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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act IV, Scene 6

The country near Dover.


Enter Gloucester, and Edgar [like a Peasant].

  • Edgar. You do climb up it now. Look how we labour.
  • Edgar. Horrible steep. 2600
    Hark, do you hear the sea?
  • Edgar. Why, then, your other senses grow imperfect
    By your eyes' anguish.
  • Earl of Gloucester. So may it be indeed. 2605
    Methinks thy voice is alter'd, and thou speak'st
    In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
  • Edgar. Y'are much deceiv'd. In nothing am I chang'd
    But in my garments.
  • Edgar. Come on, sir; here's the place. Stand still. How fearful
    And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
    The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
    Show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down
    Hangs one that gathers sampire- dreadful trade! 2615
    Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
    The fishermen that walk upon the beach
    Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
    Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
    Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge 2620
    That on th' unnumb'red idle pebble chafes
    Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
    Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
    Topple down headlong.
  • Edgar. Give me your hand. You are now within a foot
    Of th' extreme verge. For all beneath the moon
    Would I not leap upright.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Let go my hand.
    Here, friend, is another purse; in it a jewel 2630
    Well worth a poor man's taking. Fairies and gods
    Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
    Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
  • Edgar. Now fare ye well, good sir.
  • Edgar. [aside]. Why I do trifle thus with his despair
    Is done to cure it.
  • Earl of Gloucester. O you mighty gods! He kneels.
    This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
    Shake patiently my great affliction off. 2640
    If I could bear it longer and not fall
    To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
    My snuff and loathed part of nature should
    Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
    Now, fellow, fare thee well. 2645
    He falls [forward and swoons].
  • Edgar. Gone, sir, farewell.-
    And yet I know not how conceit may rob
    The treasury of life when life itself
    Yields to the theft. Had he been where he thought, 2650
    By this had thought been past.- Alive or dead?
    Ho you, sir! friend! Hear you, sir? Speak!-
    Thus might he pass indeed. Yet he revives.
    What are you, sir?
  • Edgar. Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
    So many fadom down precipitating,
    Thou'dst shiver'd like an egg; but thou dost breathe;
    Hast heavy substance; bleed'st not; speak'st; art sound.
    Ten masts at each make not the altitude 2660
    Which thou hast perpendicularly fell.
    Thy life is a miracle. Speak yet again.
  • Edgar. From the dread summit of this chalky bourn.
    Look up a-height. The shrill-gorg'd lark so far 2665
    Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Alack, I have no eyes!
    Is wretchedness depriv'd that benefit
    To end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort
    When misery could beguile the tyrant's rage 2670
    And frustrate his proud will.
  • Edgar. Give me your arm.
    Up- so. How is't? Feel you your legs? You stand.
  • Edgar. This is above all strangeness. 2675
    Upon the crown o' th' cliff what thing was that
    Which parted from you?
  • Edgar. As I stood here below, methought his eyes
    Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,Horns whelk'd and wav'd like the enridged sea. 2680
    It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father,
    Think that the clearest gods, who make them honours
    Of men's impossibility, have preserv'd thee.
  • Earl of Gloucester. I do remember now. Henceforth I'll bear
    Affliction till it do cry out itself 2685
    'Enough, enough,' and die. That thing you speak of,
    I took it for a man. Often 'twould say
    'The fiend, the fiend'- he led me to that place.
  • Edgar. Bear free and patient thoughts.
    Enter Lear, mad, [fantastically dressed with weeds]. 2690
    But who comes here?
    The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
    His master thus.
  • Lear. No, they cannot touch me for coming;
    I am the King himself. 2695
  • Edgar. O thou side-piercing sight!
  • Lear. Nature 's above art in that respect. There's your press
    money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper. Draw me
    a clothier's yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece
    of toasted cheese will do't. There's my gauntlet; I'll prove it 2700
    on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird! i'
    th' clout, i' th' clout! Hewgh! Give the word.
  • Lear. Ha! Goneril with a white beard? They flatter'd me like a dog,
    and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones
    were there. To say 'ay' and 'no' to everything I said! 'Ay' and
    'no' too was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me
    once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would 2710
    not peace at my bidding; there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em
    out. Go to, they are not men o' their words! They told me I was
    everything. 'Tis a lie- I am not ague-proof.
  • Lear. Ay, every inch a king!
    When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
    I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
    Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No. 2720
    The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
    Does lecher in my sight.
    Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
    Was kinder to his father than my daughters
    Got 'tween the lawful sheets. 2725
    To't, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
    Behold yond simp'ring dame,
    Whose face between her forks presageth snow,
    That minces virtue, and does shake the head
    To hear of pleasure's name. 2730
    The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't
    With a more riotous appetite.
    Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
    Though women all above.
    But to the girdle do the gods inherit, 2735
    Beneath is all the fiend's.
    There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit;
    burning, scalding, stench, consumption. Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!
    Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my
    imagination. There's money for thee. 2740
  • Lear. Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.
  • Earl of Gloucester. O ruin'd piece of nature! This great world
    Shall so wear out to naught. Dost thou know me?
  • Lear. I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny at me? 2745
    No, do thy worst, blind Cupid! I'll not love. Read thou this
    challenge; mark but the penning of it.
  • Edgar. [aside] I would not take this from report. It is,
    And my heart breaks at it. 2750
  • Lear. O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor no
    money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse
    in a light. Yet you see how this world goes. 2755
  • Lear. What, art mad? A man may see how the world goes with no eyes.
    Look with thine ears. See how yond justice rails upon yond
    simple thief. Hark in thine ear. Change places and, handy-dandy,
    which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a 2760
    farmer's dog bark at a beggar?
  • Lear. And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold
    the great image of authority: a dog's obeyed in office.
    Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand! 2765
    Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back.
    Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind
    For which thou whip'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
    Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
    Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold, 2770
    And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
    Arm it in rags, a pygmy's straw does pierce it.
    None does offend, none- I say none! I'll able 'em.
    Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
    To seal th' accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes 2775
    And, like a scurvy politician, seem
    To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now!
    Pull off my boots. Harder, harder! So.
  • Edgar. O, matter and impertinency mix'd!
    Reason, in madness! 2780
  • Lear. If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
    I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.
    Thou must be patient. We came crying hither;
    Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air
    We wawl and cry. I will preach to thee. Mark. 2785
  • Lear. When we are born, we cry that we are come
    To this great stage of fools. This' a good block.
    It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
    A troop of horse with felt. I'll put't in proof, 2790
    And when I have stol'n upon these sons-in-law,
    Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

Enter a Gentleman [with Attendants].

  • Gentleman. O, here he is! Lay hand upon him.- Sir,
    Your most dear daughter- 2795
  • Lear. No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even
    The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
    You shall have ransom. Let me have a surgeon;
    I am cut to th' brains.
  • Lear. No seconds? All myself?
    Why, this would make a man a man of salt,
    To use his eyes for garden waterpots,
    Ay, and laying autumn's dust.
  • Lear. I will die bravely, like a smug bridegroom. What!
    I will be jovial. Come, come, I am a king;
    My masters, know you that?
  • Gentleman. You are a royal one, and we obey you.
  • Lear. Then there's life in't. Nay, an you get it, you shall get it 2810
    by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa!

Exit running. [Attendants follow.]

  • Gentleman. A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
    Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one daughter
    Who redeems nature from the general curse 2815
    Which twain have brought her to.
  • Edgar. Hail, gentle sir.
  • Gentleman. Sir, speed you. What's your will?
  • Edgar. Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?
  • Gentleman. Most sure and vulgar. Every one hears that 2820
    Which can distinguish sound.
  • Edgar. But, by your favour,
    How near's the other army?
  • Gentleman. Near and on speedy foot. The main descry
    Stands on the hourly thought. 2825
  • Edgar. I thank you sir. That's all.
  • Gentleman. Though that the Queen on special cause is here,
    Her army is mov'd on.

Exit [Gentleman].

  • Earl of Gloucester. You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me;
    Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
    To die before you please!
  • Edgar. Well pray you, father.
  • Edgar. A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows,
    Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
    Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand;
    I'll lead you to some biding.
  • Earl of Gloucester. Hearty thanks. 2840
    The bounty and the benison of heaven
    To boot, and boot!

Enter [Oswald the] Steward.

  • Oswald. A proclaim'd prize! Most happy!
    That eyeless head of thine was first fram'd flesh 2845
    To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
    Briefly thyself remember. The sword is out
    That must destroy thee.

[Edgar interposes.]

  • Oswald. Wherefore, bold peasant,
    Dar'st thou support a publish'd traitor? Hence!
    Lest that th' infection of his fortune take
    Like hold on thee. Let go his arm. 2855
  • Edgar. Chill not let go, zir, without vurther 'cagion.
  • Oswald. Let go, slave, or thou diest!
  • Edgar. Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor voke pass. An chud
    ha' bin zwagger'd out of my life, 'twould not ha' bin zo long as
    'tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th' old man. Keep out, 2860
    che vore ye, or Ise try whether your costard or my ballow be the
    harder. Chill be plain with you.

They fight.

  • Edgar. Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come! No matter vor your foins. 2865

[Oswald falls.]

  • Oswald. Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
    If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body,
    And give the letters which thou find'st about me
    To Edmund Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out 2870
    Upon the British party. O, untimely death! Death!

He dies.

  • Edgar. I know thee well. A serviceable villain,
    As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
    As badness would desire. 2875
  • Edgar. Sit you down, father; rest you.
    Let's see his pockets; these letters that he speaks of
    May be my friends. He's dead. I am only sorry
    He had no other deathsman. Let us see. 2880
    Leave, gentle wax; and, manners, blame us not.
    To know our enemies' minds, we'ld rip their hearts;
    Their papers, is more lawful. Reads the letter.
    'Let our reciprocal vows be rememb'red. You have many
    opportunities to cut him off. If your will want not, time and 2885
    place will be fruitfully offer'd. There is nothing done, if he
    return the conqueror. Then am I the prisoner, and his bed my
    jail; from the loathed warmth whereof deliver me, and supply the
    place for your labour.
    'Your (wife, so I would say) affectionate servant, 'Goneril.' 2890
    O indistinguish'd space of woman's will!
    A plot upon her virtuous husband's life,
    And the exchange my brother! Here in the sands
    Thee I'll rake up, the post unsanctified
    Of murtherous lechers; and in the mature time 2895
    With this ungracious paper strike the sight
    Of the death-practis'd Duke, For him 'tis well
    That of thy death and business I can tell.
  • Earl of Gloucester. The King is mad. How stiff is my vile sense,
    That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling 2900
    Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract.
    So should my thoughts be sever'd from my griefs,
    And woes by wrong imaginations lose
    The knowledge of themselves.

A drum afar off.

  • Edgar. Give me your hand.
    Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum.
    Come, father, I'll bestow you with a friend. Exeunt.