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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act IV, Scene 2

Before the Duke of Albany’s Palace.


Enter Goneril and [Edmund the] Bastard.

  • Goneril. Welcome, my lord. I marvel our mild husband
    Not met us on the way. [Enter Oswald the Steward.]
    Now, where's your master? 2340
  • Oswald. Madam, within, but never man so chang'd.
    I told him of the army that was landed:
    He smil'd at it. I told him you were coming:
    His answer was, 'The worse.' Of Gloucester's treachery
    And of the loyal service of his son 2345
    When I inform'd him, then he call'd me sot
    And told me I had turn'd the wrong side out.
    What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him;
    What like, offensive.
  • Goneril. [to Edmund] Then shall you go no further. 2350
    It is the cowish terror of his spirit,
    That dares not undertake. He'll not feel wrongs
    Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way
    May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother.
    Hasten his musters and conduct his pow'rs. 2355
    I must change arms at home and give the distaff
    Into my husband's hands. This trusty servant
    Shall pass between us. Ere long you are like to hear
    (If you dare venture in your own behalf)
    A mistress's command. Wear this. [Gives a favour.] 2360
    Spare speech.
    Decline your head. This kiss, if it durst speak,
    Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.
    Conceive, and fare thee well.
  • Edmund. Yours in the ranks of death! Exit. 2365
  • Goneril. My most dear Gloucester!
    O, the difference of man and man!
    To thee a woman's services are due;
    My fool usurps my body.
  • Oswald. Madam, here comes my lord. Exit. 2370

Enter Albany.

  • Goneril. I have been worth the whistle.
  • Duke of Albany. O Goneril,
    You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
    Blows in your face! I fear your disposition. 2375
    That nature which contemns it origin
    Cannot be bordered certain in itself.
    She that herself will sliver and disbranch
    From her material sap, perforce must wither
    And come to deadly use. 2380
  • Goneril. No more! The text is foolish.
  • Duke of Albany. Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;
    Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?
    Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform'd?
    A father, and a gracious aged man, 2385
    Whose reverence even the head-lugg'd bear would lick,
    Most barbarous, most degenerate, have you madded.
    Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
    A man, a prince, by him so benefited!
    If that the heavens do not their visible spirits 2390
    Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
    It will come,
    Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
    Like monsters of the deep.
  • Goneril. Milk-liver'd man! 2395
    That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
    Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
    Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know'st
    Fools do those villains pity who are punish'd
    Ere they have done their mischief. Where's thy drum? 2400
    France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,
    With plumed helm thy state begins to threat,
    Whiles thou, a moral fool, sit'st still, and criest
    'Alack, why does he so?'
  • Duke of Albany. See thyself, devil! 2405
    Proper deformity seems not in the fiend
    So horrid as in woman.
  • Duke of Albany. Thou changed and self-cover'd thing, for shame!
    Bemonster not thy feature! Were't my fitness 2410
    To let these hands obey my blood,
    They are apt enough to dislocate and tear
    Thy flesh and bones. Howe'er thou art a fiend,
    A woman's shape doth shield thee.
  • Goneril. Marry, your manhood mew! 2415

Enter a Gentleman.

  • Gentleman. O, my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall 's dead,
    Slain by his servant, going to put out
    The other eye of Gloucester. 2420
  • Gentleman. A servant that he bred, thrill'd with remorse,
    Oppos'd against the act, bending his sword
    To his great master; who, thereat enrag'd,
    Flew on him, and amongst them fell'd him dead; 2425
    But not without that harmful stroke which since
    Hath pluck'd him after.
  • Duke of Albany. This shows you are above,
    You justicers, that these our nether crimes
    So speedily can venge! But O poor Gloucester! 2430
    Lost he his other eye?
  • Gentleman. Both, both, my lord.
    This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer.
    'Tis from your sister.
  • Goneril. [aside] One way I like this well; 2435
    But being widow, and my Gloucester with her,
    May all the building in my fancy pluck
    Upon my hateful life. Another way
    The news is not so tart.- I'll read, and answer. Exit.
  • Gentleman. No, my good lord; I met him back again.
  • Gentleman. Ay, my good lord. 'Twas he inform'd against him, 2445
    And quit the house on purpose, that their punishment
    Might have the freer course.
  • Duke of Albany. Gloucester, I live
    To thank thee for the love thou show'dst the King,
    And to revenge thine eyes. Come hither, friend. 2450
    Tell me what more thou know'st.