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  • Title: King Lear (Quarto 1, 1608)
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • Textual editors: James D. Mardock, Eric Rasmussen
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best
  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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 (Quarto 1, 1608)

    Enter Edmund, with Lear and Cordelia prisoners.
    2940Bast, Some officers take them away, good guard
    Vntill their greater pleasures best be knowne
    That are to censure them.
    Cor. We are not the first who with best meaning haue(incurd
    The worst, 2945for thee oppressed King am I cast downe,
    My selfe could else outfrowne false Fortunes frowne,
    Shall we not see these daughters, and these sisters?
    Lear. No, no, come lets away to prison
    We two alone will sing like birds it'h cage,
    2950When thou dost aske me blessing, ile kneele downe
    And aske of thee forgiuenes, so weele liue
    And pray, and sing, and tell old tales and laugh
    At guilded butterflies, and heare poore rogues
    Talke of Court newes, and weele talke with them to,
    2955Who looses, and who wins, whose in, whose out,
    And take vpon's the mistery of things
    As if we were Gods spies, and weele weare out
    In a wal'd prison, packs and sects of great ones
    That ebbe and flow bith' Moone.
    2960Bast. Take them away.
    Lear. Vpon such sacrifices my Cordelia,
    The Gods thẽselues throw incense, haue I caught thee?
    He that parts vs shall bring a brand from heauen,
    2965And fire vs hence like Foxes, wipe thine eyes,
    The good shall deuoure em, fleach and fell
    Ere they shall make vs weepe? wele see vm starue first, (come.
    Bast. Come hither Captaine, harke.
    2970Take thou this note, goe follow them to prison,
    And step, I haue aduanct thee, if thou dost
    As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
    To noble fortunes, know thou this that men
    Are as the time is, to be tender minded
    2975Does not become a sword, thy great imployment
    Will not beare question, either say thout do't,
    Or thriue by other meanes.
    Cap. Ile do't my Lord.
    Bast. About it, and write happy when thou hast don,
    2980Marke I say instantly, and carie it so
    As I haue set it downe.
    2981.1Cap. I cannot draw a cart, nor eate dride oats,
    If it bee mans worke ile do't.
    Enter Duke, the two Ladies, and others.
    Alb. Sir you haue shewed to day your valiant strain,
    And Fortune led you well you haue the captiues
    2985That were the opposites of this dayes strife,
    We doe require then of you, so to vse them,
    As we shall find their merits, and our safty
    May equally determine.
    Bast. Sir I thought it fit,
    2990To send the old and miserable King to some retention, and ap-(pointed guard,
    Whose age has charmes in it, whose title more
    To pluck the coren bossom of his side,
    And turne our imprest launces in our eyes
    Which doe commaund them, with him I sent the queen
    2995My reason, all the same and they are readie to morrow,
    Or at further space, to appeare where you shall hold
    Your session at this time, mee sweat and bleed,
    2997.1The friend hath lost his friend, and the best quarrels
    In the heat are curst, by those that feele their sharpes,
    The question of Cordelia and her father
    Requires a fitter place.
    Alb. Sir by your patience,
    I hold you but a subiect of this warre, 3000not as a brother.
    Reg. That's as we list to grace him,
    Me thinkes our pleasure should haue beene demanded
    Ere you had spoke so farre, he led our powers,
    Bore the commission of my place and person,
    3005The which imediate may well stand vp,
    And call it selfe your brother.
    Gono. Not so hot, in his owne grace hee doth exalt himselfe
    more then in your aduancement.
    3010Reg. In my right by me inuested he com-peers the best.
    Gon. That were the most, if hee should husband you.
    Reg. Iesters doe oft proue Prophets.
    Gon. Hola, hola, 3015that eye that told you so, lookt but a squint.
    Reg. Lady I am not well, els I should answere
    From a full flowing stomack, Generall
    Take thou my souldiers, prisoners, patrimonie,
    3020Witnes the world that I create thee here
    My Lord and maister.
    Gon. Meane you to inioy him then?
    Alb. The let alone lies not in your good will.
    Bast. Nor in thine Lord.
    3025Alb. Halfe blouded fellow, yes.
    Bast. Let the drum strike, and proue my title good.
    Alb. Stay yet, heare reason, Edmund I arrest thee
    On capitall treason, and in thine attaint,
    This gilded Serpent, for your claime faire sister
    3030I bare it in the interest of my wife.
    Tis she is subcontracted to this Lord
    And I her husband contradict the banes,
    If you will mary, make your loue to me,
    My Lady is bespoke, thou art arm'd Gloster,
    If none appeare to proue vpon thy head,
    Thy hainous, manifest, and many treasons,
    3040There is my pledge, ile proue it on thy heart
    Ere I tast bread, thou art in nothing lesse
    Then I haue here proclaimd thee.
    Reg. Sicke, ô sicke.
    Gon. If not, ile ne're trust poyson.
    3045Bast. Ther's my exchange, what in the world he is,
    That names me traytor, villain-like he lies,
    Call by thy trumpet, he that dares approach,
    On him, on you, who not, I will maintaine
    My truth and honour firmely.
    Alb. A Herald ho. Bast. A Herald ho, a Herald.
    Alb. Trust to thy single vertue, for thy souldiers
    All leuied in my name, haue in my name tooke their(discharge.
    3055Reg. This sicknes growes vpon me.
    Alb. She is not well, conuey her to my tent,
    Come hether Herald, let the trumpet sound,
    And read out this. Cap. Sound trumpet?
    3060Her. If any man of qualitie or degree, in the hoast of the
    army, will maintaine vpon Edmund supposed Earle of Gloster,
    that he's a manifold traitour, let him appeare at the third sound
    of the trumpet, he is bold in his defence.
    Bast. Sound? Againe?
    Enter Edgar at the third sound, a trumpet before him.
    Alb. Aske him his purposes why he appeares
    Vpon this call oth' trumpet.
    3070Her. What are you? your name and qualitie?
    And why you answere this present summons.
    Edg. O know my name is lost by treasons tooth.
    Bare-gnawne and canker-bitte; 3075yet are I mou't
    Where is the aduersarie I come to cope with all.
    Alb. Which is that aduersarie?
    Edg. What's he that speakes for Edmund Earle of ( Gloster,
    Bast. Him selfe, what saiest thou to him?
    3080Edg. Draw thy sword.
    That if my speech offend a noble hart, thy arme
    May do thee Iustice, here is mine.
    Behold it is the priuiledge of my tongue,
    3085My oath and my profession, I protest,
    Maugure thy strength, youth, place and eminence,
    Despight thy victor, sword and fire new fortun'd,
    Thy valor and thy heart thou art a traytor.
    False to thy Gods thy brother and thy Father,
    3090Conspicuate gainst this high illustrious prince,
    And from the'xtreamest vpward of thy head,
    To the descent and dust beneath thy feet,
    A most toad-spotted traytor say thou no
    This sword, this arme, and my best spirits,
    As bent 3095to proue vpon thy heart whereto I speake thou liest,
    Bast. In wisdome I sholud aske thy name,
    But since thy outside lookes so faire and warlike,
    And that thy being some say of breeding breathes,
    By right of knighthood, I disdaine and spurne
    Heere do I tosse those treasons to thy head.
    With the hell hatedly, oreturnd thy heart,
    Which for they yet glance by and scarcely bruse,
    3105This sword of mine shall giue them instant way
    Where they shall rest for euer, trumpets speake.
    Alb. Saue him, saue him,
    Gon. This is meere practise Gloster by the law of armes
    Thou art not bound to answere 3110an vnknowne opposite,
    Thou art not vanquisht, but cousned and beguild,
    Alb. Stop your mouth dame, or with this paper shall I stople
    it, thou worse then any thing, reade thine owne euill, nay 3115no
    tearing Lady, I perceiue you know't.
    Gon. Say if I do, the lawes are mine not thine, who shal arraine(me for't.
    Alb. Most monstrous know'st thou this paper?
    Gon. Aske me not what I know. Exit. Gonorill.
    3120Alb. Go after her, shee's desperate, gouerne her.
    Bast. What you haue chargd me with, that haue I don
    And more, much more, the time will bring it out.
    Tis past, and so am I, but what art thou
    3125That hast this fortune on me? if thou bee'st noble
    I do forgiue thee.
    Edg. Let's exchange charity,
    I am no lesse in bloud then thou art Edmond,
    If more, the more thou hast wrongd me.
    3130My name is Edgar, and thy fathers sonne,
    The Gods are iust, and of our pleasant vertues.
    Make instruments to scourge vs the darke and vitious
    Place where thee he gotte, cost him his eies.
    3135Bast. Thou hast spoken truth, the wheele is come
    full circled I am heere.
    Alb. Me thought thy very gate did prophecie,
    A royall noblenesse I must embrace thee.
    Let sorow split my heart if I 3140did euer hate thee or thy father.
    Edg. Worthy Prince I know't.
    Alb. Where haue you hid your selfe?
    How haue you knowne the miseries of your father?
    Edg. By nursing them my Lord,
    List a briefe tale, 3145and when tis told
    3145.1O that my heart would burst the bloudy proclamation
    To escape that followed me so neere,
    O our liues sweetnes, that with the paine of death,
    Would hourly die, rather then die at once.
    Taught me to shift 3150into a mad-mans rags
    To assume a semblance that very dogges disdain'd
    And in this habit met I my father with his bleeding rings,
    The precious stones new lost became his guide,
    Led him, beg'd for him, sau'd him from dispaire,
    3155Neuer (O Father) reueald my selfe vnto him,
    Vntill some halfe houre past, when I was armed,
    Not sure, though, hoping of this good successe,
    I askt his blessing, and from first to last,
    Told him my pilgrimage, but his flawd heart,
    3160Alacke too weake, the conflict to support,
    Twixt two extreames of passion, ioy and griefe,
    Burst smillingly.
    Bast. This speech of yours hath moued me,
    And shall perchance do good, but speake you on,
    3165You looke as you had something more to say,
    Alb. If there be more, more wofull, hold it in,
    For I am almost ready to dissolue, hearing of this,
    3168.1Edg. This would haue seemd a periode to such
    As loue not sorow, but another to amplifie too much,
    Would make much more, and top extreamitie
    Whil'st I was big in clamor, came there in a man,
    3168.5Who hauing seene me in my worst estate,
    Shund my abhord society, but then finding
    Who twas that so indur'd with his strong armes
    He fastened on my necke and bellowed out,
    As hee'd burst heauen, threw me on my father,
    3168.10Told the most pitious tale of Lear and him,
    That euer eare receiued, which in recounting
    His griefe grew puissant and the strings of life,
    Began to cracke twice, then the trumpets sounded.
    And there I left him traunst.
    3168.15Alb. But who was this.
    Ed. Kent sir, the banisht Kent, who in diguise,
    Followed his enemie king and did him seruice
    Improper for a slaue.
    Enter one with a bloudie knife,
    3170Gent. Helpe, helpe,
    Alb. What kind of helpe, what meanes that bloudy(knife?
    Gent. Its hot it smokes, it came euen from the heart 3175of -
    Alb. Who man, speake?
    Gent. Your Lady sir, your Lady, and her sister
    By her is poysoned, she hath confest it.
    Bast. I was contracted to them both, all three
    3180Now marie in an instant.
    Alb. Produce their bodies, be they aliue or dead,
    3185This Iustice of the heauens that makes vs tremble,
    Touches vs not with pity. Edg. Here comes Kent sir.
    Alb. O tis he, the time will not allow Enter Kent
    The complement that very manners vrges.
    Kent. I am come 3190to bid my King and maister ay good night,
    Is he not here?
    Duke. Great thing of vs forgot,
    Speake Edmund, whers the king, and whers Cordelia
    Seest thou this obiect Kent. The bodies of Gonorill and Regan are brought in.
    3195Kent. Alack why thus.
    Bast. Yet Edmund was beloued,
    The one the other poysoned for my sake,
    And after slue her selfe. Duke. Euen so, couer their faces.
    3200Bast. I pant for life, some good I meane to do,
    Despight of my owne nature, quickly send,
    Be briefe, int toth' castle for my writ,
    Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia,
    Nay send in time.3205 Duke. Runne, runne, O runne.
    Edg. To who my Lord, who hath the office, send
    Thy token of repreeue.
    Bast. Well thought on, take my sword the Captaine,
    Giue it the Captaine? 3210 Duke. Hast thee for thy life.
    Bast. He hath Commission from thy wife and me,
    To hang Cordelia in the prison, and to lay
    The blame vpon her owne despaire,
    That she fordid her selfe.
    3215Duke. The Gods defend her, beare him hence a while.
    Enter Lear with Cordelia in his armes.
    Lear. Howle, howle, howle, howle, O you are men of stones,
    Had I your tongues and eyes, I would vse them so,
    That heauens vault should cracke, shees gone for euer,
    3220I know when one is dead and when one liues,
    Shees dead as earth, lend me a looking glasse,
    If that her breath will mist or staine the stone,
    Why then she liues. Kent. Is this the promist end.
    3225Edg. Or image of that horror. Duke. Fall and cease.
    Lear. This feather stirs she liues, if it be so,
    It is a chance which do's redeeme all sorowes
    That euer I haue felt. Kent. A my good maister.
    Lear. Prethe away? Edg. Tis noble Kent your friend.
    Lear. A plague vpon your murderous traytors all,
    I might haue saued her, now shees gone for euer,
    3235Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little, ha,
    What ist thou sayest, her voyce was euer soft,
    Gentle and low, an excellent thing in women,
    I kild the slaue that was a hanging thee.
    Cap. Tis true my Lords, he did.
    3240Lear. Did I not fellow? I haue seene the day,
    With my good biting Fauchon I would
    Haue made them skippe, I am old now,
    And these same crosses spoyle me, who are you?
    Mine eyes are not othe best, ile tell you straight.
    3245Kent. If Fortune bragd of two she loued or hated,
    One of them we behold. Lear. Are not you Kent?
    Kent. The same your seruant Kent, where is your seruant Caius,
    3250Lear. Hees a good fellow, I can tell that,
    Heele strike and quickly too, hees dead and rotten.
    Kent. No my good Lord, I am the very man.
    Lear. Ile see that straight.
    Kent. That from your life of difference and decay,
    3255Haue followed your sad steps. Lear. You'r welcome hither.
    Kent. Nor no man else, als chearles, darke and deadly,
    Your eldest daughters haue foredoome themselues,
    3260And desperatly are dead. Lear. So thinke I to.
    Duke. He knowes not what he sees, and vaine it is,
    That we present vs to him. 3265 Edg. Very bootlesse. Enter Captaine.
    Capt. Edmund is dead my Lord.
    Duke. Thats but a trifle heere, you Lords and noble friends,
    Know our intent, what comfort to this decay may come, 3270shall be
    applied: for vs we wil resigne during the life of this old maiesty,
    to him our absolute power, you to your rights with boote, and
    such addition as your honor haue more then merited, all friends
    shall 3275tast the wages of their vertue, and al foes the cup of their de-
    seruings, O see, see.
    Lear. And my poore foole is hangd, no, no life, why should a
    dog, a horse, a rat of life and thou no breath at all, O thou wilt
    come no more, 3280neuer, neuer, neuer, pray you vndo this button,
    thanke you sir, O, o, o, o. Edg. He faints my Lord, my Lord.
    3285Lear. Breake hart, I prethe breake. Edgar. Look vp my Lord.
    Kent. Vex not his ghost, O let him passe,
    He hates him that would vpon the wracke,
    Of this tough world stretch him out longer.
    3290Edg. O he is gone indeed.
    Kent. The wonder is, he hath endured so long,
    He but vsurpt his life.
    Duke. Beare them from hence, our present busines
    Is to generall woe, friends of my soule, you twaine
    3295Rule in this kingdome, and the goard state sustaine.
    Kent. I haue a iourney sir, shortly to go,
    My maister cals, and I must not say no.
    Duke. The waight of this sad time we must obey,
    Speake what we feele, not what we ought to say,
    3300The oldest haue borne most, we that are yong,
    Shall neuer see so much, nor liue so long.