Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Anonymous
Editor: Andrew Griffin
Peer Reviewed

The History of King Leir (Modern)

0.1[Scene 1] [Video Sc.1]
1Enter King Leir[, Skalliger, Perillus and a Nobleman]
Thus to our grief, the obsequies performed
Of our -- too late -- deceased and dearest queen,
5Whose soul, I hope, possessed of heavenly joys,
Doth ride in triumph 'mongst the cherubim.
Let us request your grave advice, my lords,
For the disposing of our princely daughters,
For whom our care is specially employed,
10As nature bindeth, to advance their states
In royal marriage with some princely mates;
For wanting now their mother's good advice,
Under whose government they have received
A perfect pattern of a virtuous life --
15Left, as it were, a ship without a stern,
Or silly sheep without a pastor's care --
Although ourselves do dearly tender them,
Yet are we ignorant of their affairs,
For fathers best do know to govern sons,
20But daughters' steps the mother's counsel turns.
A son we want for to succeed our crown,
And course of time hath cancellèd the date
Of further issue from our withered loins;
One foot already hangeth in the grave,
25And age hath made deep furrows in my face.
The world of me, I of the world am weary,
And I would fain resign these earthly cares
And think upon the welfare of my soul,
Which by no better means may be effected
30Than by resigning up the crown from me
In equal dowry to my daughters three.
A worthy care, my liege, which well declares
The zeal you bare unto our quondam queen.
And since your grace hath licensed me to speak,
35I censure thus: your majesty, knowing well
What several suitors your princely daughters have,
To make them each a jointure -- more or less,
As is their worth -- to them that love profess.
No more nor less, but even all alike.
40My zeal is fixed: all fashioned in one mould,
Wherefore unpartial shall my censure be;
Both old and young shall have alike from me.
A Nobleman
My gracious lord, I heartily do wish
That God had lent you an heir indubitate,
45Which might have set upon your royal throne
When Fates should loose the prison of your life,
By whose succession all this doubt might cease
And, as by you, by him we might have peace.
But after-wishes ever come too late
50And nothing can revoke the course of fate;
Wherefore, my liege, my censure deems it best,
To match them with some of your neighbor kings,
Bord'ring within the bounds of Albion,
By whose united friendship, this our state,
55May be protected 'gainst all foreign hate.
Herein, my lords, your wishes sort with mine,
And mine, I hope, do sort with heavenly powers,
For at this instant two near-neighboring kings,
Of Cornwall and of Cambria, motion love
60To my two daughters, Gonorill and Ragan.
My youngest daughter, fair Cordella, vows
No liking to a monarch unless love allows.
She is solicited by divers peers,
But none of them her partial fancy hears.
65Yet, if my policy may her beguile,
I'll match her to some king within this isle
And so establish such a perfect peace
As Fortune's force shall ne'er prevail to cease.
Of us and ours, your gracious care, my lord,
70Deserves an everlasting memory
To be enrolled in chronicles of fame
By never-dying perpetuity;
Yet, to become so provident a prince,
Lose not the title of a loving father.
75Do not force love where fancy cannot dwell,
Lest streams, being stopped, above the banks do swell.
I am resolved, and even now my mind
Doth meditate a sudden stratagem
To try which of my daughters loves me best,
80Which, till I know, I cannot be in rest.
This granted, when they jointly shall contend,
Each to exceed the other in their love,
Then at the vantage will I take Cordella,
Even as she doth protest she loves me best;
85I'll say, "Then, daughter, grant me one request:
To show thou lov'st me as thy sisters do,
Accept a husband whom myself will woo."
This said, she cannot well deny my suit,
Although, poor soul, her senses will be mute.
90Then will I triumph in my policy,
And match her with a king of Brittany.
[Aside] I'll to them before and bewray your secrecy.
[Aside] Thus, fathers think their children to beguile,
And oftentimes themselves do first repent
95When heavenly powers do frustrate their intent.