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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act III, Scene 4

The heath. Before a hovel. Storm still.


Enter Lear, Kent, and Fool.

  • Earl of Kent. Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter.
    The tyranny of the open night 's too rough
    For nature to endure.
  • Lear. Let me alone.
  • Lear. Wilt break my heart?
  • Earl of Kent. I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.
  • Lear. Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
    Invades us to the skin. So 'tis to thee;
    But where the greater malady is fix'd, 1810
    The lesser is scarce felt. Thou'dst shun a bear;
    But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
    Thou'dst meet the bear i' th' mouth. When the mind's free,
    The body's delicate. The tempest in my mind
    Doth from my senses take all feeling else 1815
    Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
    Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
    For lifting food to't? But I will punish home!
    No, I will weep no more. In such a night
    To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure. 1820
    In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
    Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all!
    O, that way madness lies; let me shun that!
    No more of that.
  • Lear. Prithee go in thyself; seek thine own ease.
    This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
    On things would hurt me more. But I'll go in.
    [To the Fool] In, boy; go first.- You houseless poverty-
    Nay, get thee in. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep. [Exit Fool] 1830
    Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
    How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
    Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
    From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en 1835
    Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
    Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
    That thou mayst shake the superflux to them
    And show the heavens more just.
  • Edgar. [within] Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom! 1840

Enter Fool [from the hovel].

  • Fool. Come not in here, nuncle, here's a spirit. Help me, help me!
  • Fool. A spirit, a spirit! He says his name's poor Tom.
  • Earl of Kent. What art thou that dost grumble there i' th' straw? 1845
    Come forth.

Enter Edgar [disguised as a madman].

  • Edgar. Away! the foul fiend follows me! Through the sharp hawthorn
    blows the cold wind. Humh! go to thy cold bed, and warm thee.
  • Lear. Hast thou given all to thy two daughters, and art thou come 1850
    to this?
  • Edgar. Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led
    through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o'er
    bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow and
    halters in his pew, set ratsbane by his porridge, made him proud 1855
    of heart, to ride on a bay trotting horse over four-inch'd
    bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor. Bless thy five
    wits! Tom 's acold. O, do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from
    whirlwinds, star-blasting, and taking! Do poor Tom some charity,
    whom the foul fiend vexes. There could I have him now- and there- 1860
    and there again- and there!

Storm still.

  • Lear. What, have his daughters brought him to this pass?
    Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give 'em all?
  • Fool. Nay, he reserv'd a blanket, else we had been all sham'd. 1865
  • Lear. Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
    Hang fated o'er men's faults light on thy daughters!
  • Lear. Death, traitor! nothing could have subdu'd nature
    To such a lowness but his unkind daughters. 1870
    Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
    Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
    Judicious punishment! 'Twas this flesh begot
    Those pelican daughters.
  • Edgar. Pillicock sat on Pillicock's Hill. 'Allow, 'allow, loo, loo! 1875
  • Fool. This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
  • Edgar. Take heed o' th' foul fiend; obey thy parents: keep thy word
    justly; swear not; commit not with man's sworn spouse; set not
    thy sweet heart on proud array. Tom 's acold.
  • Lear. What hast thou been? 1880
  • Edgar. A servingman, proud in heart and mind; that curl'd my hair,
    wore gloves in my cap; serv'd the lust of my mistress' heart and
    did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake
    words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven; one that
    slept in the contriving of lust, and wak'd to do it. Wine lov'd 1885
    I deeply, dice dearly; and in woman out-paramour'd the Turk.
    False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox
    in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey.
    Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray
    thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothel, thy hand 1890
    out of placket, thy pen from lender's book, and defy the foul
    fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind; says
    suum, mun, hey, no, nonny. Dolphin my boy, my boy, sessa! let
    him trot by.

Storm still.

  • Lear. Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy
    uncover'd body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than
    this? Consider him well. Thou ow'st the worm no silk, the beast
    no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! Here's three
    on's are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself; 1900
    unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked
    animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come, unbutton

[Tears at his clothes.]

  • Fool. Prithee, nuncle, be contented! 'Tis a naughty night to swim 1905
    in. Now a little fire in a wild field were like an old lecher's
    heart- a small spark, all the rest on's body cold. Look, here
    comes a walking fire.

Enter Gloucester with a torch.

  • Edgar. This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet. He begins at curfew, 1910
    and walks till the first cock. He gives the web and the pin,
    squints the eye, and makes the harelip; mildews the white wheat,
    and hurts the poor creature of earth.
    Saint Withold footed thrice the 'old;
    He met the nightmare, and her nine fold; 1915
    Bid her alight
    And her troth plight,
    And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!
  • Lear. What's he? 1920
  • Edgar. Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the todpole,
    the wall-newt and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when
    the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets, swallows the 1925
    old rat and the ditch-dog, drinks the green mantle of the
    standing pool; who is whipp'd from tithing to tithing, and
    stock-punish'd and imprison'd; who hath had three suits to his
    back, six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapons to
    wear; 1930
    But mice and rats, and such small deer,
    Have been Tom's food for seven long year.
    Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin! peace, thou fiend!
  • Edgar. The prince of darkness is a gentleman! 1935
    Modo he's call'd, and Mahu.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Our flesh and blood is grown so vile, my lord,
    That it doth hate what gets it.
  • Edgar. Poor Tom 's acold.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer 1940
    T' obey in all your daughters' hard commands.
    Though their injunction be to bar my doors
    And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
    Yet have I ventur'd to come seek you out
    And bring you where both fire and food is ready. 1945
  • Lear. First let me talk with this philosopher.
    What is the cause of thunder?
  • Earl of Kent. Good my lord, take his offer; go into th' house.
  • Lear. I'll talk a word with this same learned Theban.
    What is your study? 1950
  • Edgar. How to prevent the fiend and to kill vermin.
  • Lear. Let me ask you one word in private.
  • Earl of Kent. Importune him once more to go, my lord.
    His wits begin t' unsettle.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Canst thou blame him? [Storm still.] 1955
    His daughters seek his death. Ah, that good Kent!
    He said it would be thus- poor banish'd man!
    Thou say'st the King grows mad: I'll tell thee, friend,
    I am almost mad myself. I had a son,
    Now outlaw'd from my blood. He sought my life 1960
    But lately, very late. I lov'd him, friend-
    No father his son dearer. True to tell thee,
    The grief hath craz'd my wits. What a night 's this!
    I do beseech your Grace-
  • Lear. O, cry you mercy, sir. 1965
    Noble philosopher, your company.
  • Lear. Come, let's in all.
  • Lear. With him!
    I will keep still with my philosopher.
  • Earl of Kent. Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the fellow.
  • Lear. Come, good Athenian.
  • Edgar. Child Rowland to the dark tower came;
    His word was still
    Fie, foh, and fum! 1980
    I smell the blood of a British man.