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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act I, Scene 4

The Duke of Albany’s Palace.


Enter Kent, [disguised].

  • Earl of Kent. If but as well I other accents borrow, 535
    That can my speech defuse, my good intent
    May carry through itself to that full issue
    For which I raz'd my likeness. Now, banish'd Kent,
    If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,
    So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov'st, 540
    Shall find thee full of labours.
    Horns within. Enter Lear, [Knights,] and Attendants.
  • Lear. Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get it ready. [Exit
    an Attendant.]
    How now? What art thou?
  • Lear. What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
  • Earl of Kent. I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve him truly
    that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to
    converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear
    judgment, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish. 550
  • Lear. What art thou?
  • Earl of Kent. A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.
  • Lear. If thou be'st as poor for a subject as he's for a king, thou
    art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
  • Lear. Who wouldst thou serve?
  • Lear. Dost thou know me, fellow?
  • Earl of Kent. No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would
    fain call master. 560
  • Lear. What services canst thou do?
  • Earl of Kent. I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in
    telling it and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which 565
    ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me
    is diligence.
  • Lear. How old art thou?
  • Earl of Kent. Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to
    dote on her for anything. I have years on my back forty-eight. 570
  • Lear. Follow me; thou shalt serve me. If I like thee no worse after
    dinner, I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho, dinner!
    Where's my knave? my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.
    [Exit an attendant.]
    [Enter [Oswald the] Steward.] 575
    You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
  • Lear. What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
    [Exit a Knight.] Where's my fool, ho? I think the world's
    asleep. 580
    [Enter Knight]
    How now? Where's that mongrel?
  • Knight. He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
  • Lear. Why came not the slave back to me when I call'd him?
  • Knight. Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not. 585
  • Lear. He would not?
  • Knight. My lord, I know not what the matter is; but to my judgment
    your Highness is not entertain'd with that ceremonious affection
    as you were wont. There's a great abatement of kindness appears
    as well in the general dependants as in the Duke himself also 590
    and your daughter.
  • Lear. Ha! say'st thou so?
  • Knight. I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for
    my duty cannot be silent when I think your Highness wrong'd.
  • Lear. Thou but rememb'rest me of mine own conception. I have 595
    perceived a most faint neglect of late, which I have rather
    blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence
    and purpose of unkindness. I will look further into't. But
    where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
  • Knight. Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool 600
    hath much pined away.
  • Lear. No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you and tell my
    daughter I would speak with her. [Exit Knight.] Go you, call
    hither my fool.
    [Exit an Attendant.] 605
    [Enter [Oswald the] Steward.]
    O, you, sir, you! Come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?
  • Lear. 'My lady's father'? My lord's knave! You whoreson dog! you
    slave! you cur! 610
  • Oswald. I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon.
  • Lear. Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?

[Strikes him.]

  • Oswald. I'll not be strucken, my lord.
  • Earl of Kent. Nor tripp'd neither, you base football player? 615

[Trips up his heels.

  • Lear. I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv'st me, and I'll love thee.
  • Earl of Kent. Come, sir, arise, away! I'll teach you differences. Away,
    away! If you will measure your lubber's length again, tarry; but
    away! Go to! Have you wisdom? So. 620

[Pushes him out.]

  • Lear. Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. There's earnest of thy
    service. [Gives money.]

Enter Fool.

  • Fool. Let me hire him too. Here's my coxcomb. 625

[Offers Kent his cap.]

  • Lear. How now, my pretty knave? How dost thou?
  • Fool. Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
  • Fool. Why? For taking one's part that's out of favour. Nay, an thou 630
    canst not smile as the wind sits, thou'lt catch cold shortly.
    There, take my coxcomb! Why, this fellow hath banish'd two on's
    daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will. If
    thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.- How now,
    nuncle? Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters! 635
  • Fool. If I gave them all my living, I'ld keep my coxcombs myself.
    There's mine! beg another of thy daughters.
  • Lear. Take heed, sirrah- the whip.
  • Fool. Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipp'd out, when 640
    Lady the brach may stand by th' fire and stink.
  • Lear. A pestilent gall to me!
  • Fool. Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.
  • Fool. Mark it, nuncle. 645
    Have more than thou showest,
    Speak less than thou knowest,
    Lend less than thou owest,
    Ride more than thou goest,
    Learn more than thou trowest, 650
    Set less than thou throwest;
    Leave thy drink and thy whore,
    And keep in-a-door,
    And thou shalt have more
    Than two tens to a score. 655
  • Fool. Then 'tis like the breath of an unfeed lawyer- you gave me
    nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
  • Lear. Why, no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.
  • Fool. [to Kent] Prithee tell him, so much the rent of his land 660
    comes to. He will not believe a fool.
  • Lear. A bitter fool!
  • Fool. Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter
    fool and a sweet fool?
  • Lear. No, lad; teach me. 665
  • Fool. That lord that counsell'd thee
    To give away thy land,
    Come place him here by me-
    Do thou for him stand.
    The sweet and bitter fool 670
    Will presently appear;
    The one in motley here,
    The other found out there.
  • Lear. Dost thou call me fool, boy?
  • Fool. All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast 675
    born with.
  • Fool. No, faith; lords and great men will not let me. If I had a
    monopoly out, they would have part on't. And ladies too, they
    will not let me have all the fool to myself; they'll be 680
    snatching. Give me an egg, nuncle, and I'll give thee two
  • Lear. What two crowns shall they be?
  • Fool. Why, after I have cut the egg i' th' middle and eat up the
    meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i' 685
    th' middle and gav'st away both parts, thou bor'st thine ass on
    thy back o'er the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown
    when thou gav'st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in
    this, let him be whipp'd that first finds it so.
    [Sings] Fools had ne'er less grace in a year, 690
    For wise men are grown foppish;
    They know not how their wits to wear,
    Their manners are so apish.
  • Lear. When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
  • Fool. I have us'd it, nuncle, ever since thou mad'st thy daughters 695
    thy mother; for when thou gav'st them the rod, and put'st down
    thine own breeches,
    [Sings] Then they for sudden joy did weep,
    And I for sorrow sung,
    That such a king should play bo-peep 700
    And go the fools among.
    Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to
    lie. I would fain learn to lie.
  • Lear. An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipp'd.
  • Fool. I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They'll have me 705
    whipp'd for speaking true; thou'lt have me whipp'd for lying;
    and sometimes I am whipp'd for holding my peace. I had rather be
    any kind o' thing than a fool! And yet I would not be thee,
    nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides and left nothing
    i' th' middle. Here comes one o' the parings. 710

Enter Goneril.

  • Lear. How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on? Methinks you
    are too much o' late i' th' frown.
  • Fool. Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for
    her frowning. Now thou art an O without a figure. I am better 715
    than thou art now: I am a fool, thou art nothing.
    [To Goneril] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue. So your face
    bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum!
    He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
    Weary of all, shall want some.- 720
    [Points at Lear] That's a sheal'd peascod.
  • Goneril. Not only, sir, this your all-licens'd fool,
    But other of your insolent retinue
    Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
    In rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir, 725
    I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
    To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful,
    By what yourself, too, late have spoke and done,
    That you protect this course, and put it on
    By your allowance; which if you should, the fault 730
    Would not scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
    Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
    Might in their working do you that offence
    Which else were shame, that then necessity
    Must call discreet proceeding. 735
  • Fool. For you know, nuncle,
    The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long
    That it had it head bit off by it young.
    So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
  • Lear. Are you our daughter? 740
  • Goneril. Come, sir,
    I would you would make use of that good wisdom
    Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
    These dispositions that of late transform you
    From what you rightly are. 745
  • Fool. May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?
    Whoop, Jug, I love thee!
  • Lear. Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
    Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
    Either his notion weakens, his discernings 750
    Are lethargied- Ha! waking? 'Tis not so!
    Who is it that can tell me who I am?
  • Fool. Lear's shadow.
  • Lear. I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty,
    Knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded 755
    I had daughters.
  • Fool. Which they will make an obedient father.
  • Lear. Your name, fair gentlewoman?
  • Goneril. This admiration, sir, is much o' th' savour
    Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you 760
    To understand my purposes aright.
    As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.
    Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;
    Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd, and bold
    That this our court, infected with their manners, 765
    Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
    Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
    Than a grac'd palace. The shame itself doth speak
    For instant remedy. Be then desir'd
    By her that else will take the thing she begs 770
    A little to disquantity your train,
    And the remainder that shall still depend
    To be such men as may besort your age,
    Which know themselves, and you.
  • Lear. Darkness and devils! 775
    Saddle my horses! Call my train together!
    Degenerate bastard, I'll not trouble thee;
    Yet have I left a daughter.
  • Goneril. You strike my people, and your disorder'd rabble
    Make servants of their betters. 780

Enter Albany.

  • Lear. Woe that too late repents!- O, sir, are you come?
    Is it your will? Speak, sir!- Prepare my horses.
    Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
    More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child 785
    Than the sea-monster!
  • Lear. [to Goneril] Detested kite, thou liest!
    My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
    That all particulars of duty know 790
    And in the most exact regard support
    The worships of their name.- O most small fault,
    How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
    Which, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
    From the fix'd place; drew from my heart all love 795
    And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
    Beat at this gate that let thy folly in [Strikes his head.]
    And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
  • Duke of Albany. My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
    Of what hath mov'd you. 800
  • Lear. It may be so, my lord.
    Hear, Nature, hear! dear goddess, hear!
    Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
    To make this creature fruitful.
    Into her womb convey sterility; 805
    Dry up in her the organs of increase;
    And from her derogate body never spring
    A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
    Create her child of spleen, that it may live
    And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her. 810
    Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
    With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
    Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
    To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
    How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is 815
    To have a thankless child! Away, away! Exit.
  • Goneril. Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
    But let his disposition have that scope
    That dotage gives it. 820

Enter Lear.

  • Lear. What, fifty of my followers at a clap?
    Within a fortnight?
  • Lear. I'll tell thee. [To Goneril] Life and death! I am asham'd 825
    That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus;
    That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
    Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
    Th' untented woundings of a father's curse
    Pierce every sense about thee!- Old fond eyes, 830
    Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out,
    And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
    To temper clay. Yea, is it come to this?
    Let it be so. Yet have I left a daughter,
    Who I am sure is kind and comfortable. 835
    When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
    She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
    That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think
    I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.

Exeunt [Lear, Kent, and Attendants].

  • Goneril. Do you mark that, my lord?
  • Duke of Albany. I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
    To the great love I bear you—
  • Goneril. Pray you, content.- What, Oswald, ho!
    [To the Fool] You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master! 845
  • Fool. Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry! Take the fool with thee.
    A fox when one has caught her,
    And such a daughter,
    Should sure to the slaughter,
    If my cap would buy a halter. 850
    So the fool follows after. Exit.
  • Goneril. This man hath had good counsel! A hundred knights?
    'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
    At point a hundred knights; yes, that on every dream,
    Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike, 855
    He may enguard his dotage with their pow'rs
    And hold our lives in mercy.- Oswald, I say!
  • Goneril. Safer than trust too far.
    Let me still take away the harms I fear, 860
    Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
    What he hath utter'd I have writ my sister.
    If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
    When I have show'd th' unfitness- [Enter [Oswald the] Steward.]
    How now, Oswald? 865
    What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
  • Goneril. Take you some company, and away to horse!
    Inform her full of my particular fear,
    And thereto add such reasons of your own 870
    As may compact it more. Get you gone,
    And hasten your return. [Exit Oswald.] No, no, my lord!
    This milky gentleness and course of yours,
    Though I condemn it not, yet, under pardon,
    You are much more at task for want of wisdom 875
    Than prais'd for harmful mildness.
  • Duke of Albany. How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell.
    Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.