Open Source Shakespeare

The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act I, Scene 5

Court before the Duke of Albany’s Palace. Enter Lear, Kent, and Fool.


  • Lear. Go you before to Gloucester with these letters. Acquaint my
    daughter no further with anything you know than comes from her
    demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I
    shall be there afore you.
  • Earl of Kent. I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter. Exit. 885
  • Fool. If a man's brains were in's heels, were't not in danger of
  • Lear. Ay, boy.
  • Fool. Then I prithee be merry. Thy wit shall ne'er go slip-shod.
  • Lear. Ha, ha, ha! 890
  • Fool. Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; for though
    she's as like this as a crab's like an apple, yet I can tell
    what I can tell.
  • Lear. What canst tell, boy?
  • Fool. She'll taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou 895
    canst tell why one's nose stands i' th' middle on's face?
  • Lear. No.
  • Fool. Why, to keep one's eyes of either side's nose, that what a
    man cannot smell out, 'a may spy into.
  • Lear. I did her wrong. 900
  • Fool. Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?
  • Lear. No.
  • Fool. Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.
  • Lear. Why?
  • Fool. Why, to put's head in; not to give it away to his daughters, 905
    and leave his horns without a case.
  • Lear. I will forget my nature. So kind a father!- Be my horses
  • Fool. Thy asses are gone about 'em. The reason why the seven stars
    are no moe than seven is a pretty reason. 910
  • Lear. Because they are not eight?
  • Fool. Yes indeed. Thou wouldst make a good fool.
  • Lear. To tak't again perforce! Monster ingratitude!
  • Fool. If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'ld have thee beaten for being
    old before thy time. 915
  • Lear. How's that?
  • Fool. Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.
  • Lear. O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!
    Keep me in temper; I would not be mad! [Enter a Gentleman.]
    How now? Are the horses ready? 920
  • Gentleman. Ready, my lord.
  • Lear. Come, boy.
  • Fool. She that's a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
    Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter