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About this text

  • Title: King Lear (Modern, Folio)
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • Textual editors: James D. Mardock, Eric Rasmussen
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best
  • Research assistants: Quinn MacDonald, Michelle Spelay
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-463-9

    Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    King Lear (Modern, Folio)

    1075Enter Kent, and [Oswald, the] steward separately.
    Oswald
    Good dawning to thee friend. Art of this house?
    Ay.
    Oswald
    Where may we set our horses?
    I'th'mire.
    1080Oswald
    Prithee, if thou lov'st me, tell me.
    I love thee not.
    Oswald
    Why then, I care not for thee.
    If I had thee in Lipsbury Pinfold I would make thee care for me.
    1085Oswald
    Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.
    Fellow, I know thee.
    Oswald
    What dost thou know me for?
    A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-1090pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave. One that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, 1095pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch--one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deny'st the least syllable of thy addition.
    Oswald
    Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee, nor 1100knows thee?
    What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me! Is it two days since I tripped up thy heels and beat thee before the king? [Drawing his sword] Draw, you rogue, for though it be night yet the moon shines. I'll make a 1105sop o'th'moonshine of you, you whoreson cullionly barber-monger. Draw!
    Oswald
    Away, I have nothing to do with thee.
    Draw, you rascal. You come with letters against the king, and take Vanity the puppet's part 1110against the royalty of her father. Draw, you rogue, or I'll so carbonado your shanks! Draw, you rascal. Come your ways.
    Oswald
    Help, ho! Murder! Help!
    Strike, you slave. Stand, rogue. Stand, you neat 1115slave--strike!
    Oswald
    Help, ho, murder, murder!
    Enter Bastard, Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, [and] servants.
    Bastard
    How now, what's the matter? [Drawing his sword] Part.
    [To the Bastard] With you, goodman boy, if you please. Come, 1120I'll flesh ye. Come on, young master.
    [They exchange blows.]
    Gloucester
    Weapons? Arms? What's the matter here?
    Cornwall
    [Drawing his sword] Keep peace upon your lives. He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?
    The messengers from our sister, and the king.
    1125Cornwall
    What is your difference? Speak.
    Oswald
    I am scarce in breath, my lord.
    No marvel. You have so bestirred your valor, you cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee. A tailor made thee.
    1130Cornwall
    Thou art a strange fellow. A tailor make a man?
    A tailor, sir. A stone-cutter or a painter could not have made him so ill though they had been but two years o'th'trade.
    Cornwall
    Speak yet. How grew your quarrel?
    1135Oswald
    This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spared at suit of his gray beard--
    Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!--My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a 1140jakes with him. [To Oswald] Spare my gray beard, you wagtail?
    Cornwall
    Peace, sirrah!
    You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
    Yes, sir, but anger hath a privilege.
    Cornwall
    Why art thou angry?
    That such a slave as this should wear a sword,
    Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,
    Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain,
    Which are too intrinse t'unloose; smooth every passion
    That in the natures of their lords rebel,
    1150Being oil to fire, snow to the colder moods,
    Revenge, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
    With every gall and vary of their masters,
    Knowing naught, like dogs, but following.
    [To Oswald] A plague upon your epileptic visage!
    1155Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
    Goose, if I had you upon Sarum Plain,
    I'd drive ye cackling home to Camelot.
    Cornwall
    What, art thou mad, old fellow?
    Gloucester
    How fell you out, say that.
    No contraries hold more antipathy,
    Than I and such a knave.
    Cornwall
    Why dost thou call him knave?
    What is his fault?
    Kent
    His countenance likes me not.
    1165Cornwall
    No more perchance does mine, nor his, nor hers.
    Sir, 'tis my occupation to be plain.
    I have seen better faces in my time
    Than stands on any shoulder that I see
    Before me at this instant.
    1170Cornwall
    This is some fellow,
    Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affect
    A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb
    Quite from his nature. He cannot flatter, he.
    An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth,
    1175An they will take it, so; if not, he's plain.
    These kind of knaves I know, which in this "plainness"
    Harbor more craft and more corrupter ends
    Than twenty silly-ducking observants
    That stretch their duties nicely.
    Sir, in good faith, in sincere verity,
    Under th'allowance of your great aspect,
    Whose influence like the wreath of radiant fire
    On flickering Phoebus' front--
    Cornwall
    What mean'st by this?
    To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer. He that beguiled you in a plain accent was a plain knave, which for my part I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to't.
    1190Cornwall
    [To Oswald] What was th'offence you gave him?
    Oswald
    I never gave him any.
    It pleased the king his master very late
    To strike at me, upon his misconstruction,
    When he, compact and flattering his displeasure,
    1195Tripped me behind; being down, insulted, railed,
    And put upon him such a deal of man
    That worthied him, got praises of the king
    For him attempting who was self-subdued;
    And in the fleshment of this dread exploit
    1200Drew on me here again.
    None of these rogues and cowards
    But Ajax is their fool.
    Cornwall
    Fetch forth the stocks.
    You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,
    1205We'll teach you.
    Sir, I am too old to learn.
    Call not your stocks for me. I serve the king,
    On whose employment I was sent to you.
    You shall do small respects, show too bold malice
    1210Against the grace and person of my master,
    Stocking his messenger.
    Cornwall
    Fetch forth the stocks!
    As I have life and honor, there shall he sit till noon.
    Till noon? Till night, my lord, and all night too.
    Why, madam, if I were your father's dog
    You should not use me so.
    Regan
    Sir, being his knave, I will.
    Stocks brought out.
    Cornwall
    This is a fellow of the self same color
    Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away the stocks.
    1220Gloucester
    Let me beseech your grace not to do so.
    The King his master needs must take it ill
    That he, so slightly valued in his messenger,
    Should have him thus restrained.
    Cornwall
    I'll answer that.
    My sister may receive it much more worse
    To have her gentleman abused, assaulted.
    [Attendants put Kent in the stocks.]
    Cornwall
    Come my lord, away.
    Exeunt [all but Gloucester and Kent].
    Gloucester
    I am sorry for thee, friend. 'Tis the Duke's pleasure,
    Whose disposition all the world well knows
    1230Will not be rubbed nor stopped. I'll entreat for thee.
    Pray do not, sir. I have watched and traveled hard.
    Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I'll whistle.
    A good man's fortune may grow out at heels.
    Give you good morrow.
    1235Gloucester
    The Duke's to blame in this,
    'Twill be ill taken.
    Exit.
    Good king, that must approve the common saw,
    Thou out of heaven's benediction com'st
    To the warm sun.
    1240Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
    That by thy comfortable beams I may
    Peruse this letter. Nothing almost sees miracles
    But misery. I know 'tis from Cordelia,
    Who hath most fortunately been informed
    1245Of my obscurèd course, and shall find time
    From this enormous state, seeking to give
    Losses their remedies. All weary and o'erwatched,
    Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold
    This shameful lodging. Fortune, goodnight.
    1250Smile once more; turn thy wheel.
    [He sleeps.]
    Enter Edgar.
    I heard myself proclaimed,
    And by the happy hollow of a tree
    Escaped the hunt. No port is free, no place
    1255That guard and most unusual vigilance
    Does not attend my taking. Whiles I may scape
    I will preserve myself, and am bethought
    To take the basest and most poorest shape
    That ever penury in contempt of man
    1260Brought near to beast. My face I'll grime with filth,
    Blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots,
    And with presented nakedness outface
    The winds and persecutions of the sky.
    The country gives me proof and precedent
    1265Of Bedlam beggars, who, with roaring voices,
    Strike in their numbed and mortified arms
    Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary,
    And with this horrible object, from low farms,
    Poor pelting villages, sheepcotes and mills,
    1270Sometimes with lunatic bans, sometimes with prayers,
    Enforce their charity. "Poor Turlygod, poor Tom."
    That's something yet. Edgar I nothing am.
    Exit.
    Enter Lear, Fool, and [a] gentleman.
    'Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
    1275And not send back my messengers.
    Gentleman
    As I learned,
    The night before there was no purpose in them
    Of this remove.
    Kent
    [From the stocks] Hail to thee, noble master.
    Ha? Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime?
    Kent
    No, my lord.
    Ha, ha! He wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by the heads, dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys by the loins, and men by the legs. When a man's 1285over-lusty at legs, then he wears wooden netherstocks.
    [To Kent] What's he that hath so much thy place mistook
    To set thee here?
    It is both he and she, 1290your son and daughter.
    No.
    Yes.
    No I say.
    I say yea.
    By Jupiter, I swear no.
    By Juno, I swear ay.
    They durst not do't.
    They could not, would not do't. 'Tis worse than murder
    To do upon respect such violent outrage.
    1300Resolve me with all modest haste which way
    Thou might'st deserve, or they impose this usage,
    Coming from us.
    Kent
    My lord, when at their home
    I did commend your highness' letters to them,
    1305Ere I was risen from the place that showed
    My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
    Stewed in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
    From Goneril his mistress, salutations;
    Delivered letters, spite of intermission,
    1310Which presently they read; on those contents
    They summoned up their meiney, straight took horse,
    Commanded me to follow and attend
    The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks,
    And meeting here the other messenger,
    1315Whose welcome I perceived had poisoned mine,
    Being the very fellow which of late
    Displayed so saucily against your highness,
    Having more man than wit about me, drew.
    He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
    1320Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
    The shame which here it suffers.
    Winter's not gone yet if the wild geese fly that way.
    Fathers that wear rags
    Do make their children blind,
    But fathers that bear bags
    Shall see their children kind.
    1325Fortune, that arrant whore,
    1325.1 Ne'er turns the key to th'poor.
    But for all this thou shalt have as many dolors for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
    Oh, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
    Hysterica passio, down thou climbing sorrow,
    1330Thy element's below. Where is this daughter?
    With the earl, sir, here within.
    [To the Fool and Gentleman] Follow me not, stay here.
    Exit [Lear].
    Gentleman
    Made you no more offence but what you speak of?
    None.
    How chance the king comes with so small a number?
    An thou hadst been set i'th'stocks for that question, thou'dst well deserved it.
    Why, Fool?
    We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there's no laboring i'th'winter. All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and there's not a nose among twenty but can smell him that's stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a 1345hill, lest it break thy neck with following. But the great one that goes upward, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel give me mine again. I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
    [Sings.]
    1350That sir which serves and seeks for gain
    And follows but for form,
    Will pack when it begins to rain,
    And leave thee in the storm.
    But I will tarry, the fool will stay,
    1355 And let the wise man fly.
    The knave turns fool that runs away,
    The fool no knave perdy.
    Enter Lear and Gloucester.
    Where learned you this, Fool?
    1360Fool
    Not i'th'stocks, fool.
    Deny to speak with me? They are sick, they are weary,
    They have traveled all the night? Mere fetches,
    The images of revolt and flying off.
    1365Fetch me a better answer.
    Gloucester
    My dear lord,
    You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
    How unremoveable and fixed he is
    In his own course.
    1370Lear
    Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!
    Fiery? What quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
    I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
    Gloucester
    Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.
    Informed them? Dost thou understand me, man?
    1375Gloucester
    Ay, my good lord.
    The king would speak with Cornwall. The dear father
    Would with his daughter speak, commands--tends--service.
    Are they informed of this? My breath and blood--
    1380Fiery? The fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that--
    No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
    Infirmity doth still neglect all office
    Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves,
    When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
    1385To suffer with the body. I'll forbear,
    And am fallen out with my more headier will
    To take the indisposed and sickly fit
    For the sound man.
    [Notices Kent.]
    Death on my state! Wherefore
    Should he sit here? This act persuades me
    1390That this remotion of the Duke and her
    Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
    Go tell the Duke and 's wife I'd speak with them
    Now, presently. Bid them come forth and hear me,
    Or at their chamber door I'll beat the drum
    1395Till it cry sleep to death.
    Gloucester
    I would have all well betwixt you.
    Exit [Gloucester].
    Oh me, my heart, my rising heart! But down.
    Cry to it nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she put 'em i'th'paste alive. She knapped 'em 1400o'th'coxcombs with a stick and cried "Down, wantons, down!" 'Twas her brother that in pure kindness to his horse buttered his hay.
    Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, [and] servants.
    Good morrow to you both.
    1405Cornwall
    Hail to your grace.
    Kent here set at liberty.
    I am glad to see your highness.
    Regan, I think you are. I know what reason
    I have to think so. If thou shouldst not be glad,
    I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb,
    1410Sepulchring an adultress. [To Kent] Oh, are you free?
    Some other time for that.--Belovèd Regan,
    Thy sister's naught. O Regan, she hath tied
    Sharp-toothed unkindness like a vulture here.
    I can scarce speak to thee. Thou'lt not believe
    1415With how depraved a quality, O Regan--
    I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
    You less know how to value her desert
    Than she to scant her duty.
    Lear
    Say? How is that?
    I cannot think my sister in the least
    Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
    She have restrained the riots of your followers,
    'Tis on such ground and to such wholesome end
    As clears her from all blame.
    My curses on her.
    Regan
    O sir, you are old,
    Nature in you stands on the very verge
    Of his confine. You should be ruled and led
    By some discretion that discerns your state
    1430Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,
    That to our sister you do make return.
    Say you have wronged her.
    Lear
    Ask her forgiveness?
    Do you but mark how this becomes the house?
    1435[Kneeling] "Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
    Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
    That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food."
    Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks.
    Return you to my sister.
    1440Lear
    [Rising] Never, Regan.
    She hath abated me of half my train,
    Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue
    Most serpent-like upon the very heart.
    All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
    1445On her ungrateful top! Strike her young bones,
    You taking airs, with lameness--
    Cornwall
    Fie sir, fie.
    You nimble lightnings dart your blinding flames
    Into her scornful eyes. Infect her beauty,
    1450You fen-sucked fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
    To fall and blister.
    Regan
    O the blest gods!
    So will you wish on me when the rash mood is on.
    No Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.
    1455Thy tender-hafted nature shall not give
    Thee o'er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but thine
    Do comfort and not burn. 'Tis not in thee
    To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
    To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
    1460And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
    Against my coming in. Thou better know'st
    The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
    Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude.
    Thy half o'th'kingdom hast thou not forgot
    1465Wherein I thee endowed.
    Regan
    Good sir, to th'purpose.
    Tucket within.
    Who put my man i'th'stocks?
    Enter [Oswald, the] steward.
    Cornwall
    What trumpet's that?
    I know't my sister's. This approves her letter
    That she would soon be here. [To Oswald] Is your lady come?
    This is a slave, whose easy-borrowed pride
    Dwells in the sickly grace of her he follows.
    [Striking him] Out, varlet, from my sight.
    1475Cornwall
    What means your grace?
    Enter Goneril.
    Who stocked my servant? Regan, I have good hope
    Thou didst not know on't.
    [Seeing Goneril.] Who comes here? O heavens!
    1480If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
    Allow obedience, if you your selves are old,
    Make it your cause. Send down, and take my part.
    [To Goneril] Art not ashamed to look upon this beard?--
    O Regan, will you take her by the hand?
    1485Goneril
    Why not by th'hand sir? How have I offended?
    All's not offence that indiscretion finds
    And dotage terms so.
    Lear
    O sides, you are too tough.
    Will you yet hold? 1490How came my man i'th'stocks?
    Cornwall
    I set him there, sir, but his own disorders
    Deserved much less advancement.
    Lear
    You? Did you?
    I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
    1495If, till the expiration of your month
    You will return and sojourn with my sister,
    Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
    I am now from home, and out of that provision
    Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
    Return to her? And fifty men dismissed?
    No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
    To wage against the enmity o'th'air,
    To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,
    Necessity's sharp pinch. Return with her?
    1505Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
    Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
    To knee his throne, and squire-like pension beg
    To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
    Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
    [Indicating Oswald]
    1510To this detested groom.
    Goneril
    At your choice, sir.
    I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
    I will not trouble thee my child. Farewell.
    We'll no more meet, no more see one another.
    1515But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter--
    Or rather a disease that's in my flesh
    Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil,
    A plague sore, or embossèd carbuncle
    In my corrupted blood--but I'll not chide thee.
    1520Let shame come when it will, I do not call it.
    I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
    Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
    Mend when thou canst. Be better at thy leisure.
    I can be patient. I can stay with Regan,
    1525I and my hundred knights.
    Regan
    Not altogether so.
    I looked not for you yet, nor am provided
    For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister,
    For those that mingle reason with your passion
    1530Must be content to think you old, and so--
    But she knows what she does.
    Lear
    Is this well spoken?
    I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
    Is it not well? What should you need of more?
    1535Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
    Speak 'gainst so great a number. How in one house
    Should many people under two commands
    Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.
    Goneril
    Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
    1540From those that she calls servants; or from mine?
    Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack ye,
    We could control them. If you will come to me,
    For now I spy a danger, I entreat you
    1545To bring but five and twenty. To no more
    Will I give place or notice.
    I gave you all.
    Regan
    And in good time you gave it.
    Made you my guardians, my depositories,
    1550But kept a reservation to be followed
    With such a number. What, must I come to you
    With five and twenty? Regan, said you so?
    And speak't again, my lord, no more with me.
    Those wicked creatures yet do look well favored
    1555When others are more wicked. Not being the worst
    Stands in some rank of praise. [To Goneril] I'll go with thee.
    Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,
    And thou art twice her love.
    Goneril
    Hear me, my lord.
    1560What need you five and twenty? Ten? Or five,
    To follow in a house where twice so many
    Have a command to tend you.
    Regan
    What need one?
    Oh, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
    1565Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
    Allow not nature more than nature needs,
    Man's life is cheap as beast's. Thou art a lady;
    If only to go warm were gorgeous,
    Why nature needs not what thou gorgeous wearest,
    1570Which scarcely keeps thee warm; but for true need--
    You heavens, give me that patience; patience I need.
    You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
    As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
    If it be you that stirs these daughters' hearts
    1575Against their father, fool me not so much
    To bear it tamely. Touch me with noble anger,
    And let not women's weapons, water drops,
    Stain my man's cheeks. No, you unnatural hags,
    I will have such revenges on you both
    1580That all the world shall--I will do such things--
    What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
    The terrors of the earth. You think I'll weep.
    No, I'll not weep. I have full cause of weeping,
    Storm and tempest
    1585But this heart shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
    Or ere I'll weep. O Fool, I shall go mad.
    Exeunt [Lear, Gloucester, Kent and Fool].
    Cornwall
    Let us withdraw. 'Twill be a storm.
    This house is little. The old man and 's people
    Cannot be well bestowed.
    1590Goneril
    'Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest,
    And must needs taste his folly.
    For his particular, I'll receive him gladly,
    But not one follower.
    Goneril
    So am I purposed.
    1595Where is my Lord of Gloucester?
    Enter Gloucester.
    Cornwall
    Followed the old man forth--he is returned.
    Gloucester
    The king is in high rage.
    Cornwall
    Whither is he going?
    1600Gloucester
    He calls to horse, but will I know not whither.
    Cornwall
    'Tis best to give him way; he leads himself.
    Goneril
    My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
    Gloucester
    Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
    Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
    1605There's scarce a bush.
    Regan
    O sir, to willful men
    The injuries that they themselves procure,
    Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
    He is attended with a desperate train,
    1610And what they may incense him to, being apt
    To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
    Cornwall
    Shut up your doors, my lord, 'tis a wild night.
    My Regan counsels well. Come out o'th'storm.