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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act V, Scene 3

The British camp, near Dover.


Enter, in conquest, with Drum and Colours, Edmund; Lear and Cordelia as prisoners; Soldiers, Captain.

  • Edmund. Some officers take them away. Good guard
    Until their greater pleasures first be known
    That are to censure them. 3125
  • Cordelia. We are not the first
    Who with best meaning have incurr'd the worst.
    For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
    Myself could else outfrown false Fortune's frown.
    Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters? 3130
  • Lear. No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison.
    We two alone will sing like birds i' th' cage.
    When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down
    And ask of thee forgiveness. So we'll live,
    And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh 3135
    At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
    Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too-
    Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out-
    And take upon 's the mystery of things,
    As if we were God's spies; and we'll wear out, 3140
    In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones
    That ebb and flow by th' moon.
  • Lear. Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
    The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee? 3145
    He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven
    And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.
    The goodyears shall devour 'em, flesh and fell,
    Ere they shall make us weep! We'll see 'em starv'd first.
    Come. Exeunt [Lear and Cordelia, guarded]. 3150
  • Edmund. Come hither, Captain; hark.
    Take thou this note [gives a paper]. Go follow them to prison.
    One step I have advanc'd thee. If thou dost
    As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
    To noble fortunes. Know thou this, that men 3155
    Are as the time is. To be tender-minded
    Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
    Will not bear question. Either say thou'lt do't,
    Or thrive by other means.
  • Edmund. About it! and write happy when th' hast done.
    Mark- I say, instantly; and carry it so
    As I have set it down.
  • Captain. I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
    If it be man's work, I'll do't. Exit. 3165

Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Soldiers.

  • Duke of Albany. Sir, you have show'd to-day your valiant strain,
    And fortune led you well. You have the captives
    Who were the opposites of this day's strife.
    We do require them of you, so to use them 3170
    As we shall find their merits and our safety
    May equally determine.
  • Edmund. Sir, I thought it fit
    To send the old and miserable King
    To some retention and appointed guard; 3175
    Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
    To pluck the common bosom on his side
    And turn our impress'd lances in our eyes
    Which do command them. With him I sent the Queen,
    My reason all the same; and they are ready 3180
    To-morrow, or at further space, t' appear
    Where you shall hold your session. At this time
    We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;
    And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs'd
    By those that feel their sharpness. 3185
    The question of Cordelia and her father
    Requires a fitter place.
  • Duke of Albany. Sir, by your patience,
    I hold you but a subject of this war,
    Not as a brother. 3190
  • Regan. That's as we list to grace him.
    Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded
    Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
    Bore the commission of my place and person,
    The which immediacy may well stand up 3195
    And call itself your brother.
  • Goneril. Not so hot!
    In his own grace he doth exalt himself
    More than in your addition.
  • Regan. In my rights 3200
    By me invested, he compeers the best.
  • Goneril. That were the most if he should husband you.
  • Regan. Jesters do oft prove prophets.
  • Goneril. Holla, holla!
    That eye that told you so look'd but asquint. 3205
  • Regan. Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
    From a full-flowing stomach. General,
    Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
    Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine.
    Witness the world that I create thee here 3210
    My lord and master.
  • Regan. [to Edmund] Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
  • Duke of Albany. Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
    On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
    This gilded serpent [points to Goneril]. For your claim, fair
    sister, 3220
    I bar it in the interest of my wife.
    'Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
    And I, her husband, contradict your banes.
    If you will marry, make your loves to me;
    My lady is bespoke. 3225
  • Duke of Albany. Thou art arm'd, Gloucester. Let the trumpet sound.
    If none appear to prove upon thy person
    Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
    There is my pledge [throws down a glove]! I'll prove it on thy 3230
    Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
    Than I have here proclaim'd thee.
  • Goneril. [aside] If not, I'll ne'er trust medicine. 3235
  • Edmund. There's my exchange [throws down a glove]. What in the world
    he is
    That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
    Call by thy trumpet. He that dares approach,
    On him, on you, who not? I will maintain 3240
    My truth and honour firmly.
  • Edmund. A herald, ho, a herald!
  • Duke of Albany. Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,
    All levied in my name, have in my name 3245
    Took their discharge.
  • Regan. My sickness grows upon me.
  • Duke of Albany. She is not well. Convey her to my tent.
    [Exit Regan, led. Enter a Herald.]
    Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound, 3250
    And read out this.
  • Captain. Sound, trumpet! A trumpet sounds.
  • Herald. [reads] 'If any man of quality or degree within the lists of
    the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester,
    that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound 3255
    of the trumpet. He is bold in his defence.'
  • Edmund. Sound! First trumpet.
  • Herald. Again! Second trumpet.
  • Herald. Again! Third trumpet.

Trumpet answers within.

Enter Edgar, armed, at the third sound, a Trumpet before him.

  • Duke of Albany. Ask him his purposes, why he appears
    Upon this call o' th' trumpet.
  • Herald. What are you?
    Your name, your quality? and why you answer 3265
    This present summons?
  • Edgar. Know my name is lost;
    By treason's tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit.
    Yet am I noble as the adversary
    I come to cope. 3270
  • Edgar. What's he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?
  • Edmund. Himself. What say'st thou to him?
  • Edgar. Draw thy sword,
    That, if my speech offend a noble heart, 3275
    Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
    Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
    My oath, and my profession. I protest-
    Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
    Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune, 3280
    Thy valour and thy heart- thou art a traitor;
    False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
    Conspirant 'gainst this high illustrious prince;
    And from th' extremest upward of thy head
    To the descent and dust beneath thy foot, 3285
    A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'no,'
    This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
    To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
    Thou liest.
  • Edmund. In wisdom I should ask thy name; 3290
    But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
    And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
    What safe and nicely I might well delay
    By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
    Back do I toss those treasons to thy head; 3295
    With the hell-hated lie o'erwhelm thy heart;
    Which- for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise-
    This sword of mine shall give them instant way
    Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!

Alarums. Fight. [Edmund falls.]

  • Goneril. This is mere practice, Gloucester.
    By th' law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
    An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish'd,
    But cozen'd and beguil'd. 3305
  • Duke of Albany. Shut your mouth, dame,
    Or with this paper shall I stop it. [Shows her her letter to
    - [To Edmund]. Hold, sir.
    [To Goneril] Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
    No tearing, lady! I perceive you know it. 3310
  • Goneril. Say if I do- the laws are mine, not thine.
    Who can arraign me for't?
  • Goneril. Ask me not what I know. Exit. 3315

[Exit an Officer.]

  • Edmund. What, you have charg'd me with, that have I done,
    And more, much more. The time will bring it out.
    'Tis past, and so am I.- But what art thou 3320
    That hast this fortune on me? If thou'rt noble,
    I do forgive thee.
  • Edgar. Let's exchange charity.
    I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
    If more, the more th' hast wrong'd me. 3325
    My name is Edgar and thy father's son.
    The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
    Make instruments to scourge us.
    The dark and vicious place where thee he got
    Cost him his eyes. 3330
  • Edmund. Th' hast spoken right; 'tis true.
    The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
  • Duke of Albany. Methought thy very gait did prophesy
    A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
    Let sorrow split my heart if ever I 3335
    Did hate thee, or thy father!
  • Edgar. Worthy prince, I know't.
  • Duke of Albany. Where have you hid yourself?
    How have you known the miseries of your father?
  • Edgar. By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale; 3340
    And when 'tis told, O that my heart would burst!
    The bloody proclamation to escape
    That follow'd me so near (O, our lives' sweetness!
    That with the pain of death would hourly die
    Rather than die at once!) taught me to shift 3345
    Into a madman's rags, t' assume a semblance
    That very dogs disdain'd; and in this habit
    Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
    Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
    Led him, begg'd for him, sav'd him from despair; 3350
    Never (O fault!) reveal'd myself unto him
    Until some half hour past, when I was arm'd,
    Not sure, though hoping of this good success,
    I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last
    Told him my pilgrimage. But his flaw'd heart 3355
    (Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
    'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
    Burst smilingly.
  • Edmund. This speech of yours hath mov'd me,
    And shall perchance do good; but speak you on; 3360
    You look as you had something more to say.
  • Duke of Albany. If there be more, more woful, hold it in;
    For I am almost ready to dissolve,
    Hearing of this.
  • Edgar. This would have seem'd a period 3365
    To such as love not sorrow; but another,
    To amplify too much, would make much more,
    And top extremity.
    Whilst I was big in clamour, came there a man,
    Who, having seen me in my worst estate, 3370
    Shunn'd my abhorr'd society; but then, finding
    Who 'twas that so endur'd, with his strong arms
    He fastened on my neck, and bellowed out
    As he'd burst heaven; threw him on my father;
    Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him 3375
    That ever ear receiv'd; which in recounting
    His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
    Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
    And there I left him tranc'd.
  • Edgar. Kent, sir, the banish'd Kent; who in disguise
    Followed his enemy king and did him service
    Improper for a slave.

Enter a Gentleman with a bloody knife.

  • Edgar. What kind of help?
  • Edgar. What means that bloody knife?
  • Gentleman. 'Tis hot, it smokes.
    It came even from the heart of- O! she's dead! 3390
  • Gentleman. Your lady, sir, your lady! and her sister
    By her is poisoned; she hath confess'd it.
  • Edmund. I was contracted to them both. All three
    Now marry in an instant. 3395

Enter Kent.

  • Duke of Albany. Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead.
    [Exit Gentleman.]
    This judgement of the heavens, that makes us tremble 3400
    Touches us not with pity. O, is this he?
    The time will not allow the compliment
    That very manners urges.
  • Earl of Kent. I am come
    To bid my king and master aye good night. 3405
    Is he not here?
  • Duke of Albany. Great thing of us forgot!
    Speak, Edmund, where's the King? and where's Cordelia?
    [The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in.]
    Seest thou this object, Kent? 3410
  • Edmund. Yet Edmund was belov'd.
    The one the other poisoned for my sake,
    And after slew herself.
  • Edmund. I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,
    Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send
    (Be brief in't) to the castle; for my writ
    Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
    Nay, send in time. 3420
  • Edgar. To who, my lord? Who has the office? Send
    Thy token of reprieve.
  • Edmund. Well thought on. Take my sword;
    Give it the Captain. 3425
  • Edmund. He hath commission from thy wife and me
    To hang Cordelia in the prison and
    To lay the blame upon her own despair
    That she fordid herself. 3430

[Edmund is borne off.]

Enter Lear, with Cordelia [dead] in his arms, [Edgar, Captain, and others following].

  • Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stone.
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I'ld use them so 3435
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever!
    I know when one is dead, and when one lives.
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking glass.
    If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
    Why, then she lives. 3440
  • Edgar. Or image of that horror?
  • Lear. This feather stirs; she lives! If it be so,
    It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows 3445
    That ever I have felt.
  • Lear. Prithee away!
  • Edgar. 'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
  • Lear. A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all! 3450
    I might have sav'd her; now she's gone for ever!
    Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
    What is't thou say'st, Her voice was ever soft,
    Gentle, and low- an excellent thing in woman.
    I kill'd the slave that was a-hanging thee. 3455
  • Captain. 'Tis true, my lords, he did.
  • Lear. Did I not, fellow?
    I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
    I would have made them skip. I am old now,
    And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you? 3460
    Mine eyes are not o' th' best. I'll tell you straight.
  • Earl of Kent. If fortune brag of two she lov'd and hated,
    One of them we behold.
  • Lear. This' a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
  • Earl of Kent. The same- 3465
    Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
  • Lear. He's a good fellow, I can tell you that.
    He'll strike, and quickly too. He's dead and rotten.
  • Lear. I'll see that straight. 3470
  • Earl of Kent. That from your first of difference and decay
    Have followed your sad steps.
  • Lear. You're welcome hither.
  • Earl of Kent. Nor no man else! All's cheerless, dark, and deadly.
    Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves, 3475
    And desperately are dead.
  • Lear. Ay, so I think.
  • Duke of Albany. He knows not what he says; and vain is it
    That we present us to him.
  • Edgar. Very bootless. 3480

Enter a Captain.

  • Duke of Albany. That's but a trifle here.
    You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
    What comfort to this great decay may come 3485
    Shall be applied. For us, we will resign,
    During the life of this old Majesty,
    To him our absolute power; [to Edgar and Kent] you to your
    With boot, and such addition as your honours 3490
    Have more than merited.- All friends shall taste
    The wages of their virtue, and all foes
    The cup of their deservings.- O, see, see!
  • Lear. And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life!
    Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, 3495
    And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more,
    Never, never, never, never, never!
    Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir.
    Do you see this? Look on her! look! her lips!
    Look there, look there! He dies. 3500
  • Edgar. He faints! My lord, my lord!
  • Edgar. Look up, my lord.
  • Earl of Kent. Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! He hates him
    That would upon the rack of this tough world 3505
    Stretch him out longer.
  • Edgar. He is gone indeed.
  • Earl of Kent. The wonder is, he hath endur'd so long.
    He but usurp'd his life.
  • Duke of Albany. Bear them from hence. Our present business 3510
    Is general woe. [To Kent and Edgar] Friends of my soul, you
    Rule in this realm, and the gor'd state sustain.
  • Earl of Kent. I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
    My master calls me; I must not say no. 3515
  • Duke of Albany. The weight of this sad time we must obey,
    Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
    The oldest have borne most; we that are young
    Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Exeunt with a dead march.