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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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    530Enter Kent [disguised as Caius].
    If but as will I other accents borrow
    That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
    May carry through itself to that full issue
    For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
    535If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned,
    So may it come thy master, whom thou lovest,
    Shall find thee full of labors.
    Horns within. Enter Lear and attendants [from hunting].
    Let me not stay a jot for dinner. Go get it 540ready.
    [Exit an attendant.]
    [To Kent] How now, what art thou?
    A man, sir.
    What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
    I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve 545him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish.
    What art thou?
    A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.
    If thou be'st as poor for a subject as he's for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
    Who wouldst thou serve?
    Dost thou know me, fellow?
    No sir, but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
    What's that?
    What services canst thou do?
    I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message 565bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
    How old art thou?
    Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for anything. I have years on 570my back forty-eight.
    Follow me. Thou shalt serve me. If I like thee no worse after dinner I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho! Dinner! Where's my knave, my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.
    [Exit an attendant.]
    575Enter [Oswald, the] steward.
    You--you, sirrah--where's my daughter?
    So please you--
    Exit [Oswald].
    What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
    [Exit a Knight.]
    Where's my fool? Ho! I think the world's asleep.
    [Enter Knight.]
    How now? Where's that mongrel?
    He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
    Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?
    Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner he would not.
    He would not?
    My lord, I know not what the matter is, but to my judgment your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont. There's a great abatement of kindness appears as well in 590the general dependents as in the duke himself also, and your daughter.
    Ha? Sayest thou so?
    I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken, for my duty cannot be silent when I think 595your highness wronged.
    Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception. I have perceived a most faint neglect of late, which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretense and purpose of unkindness. 600I will look further into 't. But where's my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
    Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined away.
    No more of that, I have noted it well. Go you 605and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
    [Exit a servant.]
    Go you, call hither my fool.
    [Exit another servant.]
    Enter [Oswald, the] steward.
    O you, sir, you. Come you hither sir. Who am I, sir?
    My lady's father.
    "My lady's father"? My lord's knave, you whoreson dog, you slave, you cur.
    I am none of these, my lord. I beseech your pardon.
    [Striking him] Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
    I'll not be strucken my lord.
    [Tripping him] Nor tripped neither, you base football player.
    I thank thee, fellow. Thou servest me, and I'll love thee.
    [To Oswald] Come sir, arise. Away! I'll teach you differences. 620Away, away! If you will measure your lubber's length again, tarry, but away! Go to, have you wisdom? So.
    [Exit Oswald.]
    Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. [Giving money] There's earnest of thy service.
    Enter Fool.
    Let me hire him too. [To Kent, holding out his cap] Here's my coxcomb.
    How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?
    [To Kent] Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
    Why, my boy?
    Why? For taking one's part that's out of favor. 630Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits thou'lt catch cold shortly. There, take my coxcomb. Why this fellow has banished two on's daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will. If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb. [To Lear] How now, nuncle? Would 635I had two coxcombs and two daughters.
    Why, my boy?
    If I gave them all my living, I'd keep my coxcombs myself. There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.
    Take heed, sirrah--the whip.
    Truth's a dog must to kennel. He must be whipped out, when the Lady Brach may stand by th'fire and stink.
    A pestilent gall to me.
    Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.
    Mark it, nuncle.
    Have more than thou showest,
    Speak less than thou knowest,
    650Lend less than thou owest,
    Ride more than thou goest,
    Learn more than thou trowest,
    Set less than thou throwest,
    Leave thy drink and thy whore,
    655And keep in-a-door,
    And thou shalt have more
    Than two tens to a score.
    This is nothing, fool.
    Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer; 660you gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing nuncle?
    Why no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.
    [To Kent] Prithee tell him, so much the rent of his land 665comes to. He will not believe a fool.
    A bitter fool.
    [To Lear] Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?
    No, lad, teach me.
    Nuncle, give me an egg, and I'll give thee two crowns.
    What two crowns shall they be?
    Why, after I have cut the egg i'th'middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When 675thou clovest thy crowns i'th'middle and gavest away both parts, thou borest thine ass on thy back o'er the dirt. Thou had'st little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
    680Fools had ne'er less grace in a year,
    For wise men are grown foppish,
    And know not how their wits to wear,
    Their manners are so apish.
    When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
    I have used it, nuncle, e'er since thou mad'st thy daughters thy mothers; for when thou gav'st them the rod, and puttest down thine own breeches,
    Then they for sudden joy did weep,
    And I for sorrow sung,
    690That such a king should play bo-peep,
    And go the fool among.
    Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie. I would fain learn to lie.
    An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.
    I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o'thing than a fool; and yet I would not be thee nuncle. Thou hast pared thy 700wit o'both sides, and left nothing i'th'middle. Here comes one o'the parings.
    Enter Goneril.
    How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on? You are too much of late i'th'frown.
    Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning. Now thou art an "O" without a figure. I am better than thou art now--I am a fool, thou art nothing. [To Goneril] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me though you say nothing.
    710Mum, mum,
    He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
    Weary of all, shall want some.
    [Pointing to Lear.] That's a shelled peascod.
    Not only, sir, this, your all-licensed fool,
    But other of your insolent retinue
    Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
    715In rank and not-to-be-endurèd riots. Sir,
    I had thought by making this well known unto you
    To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful
    By what yourself too late have spoke and done
    That you protect this course, and put it on
    720By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
    Would not scape censure, nor the redresses sleep;
    Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
    Might in their working do you that offence,
    Which else were shame, that then necessity
    725Will call discreet proceeding.
    For you know nuncle,
    The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
    That it's had its head bit off by its young.
    So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
    Are you our daughter?
    I would you would make use of your good wisdom,
    Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
    These dispositions which of late transport you
    From what you rightly are.
    May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?--
    Whoop, Jug, I love thee!
    Does any here know me? This is not Lear.
    740Does Lear walk thus? Speak thus? Where are his eyes?
    Either his notion weakens, his discernings
    Are lethargied. Ha! Waking? 'Tis not so.
    Who is it that can tell me who I am?
    Lear's shadow.
    Your name, fair gentlewoman?
    This admiration, sir, is much o'th'savor
    Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
    To understand my purposes aright.
    As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
    750Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
    Men so disordered, so debauched and bold,
    That this our court, infected with their manners,
    Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
    Makes it more like a tavern or a brothel
    755Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
    For instant remedy. Be then desired
    By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
    A little to disquantity your train,
    And the remainders that shall still depend
    760To be such men as may besort your age,
    Which know themselves, and you.
    Darkness and devils!
    Saddle my horses. Call my train together.
    [Exit one or more.]
    Degenerate bastard, I'll not trouble thee.
    765Yet have I left a daughter.
    You strike my people, and your disordered rabble
    Make servants of their betters.
    Enter Albany.
    Woe that too late repents.
    770[To Albany] Is it your will? Speak, sir. [To a servant] Prepare my horses.
    [Exit servant.]
    Ingratitude! Thou marble-hearted fiend,
    More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child
    Than the sea-monster.
    Pray, sir, be patient.
    [To Goneril] Detested kite, thou liest.
    My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
    That all particulars of duty know,
    And in the most exact regard support
    The worships of their name. Oh, most small fault,
    780How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,
    Which like an engine, wrenched my frame of nature
    From the fixèd place; drew from my heart all love
    And added to the gall.
    [Striking his head]
    O Lear, Lear, Lear!
    Beat at this gate that let thy folly in
    785And thy dear judgment out. Go, go, my people.
    [Exeunt some.]
    My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
    Of what hath moved you.
    It may be so, my lord.
    Hear Nature, hear dear goddess, hear.
    790Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend
    To make this creature fruitful.
    Into her womb convey sterility,
    Dry up in her the organs of increase,
    And from her derogate body never spring
    795A babe to honor her. If she must teem,
    Create her child of spleen, that it may live
    And be a thwart, disnatured torment to her.
    Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
    With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
    800Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
    To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
    How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
    To have a thankless child. Away, away.
    Exeunt [Lear, Kent, Fool, and servants].
    Now, gods that we adore, 805whereof comes this?
    Never afflict yourself to know more of it,
    But let his disposition have that scope
    As dotage gives it.
    Enter Lear [and Fool].
    What? Fifty of my followers at a clap
    Within a fortnight?
    What's the matter, sir?
    I'll tell thee--life and death, I am ashamed
    815That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus;
    That these hot tears which break from me perforce
    Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
    Th'untented woundings of a father's curse
    820Pierce every sense about thee. Old fond eyes,
    Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out
    And cast you with the waters that you loose
    To temper clay. Ha? Let it be so.
    I have another daughter,
    825Who I am sure is kind and comfortable.
    When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
    She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
    That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think
    I have cast off for ever.
    Exit [Lear].
    Do you mark that?
    I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
    To the great love I bear you--
    Pray you content. What, Oswald, ho!
    [To the Fool] You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master!
    Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry. Take the fool with thee.
    A fox, when one has caught her,
    And such a daughter,
    Should sure to the slaughter,
    840If my cap would buy a halter.
    So the fool follows after.
    Exit [Fool].
    This man hath had good counsel. A hundred knights?
    'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
    845At point a hundred knights? Yes, that on every dream,
    Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
    He may enguard his dotage with their powers
    And hold our lives in mercy.--Oswald, I say!
    Well, you may fear too far.
    Safer than trust too far.
    Let me still take away the harms I fear,
    Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
    What he hath uttered I have writ my sister.
    If she sustain him and his hundred knights
    855When I have showed th'unfitness--
    Enter [Oswald the] steward.
    How now Oswald?
    What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
    Ay, madam.
    Take you some company and away to horse.
    Inform her full of my particular fear,
    And thereto add such reasons of your own
    As may compact it more. Get you gone,
    And hasten your return.
    [Exit Oswald.]
    No, no, my lord,
    865This milky gentleness and course of yours,
    Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
    You are much more at task for want of wisdom
    Than praised for harmful mildness.
    How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell.
    870Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
    Nay then--
    Well, well, th'event.