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Had all his hairs been lives, my great revenge
Had stomach for them all.

      — Othello, Act V Scene 2


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The Tragedy of King Lear

Act I

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Scene 1. King Lear’s Palace.

Scene 2. The Earl of Gloucester’s Castle.

Scene 3. The Duke of Albany’s Palace.

Scene 4. The Duke of Albany’s Palace.

Scene 5. Court before the Duke of Albany’s Palace. Enter Lear, Kent, and Fool.


Act I, Scene 1

King Lear’s Palace.

      next scene .

Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund. [Kent and Gloucester converse. Edmund stands back.]

  • Earl of Kent. I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than
  • Earl of 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, for 5
    equalities are so weigh'd that curiosity in neither can make
    choice of either's moiety.
  • Earl of Gloucester. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often
    blush'd to acknowledge him that now I am braz'd to't. 10
  • Earl of Gloucester. Sir, this young fellow's mother could; whereupon she grew
    round-womb'd, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she
    had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
  • Earl of Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so 15
  • Earl of Gloucester. But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than
    this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Though this knave came
    something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was
    his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the 20
    whoreson must be acknowledged.- Do you know this noble gentleman,
  • Edmund. [comes forward] No, my lord.
  • Edmund. My services to your lordship.
  • Edmund. Sir, I shall study deserving.
  • Earl of Gloucester. He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.
    [Sound a sennet.] 30
    The King is coming.

Enter one bearing a coronet; then Lear; then the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall; next, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, with Followers.

  • Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.

Exeunt [Gloucester and Edmund].

  • Lear. Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
    Give me the map there. Know we have divided
    In three our kingdom; and 'tis our fast intent
    To shake all cares and business from our age,
    Conferring them on younger strengths while we 40
    Unburthen'd crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,
    And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
    We have this hour a constant will to publish
    Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
    May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy, 45
    Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
    Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
    And here are to be answer'd. Tell me, my daughters
    (Since now we will divest us both of rule,
    Interest of territory, cares of state), 50
    Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
    That we our largest bounty may extend
    Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
    Our eldest-born, speak first.
  • Goneril. Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; 55
    Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
    Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
    No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
    As much as child e'er lov'd, or father found;
    A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. 60
    Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
  • Cordelia. [aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
  • Lear. Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
    With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd,
    With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, 65
    We make thee lady. To thine and Albany's issue
    Be this perpetual.- What says our second daughter,
    Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
  • Regan. Sir, I am made
    Of the selfsame metal that my sister is, 70
    And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
    I find she names my very deed of love;
    Only she comes too short, that I profess
    Myself an enemy to all other joys
    Which the most precious square of sense possesses, 75
    And find I am alone felicitate
    In your dear Highness' love.
  • Cordelia. [aside] Then poor Cordelia!
    And yet not so; since I am sure my love's
    More richer than my tongue. 80
  • Lear. To thee and thine hereditary ever
    Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
    No less in space, validity, and pleasure
    Than that conferr'd on Goneril.- Now, our joy,
    Although the last, not least; to whose young love 85
    The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
    Strive to be interest; what can you say to draw
    A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
  • Lear. Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again.
  • Cordelia. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
    My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
    According to my bond; no more nor less. 95
  • Lear. How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,
    Lest it may mar your fortunes.
  • Cordelia. Good my lord,
    You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me; I
    Return those duties back as are right fit, 100
    Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
    Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
    They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
    That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
    Half my love with him, half my care and duty. 105
    Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
    To love my father all.
  • Lear. But goes thy heart with this?
  • Lear. So young, and so untender? 110
  • Lear. Let it be so! thy truth then be thy dower!
    For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
    The mysteries of Hecate and the night;
    By all the operation of the orbs 115
    From whom we do exist and cease to be;
    Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
    Propinquity and property of blood,
    And as a stranger to my heart and me
    Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian, 120
    Or he that makes his generation messes
    To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
    Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd,
    As thou my sometime daughter.
  • Lear. Peace, Kent!
    Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
    I lov'd her most, and thought to set my rest
    On her kind nursery.- Hence and avoid my sight!-
    So be my grave my peace as here I give 130
    Her father's heart from her! Call France! Who stirs?
    Call Burgundy! Cornwall and Albany,
    With my two daughters' dowers digest this third;
    Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
    I do invest you jointly in my power, 135
    Preeminence, and all the large effects
    That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
    With reservation of an hundred knights,
    By you to be sustain'd, shall our abode
    Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain 140
    The name, and all th' additions to a king. The sway,
    Revenue, execution of the rest,
    Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,
    This coronet part betwixt you.
  • Earl of Kent. Royal Lear, 145
    Whom I have ever honour'd as my king,
    Lov'd as my father, as my master follow'd,
    As my great patron thought on in my prayers-
  • Lear. The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
  • Earl of Kent. Let it fall rather, though the fork invade 150
    The region of my heart! Be Kent unmannerly
    When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
    Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
    When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound
    When majesty falls to folly. Reverse thy doom; 155
    And in thy best consideration check
    This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment,
    Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
    Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
    Reverbs no hollowness. 160
  • Lear. Kent, on thy life, no more!
  • Earl of Kent. My life I never held but as a pawn
    To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,
    Thy safety being the motive.
  • Lear. Out of my sight! 165
  • Earl of Kent. See better, Lear, and let me still remain
    The true blank of thine eye.
  • Lear. Now by Apollo-
  • Earl of Kent. Now by Apollo, King,
    Thou swear'st thy gods in vain. 170
  • Lear. O vassal! miscreant! [Lays his hand on his sword.]
  • Earl of Kent. Do!
    Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
    Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift, 175
    Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,
    I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
  • Lear. Hear me, recreant!
    On thine allegiance, hear me!
    Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow- 180
    Which we durst never yet- and with strain'd pride
    To come between our sentence and our power,-
    Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,-
    Our potency made good, take thy reward.
    Five days we do allot thee for provision 185
    To shield thee from diseases of the world,
    And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
    Upon our kingdom. If, on the tenth day following,
    Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions,
    The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter, 190
    This shall not be revok'd.
  • Earl of Kent. Fare thee well, King. Since thus thou wilt appear,
    Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
    [To Cordelia] The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
    That justly think'st and hast most rightly said! 195
    [To Regan and Goneril] And your large speeches may your deeds
    That good effects may spring from words of love.
    Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;
    He'll shape his old course in a country new. Exit. 200

Flourish. Enter Gloucester, with France and Burgundy; Attendants.

  • Lear. My Lord of Burgundy,
    We first address toward you, who with this king
    Hath rivall'd for our daughter. What in the least 205
    Will you require in present dower with her,
    Or cease your quest of love?
  • Duke of Burgundy. Most royal Majesty,
    I crave no more than hath your Highness offer'd,
    Nor will you tender less. 210
  • Lear. Right noble Burgundy,
    When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
    But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands.
    If aught within that little seeming substance,
    Or all of it, with our displeasure piec'd, 215
    And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,
    She's there, and she is yours.
  • Lear. Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
    Unfriended, new adopted to our hate, 220
    Dow'r'd with our curse, and stranger'd with our oath,
    Take her, or leave her?
  • Duke of Burgundy. Pardon me, royal sir.
    Election makes not up on such conditions.
  • Lear. Then leave her, sir; for, by the pow'r that made me, 225
    I tell you all her wealth. [To France] For you, great King,
    I would not from your love make such a stray
    To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
    T' avert your liking a more worthier way
    Than on a wretch whom nature is asham'd 230
    Almost t' acknowledge hers.
  • King of France. This is most strange,
    That she that even but now was your best object,
    The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
    Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time 235
    Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
    So many folds of favour. Sure her offence
    Must be of such unnatural degree
    That monsters it, or your fore-vouch'd affection
    Fall'n into taint; which to believe of her 240
    Must be a faith that reason without miracle
    Should never plant in me.
  • Cordelia. I yet beseech your Majesty,
    If for I want that glib and oily art
    To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend, 245
    I'll do't before I speak- that you make known
    It is no vicious blot, murther, or foulness,
    No unchaste action or dishonoured step,
    That hath depriv'd me of your grace and favour;
    But even for want of that for which I am richer- 250
    A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
    As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
    Hath lost me in your liking.
  • Lear. Better thou
    Hadst not been born than not t' have pleas'd me better. 255
  • King of France. Is it but this- a tardiness in nature
    Which often leaves the history unspoke
    That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
    What say you to the lady? Love's not love
    When it is mingled with regards that stands 260
    Aloof from th' entire point. Will you have her?
    She is herself a dowry.
  • Duke of Burgundy. Royal Lear,
    Give but that portion which yourself propos'd,
    And here I take Cordelia by the hand, 265
    Duchess of Burgundy.
  • Lear. Nothing! I have sworn; I am firm.
  • Duke of Burgundy. I am sorry then you have so lost a father
    That you must lose a husband.
  • Cordelia. Peace be with Burgundy! 270
    Since that respects of fortune are his love,
    I shall not be his wife.
  • King of France. Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
    Most choice, forsaken; and most lov'd, despis'd!
    Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon. 275
    Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.
    Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
    My love should kindle to inflam'd respect.
    Thy dow'rless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,
    Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France. 280
    Not all the dukes in wat'rish Burgundy
    Can buy this unpriz'd precious maid of me.
    Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
    Thou losest here, a better where to find.
  • Lear. Thou hast her, France; let her be thine; for we 285
    Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
    That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
    Without our grace, our love, our benison.
    Come, noble Burgundy.

Flourish. Exeunt Lear, Burgundy, [Cornwall, Albany, Gloucester, and Attendants].

  • Cordelia. The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes
    Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are;
    And, like a sister, am most loath to call
    Your faults as they are nam'd. Use well our father. 295
    To your professed bosoms I commit him;
    But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
    I would prefer him to a better place!
    So farewell to you both.
  • Goneril. Prescribe not us our duties. 300
  • Regan. Let your study
    Be to content your lord, who hath receiv'd you
    At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
    And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
  • Cordelia. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. 305
    Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
    Well may you prosper!

Exeunt France and Cordelia.

  • Goneril. Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly 310
    appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
  • Regan. That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
  • Goneril. You see how full of changes his age is. The observation we
    have made of it hath not been little. He always lov'd our
    sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her 315
    off appears too grossly.
  • Regan. 'Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly
    known himself.
  • Goneril. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then
    must we look to receive from his age, not alone the 320
    imperfections of long-ingraffed condition, but therewithal
    the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with
  • Regan. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this
    of Kent's banishment. 325
  • Goneril. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and
    him. Pray you let's hit together. If our father carry authority
    with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his
    will but offend us.
  • Regan. We shall further think on't. 330
  • Goneril. We must do something, and i' th' heat.


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 2

The Earl of Gloucester’s Castle.

      next scene .

Enter [Edmund the] Bastard solus, [with a letter].

  • Edmund. Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
    My services are bound. Wherefore should I 335
    Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
    The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
    For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
    Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
    When my dimensions are as well compact, 340
    My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
    As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
    With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
    Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
    More composition and fierce quality 345
    Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
    Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops
    Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well then,
    Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
    Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund 350
    As to th' legitimate. Fine word- 'legitimate'!
    Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
    And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
    Shall top th' legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
    Now, gods, stand up for bastards! 355

Enter Gloucester.

  • Earl of Gloucester. Kent banish'd thus? and France in choler parted?
    And the King gone to-night? subscrib'd his pow'r?
    Confin'd to exhibition? All this done
    Upon the gad? Edmund, how now? What news? 360
  • Edmund. So please your lordship, none.

[Puts up the letter.]

  • Edmund. I know no news, my lord.
  • Earl of Gloucester. No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of it into your
    pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to hide
    itself. Let's see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need
    spectacles. 370
  • Edmund. I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter from my brother
    that I have not all o'er-read; and for so much as I have
    perus'd, I find it not fit for your o'erlooking.
  • Edmund. I shall offend, either to detain or give it. The contents, as 375
    in part I understand them, are to blame.
  • Edmund. I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as
    an essay or taste of my virtue.
  • Earl of Gloucester. [reads] 'This policy and reverence of age makes the world 380
    bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us
    till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle
    and fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways,
    not as it hath power, but as it is suffer'd. Come to me, that
    of this I may speak more. If our father would sleep till I 385
    wak'd him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live
    the beloved of your brother,
    Hum! Conspiracy? 'Sleep till I wak'd him, you should enjoy half
    his revenue.' My son Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? a heart 390
    and brain to breed it in? When came this to you? Who brought it?
  • Edmund. It was not brought me, my lord: there's the cunning of it. I
    found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.
  • Edmund. If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were his; 395
    but in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.
  • Edmund. It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is not in the
  • Edmund. Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit
    that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father
    should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.
  • Earl of Gloucester. O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred
    villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than 405
    brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him. I'll apprehend him. Abominable
    villain! Where is he?
  • Edmund. I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend
    your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him
    better testimony of his intent, you should run a certain course; 410
    where, if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his
    purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour and shake
    in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life
    for him that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your
    honour, and to no other pretence of danger. 415
  • Edmund. If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall
    hear us confer of this and by an auricular assurance have your
    satisfaction, and that without any further delay than this very
    evening. 420
  • Earl of Gloucester. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him.
    Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray
    you; frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate 425
    myself to be in a due resolution.
  • Edmund. I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as I
    shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
  • Earl of Gloucester. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to
    us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet 430
    nature finds itself scourg'd by the sequent effects. Love cools,
    friendship falls off, brothers divide. In cities, mutinies; in
    countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond crack'd
    'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the
    prediction; there's son against father: the King falls from bias 435
    of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the best
    of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all
    ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out
    this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it
    carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banish'd! his 440
    offence, honesty! 'Tis strange. Exit.
  • Edmund. This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
    sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make
    guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if
    we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; 445
    knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance;
    drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc'd obedience of
    planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine
    thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay
    his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father 450
    compounded with my mother under the Dragon's Tail, and my
    nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and
    lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am, had the
    maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
    Edgar- 455
    [Enter Edgar.]
    and pat! he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My
    cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam.
    O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi.
  • Edgar. How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you 460
  • Edmund. I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day,
    what should follow these eclipses.
  • Edgar. Do you busy yourself with that?
  • Edmund. I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as 465
    of unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death,
    dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state,
    menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless
    diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
    nuptial breaches, and I know not what. 470
  • Edgar. How long have you been a sectary astronomical?
  • Edmund. Come, come! When saw you my father last?
  • Edgar. The night gone by.
  • Edgar. Ay, two hours together. 475
  • Edmund. Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in him by
    word or countenance
  • Edmund. Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him; and at my
    entreaty forbear his presence until some little time hath 480
    qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant so
    rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would
    scarcely allay.
  • Edgar. Some villain hath done me wrong.
  • Edmund. That's my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance till 485
    the speed of his rage goes slower; and, as I say, retire with me
    to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my
    lord speak. Pray ye, go! There's my key. If you do stir abroad,
    go arm'd.
  • Edgar. Arm'd, brother? 490
  • Edmund. Brother, I advise you to the best. Go arm'd. I am no honest man
    if there be any good meaning toward you. I have told you what I
    have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image and
    horror of it. Pray you, away!
  • Edgar. Shall I hear from you anon? 495
  • Edmund. I do serve you in this business.
    [Exit Edgar.]
    A credulous father! and a brother noble,
    Whose nature is so far from doing harms
    That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty 500
    My practices ride easy! I see the business.
    Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit;
    All with me's meet that I can fashion fit. Exit.
. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 3

The Duke of Albany’s Palace.

      next scene .

Enter Goneril and [her] Steward [Oswald].

  • Goneril. Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool? 505
  • Goneril. By day and night, he wrongs me! Every hour
    He flashes into one gross crime or other
    That sets us all at odds. I'll not endure it.
    His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us 510
    On every trifle. When he returns from hunting,
    I will not speak with him. Say I am sick.
    If you come slack of former services,
    You shall do well; the fault of it I'll answer.

[Horns within.]

  • Oswald. He's coming, madam; I hear him.
  • Goneril. Put on what weary negligence you please,
    You and your fellows. I'd have it come to question.
    If he distaste it, let him to our sister,
    Whose mind and mine I know in that are one, 520
    Not to be overrul'd. Idle old man,
    That still would manage those authorities
    That he hath given away! Now, by my life,
    Old fools are babes again, and must be us'd
    With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abus'd. 525
    Remember what I have said.
  • Goneril. And let his knights have colder looks among you.
    What grows of it, no matter. Advise your fellows so.
    I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall, 530
    That I may speak. I'll write straight to my sister
    To hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 4

The Duke of Albany’s Palace.

      next scene .

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.
. previous scene      

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
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Fool. Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Fool. She that's a maid now, and laughs at my departure,
    Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter