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About this text

  • Title: King Lear (Modern, Quarto)
  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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 (Modern, Quarto)

    [Scene 20]
    2430Enter Gloucester and Edgar [dressed like a peasant].
    When shall we come to th'top of that same hill?
    You do climb it up now. Look how we labor.
    Methinks the ground is even.
    Horrible steep. 2435Hark, do you hear the sea?
    No, truly.
    Why, then your other senses grow imperfect
    By your eyes' anguish.
    So may it be, indeed.
    2440Methinks thy voice is altered, and thou speakest
    With better phrase and matter than thou didst.
    Y'are much deceived. In nothing am I changed
    But in my garments.
    Methinks y'are better spoken.
    Come on sir, here's the place. Stand still. How fearful
    And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low.
    The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
    Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half way down
    2450Hangs one that gathers samphire--dreadful trade.
    Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
    The fishermen that walk upon the beach
    Appear like mice, and yon tall anchoring bark
    Diminished to her cock, her cock a buoy
    2455Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
    That on the unnumbered idle pebble chafes
    Cannot be heard. It's so high I'll look no more
    Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
    Topple down headlong.
    Set me where you stand.
    Give me your hand. You are now within a foot
    Of th'extreme verge. For all beneath the moon
    Would I not leap upright.
    Let go my hand.
    2465Here, friend, 's another purse; in it a jewel
    Well worth a poor man's taking. Fairies and gods
    Prosper it with thee. Go thou farther off.
    Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
    [Pretending to leave] Now fare you well, good sir.
    With all my heart.
    [Aside] Why I do trifle thus with his despair
    Is done to cure it.
    O you mighty gods--
    He kneels.
    This world I do renounce, and in your sights
    2475Shake patiently my great affliction off.
    If I could bear it longer, and not fall
    To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
    My snuff and loathèd part of nature should
    Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O bless him.
    2480Now, fellow, fare thee well.
    He falls [forward].
    Gone, sir; farewell.
    [Aside] And yet I know not how conceit may rob
    The treasury of life, when life itself
    Yields to the theft. Had he been where he thought,
    2485By this had thought been past. Alive or dead?
    [Aloud] Ho, you sir. Hear you sir? Speak.
    [Aside] Thus might he pass indeed. Yet he revives.
    [Aloud] What are you, sir?
    Away, and let me die.
    Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
    So many fathom down precipitating,
    Thou hadst shivered like an egg. But thou dost breathe,
    Hast heavy substance, bleed'st not, speakest, art sound.
    2495Ten masts at each make not the altitude
    Which thou hast perpendicularly fell.
    Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again.
    But have I fallen or no?
    From the dread summit of this chalky bourn,
    2500Look up a height. The shrill-gorged lark so far
    Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.
    Alack, I have no eyes.
    Is wretchedness deprived that benefit
    To end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort
    2505When misery could beguile the tyrant's rage
    And frustrate his proud will.
    Give me your arm.
    Up, so. How is't? Feel you your legs? You stand.
    Too well, too well.
    This is above all strangeness.
    Upon the crown of the cliff, what thing was that
    Which parted from you?
    A poor unfortunate beggar.
    As I stood here below, methought his eyes
    2515Were two full moons. 'A had a thousand noses,
    Horns, whelked and waved like the enridgèd sea.
    It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father,
    Think that the clearest gods, who made their honors
    Of men's impossibilities, have preserved thee.
    I do remember now. Henceforth I'll bear
    Affliction till it do cry out itself
    "Enough, enough," and die. That thing you speak of,
    I took it for a man. Often would it say
    "The fiend, the fiend." He led me to that place.
    Bear free and patient thoughts. But who comes here?
    Enter Lear mad, [crowned with weeds and flowers].
    The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
    His master thus.
    No, they cannot touch me for coining. I am the King himself.
    Oh, thou side-piercing sight!
    Nature is above art in that respect. There's your press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a 2535crow-keeper. Draw me a clothier's yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace. This toasted cheese will do it. There's my gauntlet; I'll prove it on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. Oh, well flown, bird, in the air, ha! Give the word.
    Sweet marjoram.
    I know that voice.
    Ha, Goneril! Ha, Regan! They flattered me like a dog and told me I had white hairs in 2545my beard ere the black ones were there. To say "ay" and "no" to everything I said "ay" and "no" to was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would not peace at my bidding--there I found them, there I smelt them 2550out. Go to, they are not men of their words; they told me I was everything. 'Tis a lie. I am not ague-proof.
    The trick of that voice I do well remember.
    Is't not the King?
    Ay, every inch a king.
    2555When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
    I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
    Adultery? Thou shalt not die for adultery.
    No, the wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
    Does lecher in my sight. Let copulation thrive,
    2560For Gloucester's bastard son was kinder to his father
    Than my daughters got 'tween the lawful sheets.
    To't luxury, pell-mell, for I lack soldiers.
    Behold yon simp'ring dame,
    Whose face between her forks presageth snow,
    That minces virtue, and does shake 2565the head
    To hear of pleasure's name. The fitchew, nor
    The soilèd horse goes to't with a more riotous
    Appetite. Down from the waist th'are centaurs,
    Though women all above. But to the girdle
    Do the gods inherit; beneath is all the fiend's.
    There's hell, there's 2570darkness, there's the sulphury pit, burning, scalding, stench, consummation. Fie, fie, fie, pah, pah! Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination. There's money for thee.
    Oh, let me kiss that hand.
    Here, wipe it first. It smells of mortality.
    O ruined piece of nature! This great world
    Should so wear out to naught. Do you know me?
    I remember thy eyes well enough. Dost thou squinny on me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid, I'll not love. Read thou that challenge; mark the penning of't.
    Were all the letters suns I could not see one.
    [Aside] I would not take this from report. It is,
    2586.1And my heart breaks at it.
    What? With the case of eyes?
    Oh ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your 2590head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you see how this world goes.
    I see it feelingly.
    What, art mad? A man may see how the world 2595goes with no eyes. Look with thy ears. See how yon justice rails upon yon simple thief? Hark in thy ear--handy-dandy, which is the thief, which is the justice? Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar?
    Ay, sir.
    And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority: a dog's obeyed in office.
    2603.1Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand.
    Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own 2605back;
    Thy blood hotly lusts to use her in that kind
    For which thou whip'st her.
    The usurer hangs the cozener.
    Through tattered rags small vices do appear;
    Robes and furred gowns hides all. Get thee glass eyes,
    And, like a scurvy politician, seem
    To see the things thou dost not.
    No; now pull off my 2615boots. Harder, harder, so.
    [Aside] Oh, matter and impertinency mixed;
    Reason in madness.
    If thou wilt weep my fortune, take my eyes.
    I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.
    2620Thou must be patient. We came crying hither;
    Thou knowst the first time that we smell the air
    We wail and cry. I will preach to thee. Mark me.
    Alack, alack the day.
    When we are born, we cry that we are come 2625to this great stage of fools.--This' a good block. It were a delicate stratagem to shoe a troop of horse with felt, and when I have stolen upon these son-in-laws, then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
    2630Enter three gentlemen.
    [1] Gentleman
    Oh, here he is. Lay hands upon him, sirs.
    Your most dear--
    No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am e'en
    The natural fool of fortune. Use me well,
    2635You shall have ransom. Let me have a surgeon;
    I am cut to the brains.
    [1] Gentleman
    You shall have anything.
    No seconds? All myself? Why, this would make a man of salt 2640to use his eyes for garden water-pots, ay, and laying autumn's dust. I will die bravely like a bridegroom. What? I will be jovial. Come, come, I am a king, my masters, know you that?
    [1] Gentleman
    You are a royal one, and we obey you.
    Then there's life in't. Nay, an 2645you get it, you shall get it with running.
    Exit King [Lear], running, [pursued by two gentlemen].
    [1] Gentleman
    A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
    Past speaking of in a king. Thou hast one daughter
    Who redeems nature from the general curse
    Which twain hath brought her to.
    Hail, gentle sir.
    [1] Gentleman
    Sir, speed you. What's your will?
    Do you hear aught of a battle toward?
    [1] Gentleman
    Most sure and vulgar. Everyone hears that,
    That can distinguish sense.
    But, by your favor, how near's the other army?
    [1] Gentleman
    Near and on speedy foot. The main descry
    Stands on the hourly thought.
    I thank you, sir. That's all.
    2660[1] Gentleman
    Though that the queen on special cause is here,
    Her army is moved on.
    I thank you, sir.
    Exit [Gentleman].
    You ever gentle gods take my breath from me.
    Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
    2665To die before you please.
    Well pray you, father.
    Now, good sir, what are you?
    A most poor man made lame by fortune's blows,
    Who by the art of known and feeling sorrows
    2670Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand.
    I'll lead you to some biding.
    Hearty thanks.
    The bounty and benison of heaven
    Send thee boot, to boot.
    2675Enter [Oswald, the] steward.
    A proclaimed prize! Most happy.
    That eyeless head of thine was first framed flesh
    To raise my fortunes. Thou most unhappy traitor,
    Briefly thyself remember. The sword is out
    2680That must destroy thee.
    Now let thy friendly hand
    Put strength enough to't.
    [Edgar steps between them.]
    Wherefore, bold peasant,
    Durst thou support a published traitor? Hence,
    2685Lest the infection of his fortune take
    Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
    Chill not let go, sir, without 'cagion.
    Let go, slave, or thou diest.
    Good gentleman go your gait. Let poor volk pass. An 'chud have been swaggered out of my life, it would not have been so long by a vortnight. Nay come not near the old man. Keep out, che vor ye, or I'll try whether your costard or my baton be the harder. 2695I'll be plain with you.
    Out, dunghill!
    They fight.
    Chill pick your teeth, sir. Come, no matter for your foins.
    [Edgar knocks him down.]
    Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
    2700If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body,
    And give the letters which thou find'st about me
    To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out upon
    The British party. Oh, untimely death! Death.
    He dies.
    I know thee well. A serviceable villain,
    2705As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
    As badness would desire.
    What, is he dead?
    Sit you down, father; rest you.
    [Gloucester sits.]
    Let's see his pockets. These letters that he speaks of
    2710May be my friends. He's dead. I am only sorry
    He had no other deathsman. Let us see.
    Leave, gentle wax, and manners blame us not.
    To know our enemy's minds we'd rip their hearts;
    Their papers is more lawful.
    2715[Reads] a letter.
    "Let your reciprocal vows be remembered. You have many opportunities to cut him off. If your will want not, time and place will be fruitfully offered. There is nothing done if he return the conqueror, then am I the prisoner and his bed my 2720jail, from the loathed warmth whereof deliver me and supply the place for your labor.
    Your wife--so I would say--your affectionate servant, and for you her own for venture,
    Oh, indistinguished space of woman's wit!
    2725A plot upon her virtuous husband's life,
    And the exchange my brother. [To Oswald's body] Here in the sands
    Thee I'll rake up, the post unsanctified
    Of murderous lechers, and in the mature time
    With this ungracious paper strike the sight
    2730Of the death-practiced Duke. For him 'tis well
    That of thy death and business I can tell.
    The King is mad. How stiff is my vile sense
    That I stand up and have ingenious feeling
    2735Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract;
    So should my thoughts be fencèd from my griefs,
    And woes by wrong imaginations lose
    The knowledge of themselves.
    A drum afar off
    Give me your hand.
    Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum.
    Come father, I'll bestow you with a friend.
    Exeunt, [dragging off the body].