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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act II, Scene 1

A court within the Castle of the Earl of Gloucester.


Enter [Edmund the] Bastard and Curan, meeting.

  • Curan. And you, sir. 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. 930
  • Curan. Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad- I mean the
    whisper'd ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments?
  • Edmund. Not I. Pray you, what are they?
  • Curan. Have you heard of no likely wars toward 'twixt the two Dukes 935
    of Cornwall and Albany?
  • Curan. You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir. Exit.
  • Edmund. The Duke be here to-night? The better! best!
    This weaves itself perforce into my business. 940
    My father hath set guard to take my brother;
    And I have one thing, of a queasy question,
    Which I must act. Briefness and fortune, work!
    Brother, a word! Descend! Brother, I say!
    [Enter Edgar.] 945
    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, i' th' haste, 950
    And Regan with him. Have you nothing said
    Upon his party 'gainst the Duke of Albany?
    Advise yourself.
  • Edgar. I am sure on't, not a word.
  • Edmund. I hear my father coming. Pardon me! 955
    In cunning I must draw my sword upon you.
    Draw, seem to defend yourself; now quit you well.-
    Yield! Come before my father. Light, ho, here!
    Fly, brother.- Torches, torches!- So farewell.
    [Exit Edgar.] 960
    Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion
    Of my more fierce endeavour. [Stabs his arm.] I have seen
    Do more than this in sport.- Father, father!-
    Stop, stop! No help? 965

Enter Gloucester, and Servants with torches.

  • Edmund. Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
    Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
    To stand 's auspicious mistress. 970
  • Edmund. Fled this way, sir. When by no means he could-
  • Earl of Gloucester. Pursue him, ho! Go after. [Exeunt some Servants]. 975
    By no means what?
  • Edmund. Persuade me to the murther of your lordship;
    But that I told him the revenging gods
    'Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;
    Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond 980
    The child was bound to th' father- sir, in fine,
    Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
    To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion
    With his prepared sword he charges home
    My unprovided body, lanch'd mine arm; 985
    But when he saw my best alarum'd spirits,
    Bold in the quarrel's right, rous'd to th' encounter,
    Or whether gasted by the noise I made,
    Full suddenly he fled.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Let him fly far. 990
    Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;
    And found- dispatch. The noble Duke my master,
    My worthy arch and patron, comes to-night.
    By his authority I will proclaim it
    That he which find, him shall deserve our thanks, 995
    Bringing the murderous caitiff to the stake;
    He that conceals him, death.
  • Edmund. When I dissuaded him from his intent
    And found him pight to do it, with curst speech
    I threaten'd to discover him. He replied, 1000
    'Thou unpossessing bastard, dost thou think,
    If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
    Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee
    Make thy words faith'd? No. What I should deny
    (As this I would; ay, though thou didst produce 1005
    My very character), I'ld turn it all
    To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice;
    And thou must make a dullard of the world,
    If they not thought the profits of my death
    Were very pregnant and potential spurs 1010
    To make thee seek it.'
  • Earl of Gloucester. Strong and fast'ned villain!
    Would he deny his letter? I never got him.
    [Tucket within.]
    Hark, the Duke's trumpets! I know not why he comes. 1015
    All ports I'll bar; the villain shall not scape;
    The Duke must grant me that. Besides, his picture
    I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
    May have due note of him, and of my land,
    Loyal and natural boy, I'll work the means 1020
    To make thee capable.

Enter Cornwall, Regan, and Attendants.

  • Duke of Cornwall. How now, my noble friend? Since I came hither
    (Which I can call but now) I have heard strange news.
  • Regan. If it be true, all vengeance comes too short 1025
    Which can pursue th' offender. How dost, my lord?
  • Regan. What, did my father's godson seek your life?
    He whom my father nam'd? Your Edgar?
  • Regan. Was he not companion with the riotous knights
    That tend upon my father?
  • Edmund. Yes, madam, he was of that consort.
  • Regan. No marvel then though he were ill affected. 1035
    'Tis they have put him on the old man's death,
    To have th' expense and waste of his revenues.
    I have this present evening from my sister
    Been well inform'd of them, and with such cautions
    That, if they come to sojourn at my house, 1040
    I'll not be there.
  • Duke of Cornwall. Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
    Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
    A childlike office.
  • Edmund. 'Twas my duty, sir. 1045
  • Earl of Gloucester. He did bewray his practice, and receiv'd
    This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.
  • Duke of Cornwall. If he be taken, he shall never more 1050
    Be fear'd of doing harm. Make your own purpose,
    How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
    Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
    So much commend itself, you shall be ours.
    Natures of such deep trust we shall much need; 1055
    You we first seize on.
  • Edmund. I shall serve you, sir,
    Truly, however else.
  • Regan. Thus out of season, threading dark-ey'd night.
    Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some poise,
    Wherein we must have use of your advice.
    Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
    Of differences, which I best thought it fit 1065
    To answer from our home. The several messengers
    From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,
    Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow
    Your needful counsel to our business,
    Which craves the instant use. 1070

Exeunt. Flourish.