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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    Not Peer Reviewed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 24]
    Enter [the Bastard] Edmund, with Lear and Cordelia prisoners, [a captain, and soldiers].
    Some officers take them away. Good guard,
    Until their greater pleasures best be known
    That are to censure them.
    We are not the first
    Who, with best meaning, have incurred the worst.
    2945For thee, oppressèd king am I cast down;
    Myself could else out-frown false fortune's frown.
    Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
    No, no. Come, let's away to prison.
    We two alone will sing like birds i'th'cage.
    2950When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down
    And ask of thee forgiveness; so we'll live,
    And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
    At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
    Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too--
    2955Who loses and who wins, who's in, who's out,
    And take upon's the mystery of things
    As if we were gods' spies; and we'll wear out,
    In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
    That ebb and flow by th'moon.
    [To soldiers] Take them away.
    Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
    The gods themselves throw incense.
    [Embracing Cordelia]
    Have I caught thee?
    He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
    2965And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.
    The goodyears shall devour 'em, flesh and fell,
    Ere they shall make us weep. We'll see 'em starve first.
    [Exeunt Lear and Cordelia, guarded.]
    Come hither captain, hark. [Handing him a paper]
    2970Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison.
    One step I have advanced 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 employment
    Will not bear question. Either say thou'lt do't,
    Or thrive by other means.
    1 Captain
    I'll do't, my lord.
    About it, and write "happy" when thou hast done.
    2980Mark--I say instantly, and carry it so
    As I have set it down.
    2981.11 Captain
    I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats.
    If it be man's work I'll do't.
    [Exit the captain.]
    Enter [the] Duke [of Albany], the two ladies [Goneril and Regan], and others.
    [To the Bastard] Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain,
    And fortune led you well. You have the captives
    2985That were the opposites of this day's strife.
    We do require them of you, so to use them
    As we shall find their merits and our safety
    May equally determine.
    Sir, I thought it fit
    2990To send the old and miserable King
    To some retention and appointed guard;
    Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
    To pluck the common bosom on his side,
    And turn our impressèd lances in our eyes
    Which do command them. With him I sent the Queen--
    2995My reason all the same--and they are ready tomorrow,
    Or at further space, to appear where you shall hold
    Your session. 2997.1At this time we sweat and bleed.
    The friend hath lost his friend, and the best quarrels
    In the heat are cursed by those that feel their sharpness.
    The question of Cordelia and her father
    Requires a fitter place.
    Sir, by your patience,
    I hold you but a subject of this war,
    3000Not as a brother.
    That's as we list to grace him.
    Methinks our pleasure should have been demanded
    Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
    Bore the commission of my place and person,
    3005The which immediate may well stand up
    And call itself your brother.
    Not so hot.
    In his own grace he doth exalt himself
    More than in your advancement.
    In my right,
    By me invested, he compeers the best.
    That were the most, if he should husband you.
    Jesters do oft prove prophets.
    Hola, hola!
    3015That eye that told you so looked but asquint.
    Lady, I am not well, else I should answer
    From a full-flowing stomach. [To the Bastard] General,
    Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
    3020Witness the world that I create thee here
    My lord and master.
    Mean you to enjoy him then?
    The let-alone lies not in your good will.
    Nor in thine, lord.
    Half-blooded fellow, yes.
    Let the drum strike, and prove my title good.
    Stay yet, hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
    On capital treason, and in thine attaint
    [Indicating Goneril] This gilded serpent. [To Regan] For your claim, fair sister,
    3030I bar it in the interest of my wife.
    'Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
    And I, her husband, contradict the banns.
    If you will marry, make your love to me--
    My lady is bespoke. Thou art armed, Gloucester.
    If none appear to prove upon thy head
    Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
    [Throwing down a glove]
    3040There is my pledge. I'll prove it on thy heart,
    Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
    Than I have here proclaimed thee.
    Sick, oh sick.
    [Aside] If not, I'll ne'er trust poison.
    [Throwing down a glove] There's my exchange. What in the world he is
    That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
    Call by thy trumpet. He that dares approach,
    On him, on you--who not?--I will maintain
    My truth and honor firmly.
    A herald, ho!
    A herald, ho, a herald!
    3050[Enter a herald.]
    [To the Bastard] Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers,
    All levied in my name, have in my name
    Took their discharge.
    This sickness grows upon me.
    She is not well. Convey her to my tent.
    [Exit Regan, supported.]
    Come hither herald. Let the trumpet sound,
    And read out this.
    3058.12 Captain
    Sound trumpet!
    [Trumpet sounds]
    "If any man of quality or degree, in the host of the army, will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he's a manifold traitor, let him appear at the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his defense."
    [Trumpet sounds]
    [Trumpet sounds]
    Enter Edgar at the third sound, a trumpeter before him.
    Ask him his purposes; why he appears
    Upon this call o'th'trumpet.
    What are you? Your name and quality,
    And why you answer this present summons.
    Oh, know my name is lost, by treason's tooth
    Bare-gnawn and canker-bit. 3075Yet, ere I move't,
    Where is the adversary I come
    To cope withal?
    Which is that adversary?
    What's he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of Gloucester?
    Himself. What sayest thou to him?
    Draw thy sword,
    That if my speech offend a noble heart
    Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
    [Draws his sword.]
    Behold. It is the privilege of my tongue,
    3085My oath, and my profession. I protest,
    Maugre thy strength, youth, place and eminence,
    Despite thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
    Thy valor and thy heart--thou art a traitor,
    False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
    3090Conspirant 'gainst this high, illustrious prince,
    And from th'extremest upward of thy head
    To the descent and dust beneath thy feet
    A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou no,
    This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
    3095To prove upon thy heart whereto I speak
    Thou liest.
    In wisdom I should ask thy name,
    But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
    And that thy being some say of breeding breathes,
    My right of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
    Here do I toss those treasons to thy head,
    With the hell-hated lie o'erturn thy heart,
    Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
    3105This sword of mine shall give them instant way
    Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!
    [Trumpet sounds. They fight, and the Bastard is wounded.]
    [To Edgar] Save him, save him.
    This is mere practice, Gloucester.
    By the law of arms thou art not bound to answer
    3110An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
    But cozened and beguiled.
    Stop your mouth, dame,
    Or with this paper shall I stopple it.
    [Giving her the letter] Thou worse than anything, read thine own evil.
    3115Nay, no tearing, lady, I perceive you know't.
    Say if I do, the laws are mine not thine.
    Who shall arraign me for't?
    Most monstrous! [To Goneril] Know'st thou this paper?
    Ask me not what I know.
    Exit Goneril.
    [To an attendant] Go after her. She's desperate--govern her.
    [Exit attendant.]
    What you have charged me with, that have I done,
    And more, much more. The time will bring it out.
    'Tis past, and so am I. [To Edgar] But what art thou
    3125That hast this fortune on me? If thou beest noble,
    I do forgive thee.
    Let's exchange charity.
    I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
    If more, the more thou hast wronged me.
    3130My name is Edgar, and thy father's son.
    The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
    Make instruments to scourge us. The dark and vicious
    Place where thee he got cost him his eyes.
    Thou hast spoken truth. The wheel is come
    Full circle; I am here.
    [To Edgar] Methought thy very gait did prophesy,
    A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
    Let sorrow split my heart if I 3140did ever
    Hate thee or thy father.
    Worthy prince, I know't.
    Where have you hid yourself?
    How have you known the miseries of your father?
    By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
    3145And when 'tis told, 3145.1oh, that my heart would burst.
    The bloody proclamation to escape,
    That followed me so near--oh, our lives' sweetness,
    That we the pain of death would hourly die
    Rather than die at once--taught me to shift
    3150Into a madman's rags, to assume a semblance
    That very dogs disdained; and in this habit
    Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
    The precious stones new lost; became his guide,
    Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair.
    3155Never--O father!--revealed myself unto him
    Until some half hour past when I was armed.
    Not sure, though hoping of this good success,
    I asked his blessing, and from first to last
    Told him my pilgrimage. But his flawed heart,
    3160Alack, too weak the conflict to support,
    'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
    Burst smilingly.
    This speech of yours hath moved me,
    And shall perchance do good; but speak you on,
    3165You look as you had something more to say.
    If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
    For I am almost ready to dissolve,
    Hearing of this.
    This would have seemed a period to such
    As love not sorrow, but another to amplify too much
    Would make much more and top extremity.
    Whilst I was big in clamor, came there in a man
    3168.5Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
    Shunned my abhorred society; but then finding
    Who 'twas that so endured, with his strong arms
    He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
    As he'd burst heaven, threw him on my father,
    3168.10Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
    That ever ear received, which in recounting
    His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
    Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
    And there I left him tranced.
    But who was this?
    Kent sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise,
    Followed his enemy king and did him service
    Improper for a slave.
    Enter one with a bloody knife.
    Help, help!
    What kind of help? What means that bloody knife?
    It's hot, it smokes. It came even from the heart 3175of--
    Who, man? Speak!
    Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister
    By her is poisoned. She hath confessed it.
    I was contracted to them both. All three
    3180Now marry in an instant.
    Produce their bodies, be they alive or dead.
    [Exit Gentleman.]
    3185This justice of the heavens that makes us tremble
    Touches us not with pity.
    Here comes Kent, sir.
    Enter Kent [as himself].
    Oh, 'tis he. The time will not allow
    The compliment that very manners urges.
    I am come 3190to bid my king and master aye good night.
    Is he not here?
    Great thing of us forgot.
    Speak, Edmund, where's the King, and where's Cordelia?
    Seest thou this object, Kent?
    The bodies of Goneril and Regan are brought in.
    Alack, why thus?
    Yet Edmund was beloved.
    The one the other poisoned for my sake,
    And after slew herself.
    Even so. Cover their faces.
    I pant for life. Some good I mean to do
    Despite of my own nature. Quickly send--
    Be brief in't--to th'castle, for my writ
    Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
    Nay, send in time.
    Run, run, Oh run!
    To who my lord? Who hath the office? [To the Bastard] Send
    Thy token of reprieve.
    Well thought on. Take my sword. The Captain,
    Give it the Captain.
    Haste thee for thy life.
    [Exit 2 Captain.]
    He hath commission from thy wife and me
    To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
    To lay the blame upon her own despair
    That she fordid herself.
    The gods defend her. Bear him hence awhile.
    [The Bastard is carried off.]
    Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms, [followed by the 2 Captain].
    Howl, howl, howl, howl! Oh, you are men of stones.
    Had I your tongues and eyes I would use them so,
    That heaven's vault should crack. She's gone for ever.
    3220I know when one is dead and when one lives;
    She's dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass.
    If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
    Why then she lives.
    Is this the promised end?
    Or image of that horror?
    Fall and cease.
    This feather stirs--she lives. If it be so,
    It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
    That ever I have felt.
    Ah, my good master.
    Prithee, away.
    'Tis noble Kent, your friend.
    A plague upon you, murderous traitors all.
    I might have saved her. Now she's gone for ever.
    3235Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha?
    What is't thou sayest? Her voice was ever soft,
    Gentle and low, an excellent thing in women.
    I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.
    2 Captain
    'Tis true, my lords, he did.
    Did I not, fellow?
    I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
    I would have made them skip. I am old now,
    And these same crosses spoil me. [To Kent] Who are you?
    Mine eyes are not o'the best, I'll tell you straight.
    If fortune bragged of two she loved or hated,
    One of them we behold.
    Are not you Kent?
    The same; your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
    He's a good fellow, I can tell that.
    He'll strike, and quickly too. He's dead and rotten.
    No, my good lord, I am the very man--
    I'll see that straight.
    That from your life of difference and decay
    3255Have followed your sad steps.
    You're welcome hither.
    Nor no man else. All's cheerless, dark, and deadly.
    Your eldest daughters have foredone themselves
    3260And desperately are dead.
    So think I too.
    He knows not what he sees, and vain it is
    That we present us to him.
    Very bootless.
    Enter [3] Captain.
    3 Captain
    Edmund is dead, my lord.
    That's but a trifle here.
    You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
    What comfort to this decay may come
    3270Shall be applied. For us, we will resign
    During the life of this old majesty
    To him our absolute power. [To Edgar and Kent] You to your rights
    With boot, and such addition as your honors
    Have more than merited. All friends shall
    3275Taste the wages of their virtue, and all foes
    The cup of their deservings. Oh, see, see!
    And my poor fool is hanged. No, no life.
    Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life
    And thou no breath at all? Oh, thou wilt come no more.
    3280Never, never, never.
    Pray you, undo this button. Thank you sir.
    O, o, o, o.
    He faints. My lord, my lord!
    Break heart, I prithee break.
    [He dies.]
    Look up, my lord.
    Vex not his ghost. O let him pass. He hates him
    That would upon the rack of this tough world
    Stretch him out longer.
    Oh, he is gone indeed.
    The wonder is he hath endured so long;
    He but usurped his life.
    Bear them from hence. Our present business
    Is to general woe. [To Kent and Edgar] Friends of my soul, you twain
    3295Rule in this kingdom, and the gored state sustain.
    I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
    My master calls, and I must not say no.
    The weight of this sad time we must obey,
    Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
    3300The oldest have borne most; we that are young
    Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
    [Exeunt with a dead march, bearing the bodies.]