EDMUND
  • The enemy’s in view. Draw up your powers.
  • He gives Albany a paper.
  • EDMUND
  • Here is the guess of their true strength and forces by diligent discovery.
  • ALBANY
  • We will be ready.
  • He exits.
  •  
  •  
  • Edmund to himself, No. 2
  •  
  • To both these sisters have I sworn my love.
  • As if stung by a snake, each jealous of
  • The other. Should I take one or both or
  • Neither? Taking neither can be enjoyed
  • If you remain alive. Loving one more
  • Than the other angers the sister void
  • Of a husband, exasperating the
  • Sister whose husband is alive. Must we
  • Then use his senior position in the
  • Battle, letting her devise a speedy
  • Way to murder him. As for the mercy
  • He intends for Lear and Cordelia, the
  • Pardon shall not be seen as I depend
  • Not on debate, rather life to defend.
  • Act 5, Scene 2
  • Edgar and Gloucester enter.
  • EDGAR
  • Here, father, take the shadow of this tree for you good host. If ever I return to you again, I’ll bring you comfort.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • Grace go with you, sir.
  • Edgar exits. Edgar re-enters.
  • EDGAR
  • Away, old man. King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en. Give me thy hand. Come on.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • No further, sir.
  • EDGAR
  • Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither. Come on.
  • GLOUCESTER
  • And that’s true too.
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 3
  • Edmund enters with Lear and Cordelia as prisoners.
  • EDMUND
  • Some officers take them away.
  • CORDELIA TO LEAR
  • We are not the first who with best meaning have incurred the worst. Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
  •  
  •  
  • Lear to Cordelia
  •  
  • No, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison.
  • Like birds in a cage, we two will sing on
  • Alone. When thou doth ask me blessing, I’ll
  • Kneel and ask thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
  • And sing, and tell old tales, and all the while
  • Laugh as gilded butterflies. We can give
  • Beggars counsel, hear them talk of court news,
  • Taking on this mystery, learning the views
  • Of this unknown nether world as if we
  • Were spies for the gods. We’ll hear the voices
  • Of the rogues who daily ebb and flow. The
  • Gods themselves honor such sacrifices.
  • Prithee, wipe thine wet eyes. In thy heart keep
  • The good years; do not let them make us weep.
  • EDMUND
  • Take them away.
  • Lear and Cordelia exit with soldiers.
  • EDMUND
  • Come hither, Captain.
  • He hands the Captain a paper.
  • EDMUND
  • Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison. If thou dost as this instructs thee, thou does make thy way to noble fortunes. Know thus this: that men are as the time is; to be tender-minded does not become a sword. Either say thou’lt do ‘t, or thrive by other means.
  • CAPTAIN
  • I’ll do ‘t, my lord.
  • EDMUND
  • About it, and write “happy” when th’ hast done.
  • CAPTAIN
  • If it be man’s work, I’ll do ‘t.
  • Captain exits. Albany, Goneril, Regan, and a captain enter.
  • ALBANY TO EDMUND
  • Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain. You have the captives who were the opposites of this day’s strife. I do require them of you.
  • EDMUND
  • Sir, I thought it fit to send the old and miserable king to some retention. With him I sent the Queen, my reason all the same, and they are ready tomorrow t’ appear where you shall hold your session.
  • ALBANY
  • Sir, I hold you but a subject of this war, not as a brother.
  • GONERIL
  • Not so hot. In his own grace he doth exalt himself more than in the title you gave him.
  • REGAN
  • In my rights, bay me invested, he is equal to the best.
  • GONERIL
  • That were the most if he should husband you.
  • REGAN
  • Jesters do oft prove prophets.
  • GONERIL
  • Holla, holla! Love, being jealous, makes a good eye look asquint.
  • REGAN TO EDMUND
  • General, take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. Witness the world that I create thee here my lord and master.
  • GONERIL
  • Mean you to enjoy him?
  • ALBANY
  • Edmund, I arrest thee on capital treason. For your claim, fair sister, I bar it in the interest of my wife. My lady is bespoke.
  • ALBANY
  • Thou art armed, Gloucester. There is my pledge.
  • He throws down a glove.
  • REGAN
  • Sick, O, sick!
  • EDMUND
  • There’s my exchange.
  • He throws down a glove.
  • EDMUND
  • What in the world he is that names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
  • REGAN
  • My sickness grows upon me.
  • GONERIL
  • She is not well.
  • Regan is helped to exit. A Herald enters.
  • HERALD READS
  • “If any man of quality, within the lists of the army, will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet.”
  • A trumpet sounds three times. Edgar enters armed.
  • HERALD
  • What are you? Why you answer this present summons?
  • EDGAR
  • Know my name is lost. I am as noble as the adversary I come to cope.
  • ALBANY
  • Which is the adversary?
  • EDGAR
  • What’s he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of Gloucester?
  • EDMUND
  • Himself. What sayest thou to him?
  • EDGAR
  • Draw thy sword, that if my speech offend a noble heart, thy arm may do thee justice.
  • He draws his sword.
  • EDGAR
  • I protest thou art a traitor, false to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father. Say thou “no,” this sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent to prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak, thou liest.
  • EDMUND
  • In wisdom I should ask thy name, but since thy outside looks so fair and warlike, and that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes, I disdain and spurn. Back do I toss these treasons to thy head. This sword of mine shall give them instant way, where they shall rest forever.
  • He draws his sword. They fight. Edmund falls, wounded.
  • ALBANY TO EDGAR
  • Save him, save him!
  • GONERIL
  • This is practice, Gloucester. By th’ law of war, thou wast not bound to answer an unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished, but beguiled.
  • ALBANY
  • Shut your mouth, dame, or with this paper shall I plug it.
  • GONERIL
  • Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
  • ALBANY
  • Know’st thou this paper?
  • GONERIL
  • Ask me not what I know.
  • She exits.
  • ALBANY
  • Go after her, she’s desperate.
  • A soldier exits.
  • EDMUND TO EDGAR
  • What you have charged me with, that have I done, time will bring it out. If thou ‘rt noble, I do forgive thee.
  • EDGAR
  • Let’s exchange charity. I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund. My name is Edgar and thy father’s son. The dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes.
  • EDMUND
  • Th’ hast spoken right. ‘Tis true. The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
  • ALBANY TO EDGAR
  • I must embrace thee. Let sorrow split my heart if ever I did hate thee or thy father!
  • EDGAR
  • Worthy prince, I know ‘t.
  • ALBANY
  • Where have you hid yourself?
  •  
  •  
  • Edgar to Albany
  •  
  • I shifted to madman’s rags to escape
  • The bloody proclamation, which did sate
  • My immediate need. In this habit
  • Met I my father with his now eyeless
  • Sockets and became his guide, using wit
  • To beg for him, saving him from useless
  • Despair. To bear each hour the pain of death
  • Rather than at once is this life’s sweet breath.
  • I let him know of me some half hour past,
  • When I was armed to fight, and there did seek
  • His blessing. From the first day through the last
  • I told him of our pilgrimage. Too weak
  • To support the passion, his flawed heart be
  • Torn between joy and grief burst smilingly.
  • EDMUND
  • This speech of yours hath moved me. But speak you on.
  • ALBANY
  • If there be more, more woeful, hold it in, for I am almost ready to dissolve hearing of this.
  • EDGAR
  • Whilst I was lamenting Gloucester’s death, came there a man who told the most piteous tale of Lear and him that ever ear received, and the strings of lie began to crack.
  • ALBANY
  • But who was this?
  • EDGAR
  • Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise followed his enemy king and did him service.
  • A Gentleman enters with a bloody knife.
  • EDGAR
  • What means this bloody knife?
  • GENTLEMAN
  • ‘Tis hot, it steams! O, she’s dead!
  • ALBANY
  • Who dead? Speak, man.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister by her is poisoned. She confesses it.
  • EDMUND
  • I was contracted to them both.
  • Kent enters.
  • ALBANY TO GENTLEMAN
  • Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
  • Gentleman exits.
  • ALBANY TO KENT
  • The time will not allow the compliment which very manners urges.
  • KENT
  • I am come to bid my king and master forever goodnight. Is he not here?
  • ALBANY
  • Speak Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s Cordelia?
  • Goneril and Regan’s bodies are brought out.
  • EDMUND
  • Yet Edmund was beloved. The one the other poisoned for my sake, and after slew herself.
  • ALBANY
  • Even so. Cover their faces.
  • EDMUND
  • I pant for life. Some good I mean to do despite of mine own nature. Quickly to th’ castle. I have issued written orders on the life of Lear, and of Cordelia.
  • EDGAR
  • To who, my lord? Who has the office?
  • EDMUND
  • Take my sword. Give it the Captain.
  • EDGAR TO A SOLDIER
  • Haste thee for thy life.
  • EDMUND TO ALBANY
  • He hath commission from thy wife and me to hang Cordelia in the prison, and to lay the blame upon her own despair, that she destroyed herself.
  • ALBANY
  • The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
  • Edmund is carried off. Lear enters with Cordelia in his arms.
  • LEAR
  • She’s gone forever. I know when one is dead and when one lives. She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass. If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, why, then she lives.
  • KENT
  • Is this the promised end?
  • LEAR
  • This feather stirs. She lives.
  • KENT
  • O, my good master.
  • LEAR
  • Prithee, away.
  • EDGAR
  • ‘Tis noble Kent, your friend.
  • LEAR
  • A plague upon you, murders, traitors all! What is ‘t thou sayst? Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman. I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.
  • GENTLEMAN
  • ‘Tis true, my lords, he did.
  • LEAR TO KENT
  • Who are you? Mine eyes are not o’ th’ best. This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
  • KENT
  • The same, your servant Kent.
  • LEAR
  • You are welcome hither.
  • KENT
  • All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly. Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves. And desperately are dead.
  • LEAR
  • Ay, so I think.
  • ALBANY
  • He knows not what he says, and vain is it that we present us to him.
  • A Messenger enters.
  • MESSENGER
  • Edmund is dead, my lord.
  • ALBANY
  • That’s but a trifle here. You lords and noble friends, know our intent. All friends shall taste the wages of their virtue, and all foes the cup of their deservings.
  • LEAR
  • And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life? Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and thou no breath at all? Do you see this?
  • Lear dies.
  • EDGAR TO LEAR
  • My lord. Look up, my lord.
  • KENT
  • O, let him pass! He hates him that would upon the rack of this tough world stretch him out longer.
  • EDGAR
  • He is gone indeed.
  • ALBANY TO EDGAR AND KENT
  • Friends of my soul, you twain rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.
  • KENT
  • I have a journey, sir. My master calls me. I must not say no.
  • EDGAR
  • The weight of this sad time we must obey, speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most; we that are young shall never see so much nor live so long.
  • They exit.

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