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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act IV, Scene 1

The heath.


Enter Edgar.

  • Edgar. Yet better thus, and known to be contemn'd,
    Than still contemn'd and flatter'd. To be worst,
    The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune,
    Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear. 2250
    The lamentable change is from the best;
    The worst returns to laughter. Welcome then,
    Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace!
    The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
    Owes nothing to thy blasts. 2255
    [Enter Gloucester, led by an Old Man.]
    But who comes here?
    My father, poorly led? World, world, O world!
    But that thy strange mutations make us hate thee,
    Life would not yield to age. 2260
  • Old Man. O my good lord,
    I have been your tenant, and your father's tenant,
    These fourscore years.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Away, get thee away! Good friend, be gone.
    Thy comforts can do me no good at all; 2265
    Thee they may hurt.
  • Earl of Gloucester. I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;
    I stumbled when I saw. Full oft 'tis seen
    Our means secure us, and our mere defects 2270
    Prove our commodities. Ah dear son Edgar,
    The food of thy abused father's wrath!
    Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
    I'ld say I had eyes again!
  • Old Man. How now? Who's there? 2275
  • Edgar. [aside] O gods! Who is't can say 'I am at the worst'?
    I am worse than e'er I was.
  • Edgar. [aside] And worse I may be yet. The worst is not
    So long as we can say 'This is the worst.' 2280
  • Earl of Gloucester. He has some reason, else he could not beg.
    I' th' last night's storm I such a fellow saw, 2285
    Which made me think a man a worm. My son
    Came then into my mind, and yet my mind
    Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since.
    As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods.
    They kill us for their sport. 2290
  • Edgar. [aside] How should this be?
    Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow,
    Ang'ring itself and others.- Bless thee, master!
  • Earl of Gloucester. Then prithee get thee gone. If for my sake
    Thou wilt o'ertake us hence a mile or twain
    I' th' way toward Dover, do it for ancient love;
    And bring some covering for this naked soul,
    Who I'll entreat to lead me. 2300
  • Earl of Gloucester. 'Tis the time's plague when madmen lead the blind.
    Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure.
    Above the rest, be gone.
  • Old Man. I'll bring him the best 'parel that I have, 2305
    Come on't what will. Exit.
  • Edgar. Poor Tom's acold. [Aside] I cannot daub it further.
  • Edgar. [aside] And yet I must.- Bless thy sweet eyes, they bleed. 2310
  • Edgar. Both stile and gate, horseway and footpath. Poor Tom hath been
    scar'd out of his good wits. Bless thee, good man's son, from
    the foul fiend! Five fiends have been in poor Tom at once: of
    lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididence, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of 2315
    stealing; Modo, of murder; Flibbertigibbet, of mopping and
    mowing, who since possesses chambermaids and waiting women. So,
    bless thee, master!
  • Earl of Gloucester. Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues
    Have humbled to all strokes. That I am wretched 2320
    Makes thee the happier. Heavens, deal so still!
    Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
    That slaves your ordinance, that will not see
    Because he does not feel, feel your pow'r quickly;
    So distribution should undo excess, 2325
    And each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?
  • Earl of Gloucester. There is a cliff, whose high and bending head
    Looks fearfully in the confined deep.
    Bring me but to the very brim of it, 2330
    And I'll repair the misery thou dost bear
    With something rich about me. From that place
    I shall no leading need.
  • Edgar. Give me thy arm.
    Poor Tom shall lead thee. 2335