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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act II, Scene 4

Before Gloucester’s Castle; Kent in the stocks.


Enter Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.

  • Lear. 'Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
    And not send back my messenger. 1275
  • Gentleman. As I learn'd,
    The night before there was no purpose in them
    Of this remove.
  • Lear. Ha! 1280
    Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime?
  • Fool. Ha, ha! look! he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by the
    head, dogs and bears by th' neck, monkeys by th' loins, and men
    by th' legs. When a man's over-lusty at legs, then he wears 1285
    wooden nether-stocks.
  • Lear. What's he that hath so much thy place mistook
    To set thee here?
  • Earl of Kent. It is both he and she-
    Your son and daughter. 1290
  • Lear. No, no, they would not! 1295
  • Lear. By Jupiter, I swear no!
  • Lear. They durst not do't;
    They would not, could not do't. 'Tis worse than murther 1300
    To do upon respect such violent outrage.
    Resolve me with all modest haste which way
    Thou mightst deserve or they impose this usage,
    Coming from us.
  • Earl of Kent. My lord, when at their home 1305
    I did commend your Highness' letters to them,
    Ere I was risen from the place that show'd
    My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
    Stew'd in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
    From Goneril his mistress salutations; 1310
    Deliver'd letters, spite of intermission,
    Which presently they read; on whose contents,
    They summon'd up their meiny, straight took horse,
    Commanded me to follow and attend
    The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks, 1315
    And meeting here the other messenger,
    Whose welcome I perceiv'd had poison'd mine-
    Being the very fellow which of late
    Display'd so saucily against your Highness-
    Having more man than wit about me, drew. 1320
    He rais'd the house with loud and coward cries.
    Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
    The shame which here it suffers.
  • Fool. Winter's not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.
    Fathers that wear rags 1325
    Do make their children blind;
    But fathers that bear bags
    Shall see their children kind.
    Fortune, that arrant whore,
    Ne'er turns the key to th' poor. 1330
    But for all this, thou shalt have as many dolours for thy
    daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
  • Lear. O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
    Hysterica passio! Down, thou climbing sorrow!
    Thy element's below! Where is this daughter? 1335
  • Lear. Follow me not;
    Stay here. Exit.
  • Gentleman. Made you no more offence but what you speak of?
  • Earl of Kent. None. 1340
    How chance the King comes with so small a number?
  • Fool. An thou hadst been set i' th' stocks for that question,
    thou'dst well deserv'd it.
  • Fool. We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there's no 1345
    labouring i' th' winter. All that follow their noses are led by
    their eyes but blind men, and there's not a nose among twenty
    but can smell him that's stinking. Let go thy hold when a great
    wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following
    it; but the great one that goes upward, let him draw thee after. 1350
    When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again. I
    would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
    That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
    And follows but for form,
    Will pack when it begins to rain 1355
    And leave thee in the storm.
    But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
    And let the wise man fly.
    The knave turns fool that runs away;
    The fool no knave, perdy. 1360
  • Fool. Not i' th' stocks, fool.
    Enter Lear and Gloucester
  • Lear. Deny to speak with me? They are sick? they are weary?
    They have travell'd all the night? Mere fetches- 1365
    The images of revolt and flying off!
    Fetch me a better answer.
  • Earl of Gloucester. My dear lord,
    You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
    How unremovable and fix'd he is 1370
    In his own course.
  • Lear. Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!
    Fiery? What quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
    I'ld speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
  • Lear. Inform'd them? Dost thou understand me, man?
  • Lear. The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear father
    Would with his daughter speak, commands her service.
    Are they inform'd of this? My breath and blood! 1380
    Fiery? the fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that-
    No, but not yet! May be he is not well.
    Infirmity doth still neglect all office
    Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves
    When nature, being oppress'd, commands the mind 1385
    To suffer with the body. I'll forbear;
    And am fallen out with my more headier will,
    To take the indispos'd and sickly fit
    For the sound man.- Death on my state! Wherefore
    Should he sit here? This act persuades me 1390
    That this remotion of the Duke and her
    Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
    Go tell the Duke and 's wife I'ld speak with them-
    Now, presently. Bid them come forth and hear me,
    Or at their chamber door I'll beat the drum 1395
    Till it cry sleep to death.
  • Lear. O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!
  • Fool. Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she
    put 'em i' th' paste alive. She knapp'd 'em o' th' coxcombs with 1400
    a stick and cried 'Down, wantons, down!' 'Twas her brother that,
    in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.

Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, Servants.

  • Lear. Good morrow to you both.

Kent here set at liberty.

  • Regan. I am glad to see your Highness.
  • Lear. Regan, I think you are; I know what reason
    I have to think so. If thou shouldst not be glad,
    I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb, 1410
    Sepulchring an adultress. [To Kent] O, are you free?
    Some other time for that.- Beloved Regan,
    Thy sister's naught. O Regan, she hath tied
    Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, here!
    [Lays his hand on his heart.] 1415
    I can scarce speak to thee. Thou'lt not believe
    With how deprav'd a quality- O Regan!
  • Regan. I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
    You less know how to value her desert
    Than she to scant her duty. 1420
  • Lear. Say, how is that?
  • Regan. I cannot think my sister in the least
    Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
    She have restrain'd the riots of your followers,
    'Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end, 1425
    As clears her from all blame.
  • Lear. My curses on her!
  • Regan. O, sir, you are old!
    Nature in you stands on the very verge
    Of her confine. You should be rul'd, and led 1430
    By some discretion that discerns your state
    Better than you yourself. Therefore I pray you
    That to our sister you do make return;
    Say you have wrong'd her, sir.
  • Lear. Ask her forgiveness? 1435
    Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
    'Dear daughter, I confess that I am old. [Kneels.]
    Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
    That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.'
  • Regan. Good sir, no more! These are unsightly tricks. 1440
    Return you to my sister.
  • Lear. [rises] Never, Regan!
    She hath abated me of half my train;
    Look'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
    Most serpent-like, upon the very heart. 1445
    All the stor'd vengeances of heaven fall
    On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
    You taking airs, with lameness!
  • Lear. You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames 1450
    Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
    You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn by the pow'rful sun,
    To fall and blast her pride!
  • Regan. O the blest gods! so will you wish on me
    When the rash mood is on. 1455
  • Lear. No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.
    Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
    Thee o'er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce; but thine
    Do comfort, and not burn. 'Tis not in thee
    To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train, 1460
    To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
    And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
    Against my coming in. Thou better know'st
    The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
    Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude. 1465
    Thy half o' th' kingdom hast thou not forgot,
    Wherein I thee endow'd.
  • Regan. Good sir, to th' purpose.

Tucket within.

  • Lear. Who put my man i' th' stocks? 1470
  • Regan. I know't- my sister's. This approves her letter,
    That she would soon be here.
    [Enter [Oswald the] Steward.]
    Is your lady come? 1475
  • Lear. This is a slave, whose easy-borrowed pride
    Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
    Out, varlet, from my sight!

Enter Goneril.

  • Lear. Who stock'd my servant? Regan, I have good hope
    Thou didst not know on't.- Who comes here? O heavens!
    If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
    Allow obedience- if yourselves are old,
    Make it your cause! Send down, and take my part! 1485
    [To Goneril] Art not asham'd to look upon this beard?-
    O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?
  • Goneril. Why not by th' hand, sir? How have I offended?
    All's not offence that indiscretion finds
    And dotage terms so. 1490
  • Lear. O sides, you are too tough!
    Will you yet hold? How came my man i' th' stocks?
  • Duke of Cornwall. I set him there, sir; but his own disorders
    Deserv'd much less advancement.
  • Lear. You? Did you? 1495
  • Regan. I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
    If, till the expiration of your month,
    You will return and sojourn with my sister,
    Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
    I am now from home, and out of that provision 1500
    Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
  • Lear. Return to her, and fifty men dismiss'd?
    No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
    To wage against the enmity o' th' air,
    To be a comrade with the wolf and owl- 1505
    Necessity's sharp pinch! Return with her?
    Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
    Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
    To knee his throne, and, squire-like, pension beg
    To keep base life afoot. Return with her? 1510
    Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
    To this detested groom. [Points at Oswald.]
  • Lear. I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
    I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell. 1515
    We'll no more meet, no more see one another.
    But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
    Or rather a disease that's in my flesh,
    Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil,
    A plague sore, an embossed carbuncle 1520
    In my corrupted blood. But I'll not chide thee.
    Let shame come when it will, I do not call it.
    I do not bid the Thunder-bearer shoot
    Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
    Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure; 1525
    I can be patient, I can stay with Regan,
    I and my hundred knights.
  • Regan. Not altogether so.
    I look'd not for you yet, nor am provided
    For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister; 1530
    For those that mingle reason with your passion
    Must be content to think you old, and so-
    But she knows what she does.
  • Lear. Is this well spoken?
  • Regan. I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers? 1535
    Is it not well? What should you need of more?
    Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
    Speak 'gainst so great a number? How in one house
    Should many people, under two commands,
    Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible. 1540
  • 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 chanc'd to slack ye,
    We could control them. If you will come to me
    (For now I spy a danger), I entreat you 1545
    To bring but five-and-twenty. To no more
    Will I give place or notice.
  • Lear. I gave you all-
  • Regan. And in good time you gave it!
  • Lear. Made you my guardians, my depositaries; 1550
    But kept a reservation to be followed
    With such a number. What, must I come to you
    With five-and-twenty, Regan? Said you so?
  • Regan. And speak't again my lord. No more with me.
  • Lear. Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd 1555
    When others are more wicked; not being the worst
    Stands in some rank of praise. [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. 1560
    What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
    To follow in a house where twice so many
    Have a command to tend you?
  • Lear. O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars 1565
    Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
    Allow not nature more than nature needs,
    Man's life is cheap as beast's. Thou art a lady:
    If only to go warm were gorgeous,
    Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st 1570
    Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need-
    You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
    You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
    As full of grief as age; wretched in both.
    If it be you that stirs these daughters' hearts 1575
    Against their father, fool me not so much
    To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
    And let not women's weapons, water drops,
    Stain my man's cheeks! No, you unnatural hags!
    I will have such revenges on you both 1580
    That all the world shall- I will do such things-
    What they are yet, I know not; but they shall be
    The terrors of the earth! You think I'll weep.
    No, I'll not weep.
    I have full cause of weeping, but this heart 1585
    Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
    Or ere I'll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!

Exeunt Lear, Gloucester, Kent, and Fool. Storm and tempest.

  • Regan. This house is little; the old man and 's people 1590
    Cannot be well bestow'd.
  • Goneril. 'Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest
    And must needs taste his folly.
  • Regan. For his particular, I'll receive him gladly,
    But not one follower. 1595
  • Goneril. So am I purpos'd.
    Where is my Lord of Gloucester?
  • Duke of Cornwall. Followed the old man forth.
    [Enter Gloucester.]
    He is return'd. 1600
  • Goneril. My lord, entreat him by no means to stay. 1605
  • Earl of Gloucester. Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
    Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
    There's scarce a bush.
  • Regan. O, sir, to wilful men
    The injuries that they themselves procure 1610
    Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
    He is attended with a desperate train,
    And what they may incense him to, being apt
    To have his ear abus'd, wisdom bids fear.
  • Duke of Cornwall. Shut up your doors, my lord: 'tis a wild night. 1615
    My Regan counsels well. Come out o' th' storm. [Exeunt.]