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  • Title: King Lear (Adapted by Nahum Tate) (Modern)
  • Author: Nahum Tate
  • Editor: Lynne Bradley

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: Nahum Tate
    Editor: Lynne Bradley
    Not Peer Reviewed

    King Lear (Adapted by Nahum Tate) (Modern)

    ACT I
    Enter Bastard alone.
    Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
    30My services are bound. Why am I then
    Depriv'd of a son's right because I came not
    In the dull road that custom has prescribed?
    Why bastard, wherefore base, when I can boast
    A mind as generous and a shape as true
    35As honest madam's issue? Why are we
    Held base, who in the lusty stealth of nature
    Take fiercer qualities than what compound
    The scanted births of the stale marriage-bed?
    Well then, legitimate Edgar, to thy right
    40Of law I will oppose a bastard's cunning.
    Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
    As to legitimate Edgar. With success
    I've practiced yet on both their easy natures.
    Here comes the old man chafed with the information
    45Which last I forged against my brother Edgar:
    A tale so plausible, so boldly uttered
    And heightened by such lucky accidents
    That now the slightest circumstance confirms him,
    And base-born Edmund spite of law inherits.
    50Enter Kent and Gloster.
    Nay, good my lord, your charity
    O'reshoots itself to plead in his behalf.
    You are yourself a father, and may feel
    The sting of disobedience from a son
    55First-born and best beloved. Oh, villain Edgar!
    Be not too rash, all may be forgery,
    And time yet clear the duty of your son.
    Plead with the seas, and reason down the winds,
    Yet shalt thou never convince me. I have seen
    60His foul designs through all a father's fondness.
    But be this light and thou my witnesses
    That I discard him here from my possessions,
    Divorce him from my heart, my blood and name.
    It works as I could wish. I'll show myself.
    Ha Edmund! Welcome, boy. O Kent, see here
    Inverted nature, Gloster's shame and glory.
    This by-born, the wild sally of my youth,
    Pursues me with all filial offices,
    Whilst Edgar, begged of heaven and born in honor,
    70Draws plagues on my white head that urge me still
    To curse in age the pleasure of my youth.
    Nay weep not, Edmund, for thy brother's crimes.
    O generous boy, thou shar'st but half his blood,
    Yet lov'st beyond the kindness of a brother.
    75But I'll reward thy virtue. Follow me.
    My Lord, you wait the king who comes resolved
    To quit the toils of empire, and divide
    His realms amongst his daughters. Heaven succeed it,
    But much I fear the change.
    I grieve to see him
    With such wild starts of passion hourly seized,
    As renders majesty beneath itself.
    Alas! 'Tis the infirmity of his age.
    Yet has his temper ever been unfixed,
    85Choleric and sudden. Hark, they approach.
    Exeunt Gloster and Bastard.
    Flourish. Enter Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Burgundy, Edgar, Gonerill, Regan, Cordelia. Edgar speaking to Cordelia at entrance.
    Cordelia, royal fair, turn yet once more,
    And ere successful Burgundy receive
    90The treasure of thy beauties from the king,
    Ere happy Burgundy forever fold thee,
    Cast back one pitying look on wretched Edgar.
    Alas, what would the wretched Edgar with
    The more unfortunate Cordelia
    95Who in obedience to a father's will
    Flies from her Edgar's arms to Burgundy's?
    Attend my lords of Albany and Cornwall
    With princely Burgundy.
    We do, my liege.
    Give me the map. Know, lords, we have divided
    In three our kingdom, having now resolved
    To disengage from our long toil of state,
    Conferring all upon your younger years.
    You, Burgundy, Cornwall and Albany,
    105Long in our court have made your amorous sojourn
    And now are to be answered. Tell me, my daughters,
    Which of you loves us most, that we may place
    Our largest bounty with the largest merit.
    Gonerill, our eldest-born, speak first.
    Sir, I do love you more than words can utter,
    Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
    Nor liberty, nor sight, health, fame, or beauty
    Are half so dear; my life for you were vile;
    As much as child can love the best of fathers.
    Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
    With shady forests and wide-skirted meads,
    We make thee lady. To thine and Albany's issue
    Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter?
    My sister, sir, in part expressed my love,
    120For such as hers, is mine, though more extended.
    Sense has no other joy that I can relish;
    I have my all in my dear liege's love!
    Therefore to thee and thine hereditary
    Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom.
    Now comes my trial. How am I distressed,
    That must with cold speech tempt the choleric king
    Rather to leave me dowerless, than condemn me
    To loathed embraces!
    Speak now our last, not least in our dear love--
    So ends my task of state--Cordelia speak.
    What canst thou say to win a richer third
    Than what thy sisters gained?
    Now must my love in words fall short of theirs
    135As much as it exceeds in truth. Nothing, my lord.
    Nothing can come of nothing; speak again.
    Unhappy am I that I can't dissemble,
    Sir, as I ought, I love your majesty;
    No more nor less.
    Take heed, Cordelia,
    Thy fortunes are at stake. Think better on it
    And mend thy speech a little.
    O my liege,
    You gave me being, bred me, dearly love me,
    145And I return my duty as I ought:
    Obey you, love you, and most honor you!
    Why have my sisters husbands, if they love you all?
    Haply when I shall wed, the lord whose hand
    Shall take my plight will carry half my love;
    150For I shall never marry, like my sisters,
    To love my father all.
    And goes thy heart with this?
    'Tis said that I am choleric. Judge me, gods,
    Is there not cause? Now, minion, I perceive
    155The truth of what has been suggested to us,
    Thy fondness for the rebel son of Gloster,
    False to his father, as thou art to my hopes.
    And, oh take heed, rash girl, lest we comply
    With thy fond wishes, which thou wilt too late
    160Repent, for know our nature cannot brook
    A child so young and so ungentle.
    So young, my lord, and true.
    Thy truth then be thy dower,
    For by the sacred sun and solemn night
    165I here disclaim all my paternal care,
    And from this minute hold thee as a stranger
    Both to my blood and favor.
    This is frenzy.
    Consider, good my liege --
    Peace, Kent.
    Come not between a dragon and his rage.
    I loved her most, and in her tender trust
    Designed to have bestowed my age at ease!
    So be my grave my peace as here I give
    175My heart from her, and with it all my wealth.
    My lords of Cornwall and of Albany,
    I do invest you jointly with full right
    In this fair third, Cordelia's forfeit dower.
    Mark me, my lords, observe our last resolve:
    180Our self attended with an hundred knights,
    Will make abode with you in monthly course.
    The name alone of King remain with me,
    Yours be the execution and revenues.
    This is our final will, and to confirm it
    185This coronet part between you.
    Royal Lear,
    Whom I have ever honored as my king,
    Loved as my father, as my master followed,
    And as my patron thought on in my prayers --
    Away, the bow is bent, make from the shaft.
    No, let it fall and drench within my heart.
    Be Kent unmannerly when Lear is mad.
    Thy youngest daughter --
    On thy life, no more.
    What wilt thou do, old man?
    Out of my sight!
    See better first.
    Now by the gods --
    Now by the gods, rash king, thou swear'st in vain.
    Ha, traitor --
    Do, kill thy physician, Lear.
    Strike through my throat, yet with my latest breath
    I'll thunder in thine ear my just complaint,
    And tell thee to thy face that thou dost ill.
    Hear me, rash man, on thy allegiance hear me.
    Since thou hast striven to make us break our vow
    And pressed between our sentence and our power,
    Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,
    We banish thee forever from our sight
    210And kingdom. If when three days are expired
    Thy hated trunk be found in our dominions,
    That moment is thy death. Away.
    Why fare thee well, king. Since thou art resolved,
    I take thee at thy word, and will not stay
    215To see thy fall. The gods protect the maid
    That truly thinks and has most justly said.
    Thus to new climates my old truth I bear.
    Friendship lives hence, and banishment is here.
    Now Burgundy, you see her price is fallen,
    Yet if the fondness of your passion still
    Affects her as she stands, dowerless and lost
    In our esteem, she's yours; take her or leave her.
    Pardon me, royal Lear, I but demand
    225The dower yourself proposed, and here I take
    Cordelia by the hand, Duchess of Burgundy.
    Then leave her, sir, for by a father's rage
    I tell you all her wealth. Away.
    Then sir be pleased to charge the breach
    230Of our alliance on your own will
    Not my inconstancy.
    Exeunt. Edgar and Cordelia remain.
    Has heaven then weighed the merit of my love,
    Or is it the raving of my sickly thought?
    235Could Burgundy forgo so rich a prize
    And leave her to despairing Edgar's arms?
    Have I thy hand, Cordelia, do I clasp it,
    The hand that was this minute to have joined
    My hated rival's? Do I kneel before thee
    240And offer at thy feet my panting heart?
    Smile, princess, and convince me, for as yet
    I doubt, and dare not trust the dazzling joy.
    Some comfort yet that 'twas no vicious blot
    That has deprived me of a father's grace,
    245But merely want of that that makes me rich
    In wanting it, a smooth professing tongue.
    O sisters, I am loath to call your fault
    As it deserves; but use our father well,
    And wronged Cordelia never shall repine.
    O heavenly maid that art thyself thy dower,
    Richer in virtue than the stars in light,
    If Edgar's humble fortunes may be graced
    With thy acceptance, at thy feet he lays them.
    Ha, my Cordelia! Dost thou turn away?
    255What have I done to offend thee?
    Talked of love.
    Then I've offended oft. Cordelia too
    Has oft permitted me so to offend.
    When, Edgar, I permitted your addresses,
    260I was the darling daughter of a king.
    Nor can I now forget my royal birth,
    And live dependent on my lover's fortune.
    I cannot to so low a fate submit.
    And therefore study to forget your passion,
    265And trouble me upon this theme no more.
    Thus majesty takes most state in distress!
    How are we tossed on fortune's fickle flood!
    The wave that with surprising kindness brought
    The dear wreck to my arms, has snatched it back,
    270And left me mourning on the barren shore.
    This baseness of the ignoble Burgundy
    Draws just suspicion on the race of men.
    His love was interest, so may Edgar's be,
    275And he but with more compliment dissemble.
    If so, I shall oblige him by denying.
    But if his love be fixed, such constant flame
    As warms our breasts: if such I find his passion,
    My heart as grateful to his truth shall be,
    280And cold Cordelia prove as kind as he.
    Enter Bastard hastily.
    Brother, I've found you in a lucky minute.
    Fly and be safe, some villain has incensed
    285Our father against your life.
    Distressed Cordelia! But, oh! More cruel!
    Hear me sir, your life, your life's in danger.
    A resolve so sudden
    And of such black importance!
    'Twas not sudden,
    Some villain has of long time laid the train.
    And yet perhaps 'twas but pretended coldness,
    To try how far my passion would pursue.
    He hears me not. Wake, wake sir.
    Say ye, brother? --
    No tears, good Edmund. If thou bring'st me tidings
    To strike me dead, for charity delay not.
    That present will befit so kind a hand.
    Your danger, sir, comes on so fast
    300That I want time to inform you; but retire
    Whilst I take care to turn the pressing stream.
    O gods! For heaven's sake, sir.
    Pardon me, sir, a serious thought
    Had seized me, but I think you talked of danger
    305And wished me to retire. Must all our vows
    End thus! —- Friend, I obey you -— Oh, Cordelia!
    Ha! ha! Fond man, such credulous honesty
    Lessens the glory of my artifice.
    310His nature is so far from doing wrongs
    That he suspects none. If this letter speed
    And pass for Edgar's, as himself would own
    The counterfeit but for the foul contents,
    Then my designs are perfect--Here comes Gloster.
    315Enter Gloster.
    Stay Edmund, turn, what paper were you reading?
    A trifle, sir.
    What needed then that terrible dispatch of it
    Into your pocket? Come, produce it sir.
    A letter from my brother, sir, I had
    Just broke the seal but knew not the contents.
    Yet fearing they might prove to blame
    Endeavored to conceal it from your sight.
    'Tis Edgar's character.
    "This policy of fathers is intolerable, that keeps our
    fortunes from us till age will not suffer us to enjoy them. I am
    weary of the tyranny. Come to me that of this I may speak more.
    If our father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half
    330his possessions, and live beloved of your brother
    "Slept till I waked him, you should enjoy
    Half his possessions" -- Edgar to write this
    Against his indulgent father! Death and hell!
    335Fly, Edmund, seek him out, wind me into him
    That I may bite the traitor's heart, and fold
    His bleeding entrails on my vengeful arm.
    Perhaps 'twas writ, my lord, to prove my virtue.
    These late eclipses of the sun and moon
    340Can bode no less: love cools, and friendship fails,
    In cities mutiny, in countries discord,
    The bond of nature cracked 'twixt son and father.
    Find out the villain, do it carefully
    And it shall lose thee nothing.
    So, now my project's firm, but to make sure
    I'll throw in one proof more and that a bold one:
    I'll place old Gloster where he shall overhear us
    Confer of this design, whilst to his thinking,
    350Deluded Edgar shall accuse himself.
    Be honesty my interest and I can
    Be honest too, and what saint so divine
    That will successful villainy decline!
    355Enter Kent disguised.
    Now banished Kent, if thou canst pay thy duty
    In this disguise where thou dost stand condemned,
    Thy master Lear shall find thee full of labors.
    Enter Lear attended.
    In there, and tell our daughter we are here.
    Now, what art thou?
    A man, sir.
    What dost thou profess, or wouldst with us?
    I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve him truly that
    365puts me in trust, to love him that's honest, to converse with him
    that's wise and speaks little, to fight when I can't choose; and
    to eat no fish.
    I say, what art thou?
    A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
    Then art thou poor indeed. What canst thou do?
    I can keep honest counsel, mar a curious tale in the telling,
    deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit
    for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
    Follow me, thou shalt serve me.
    375Enter Gonerill's Gentleman.
    Now sir?
    Sir --
    Exit. Kent runs after him.
    What says the fellow? Call the clatpole back.
    My Lord, I know not, but methinks Your Highness is entertained
    with slender ceremony.
    He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
    Why came not the slave back when I called him?
    My lord, he answered me in the surliest manner,
    385That he would not.
    Re-enter Gentleman, brought in by Kent.
    I hope our daughter did not so instruct him.
    Now, who am I sir?
    My lady's father.
    My lord's knave --
    Strikes him.
    Gonerill at the entrance.
    I'll not be struck, my lord.
    Nor tripped neither, thou vile civet-box.
    395Strikes up his heels.
    By day and night, this is insufferable.
    I will not bear it.
    Now, daughter, why that frontlet on?
    Speak, does that frown become our presence?
    Sir, this licentious insolence of your servants
    Is most unseemly. Hourly they break out
    In quarrels bred by their unbounded riots.
    I had fair hope by making this known to you
    To have had a quick redress, but find too late
    405That you protect and countenance their outrage.
    And therefore, sir, I take this freedom, which
    Necessity makes discreet.
    Are you our daughter?
    Come, sir, let me entreat you to make use
    410Of your discretion, and put off betimes
    This disposition that of late transforms you
    From what you rightly are.
    Does any here know me? Why, this is not Lear.
    Does Lear walk thus? Speak thus? Where are his eyes?
    415Who is it that can tell me who I am?
    Come, sir, this admiration's much of the savor
    Of other your new humors. I beseech you
    To understand my purposes aright.
    As you are old, you should be staid and wise.
    420Here do you keep an hundred knights and squires,
    Men so debauched and bold that this our palace
    Shows like a riotous inn, a tavern, brothel.
    Be then advised by her that else will take
    The thing she begs, to lessen your attendance.
    425Take half away, and see that the remainder
    Be such as may befit your age, and know
    Themselves and you.
    Darkness and devils!
    Saddle my horses, call my train together.
    430Degenerate viper, I'll not stay with thee;
    I yet have left a daughter -- Serpent, monster.
    Lessen my train, and call 'em riotous?
    All men approved of choice and rarest parts,
    That each particular of duty know --
    435How small, Cordelia, was thy fault? Oh, Lear,
    Beat at this gate that let thy folly in,
    And thy dear judgment out. Go, go, my people.
    Going off meets Albany entering.
    Ingrateful Duke, was this your will?
    What, sir?
    Death! Fifty of my followers at a clap!
    The matter, madam?
    Never afflict yourself to know the cause,
    But give his dotage way.
    Blasts upon thee,
    The untented woundings of a father's curse
    Pierce every sense about thee. Old fond eyes
    Lament this cause again, I'll pluck ye out
    And cast ye with the waters that ye lose
    450To temper clay -- No, gorgon, thou shalt find
    That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think
    I have cast off forever.
    Mark ye that.
    Hear, Nature,
    455Dear goddess, hear. And if thou dost intend
    To make that creature fruitful, change thy purpose.
    Pronounce upon her womb the barren curse,
    That from her blasted body never spring
    A babe to honor her. But if she must bring forth,
    460Defeat her joy with some distorted birth
    Or monstrous form, the prodigy o'th'time,
    And so perverse of spirit, that it may live
    Her torment as 'twas born, to fret her cheeks
    With constant tears, and wrinkle her young brow.
    465Turn all her mother's pains to shame and scorn,
    That she may curse her crime too late, and feel
    How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
    To have a thankless child! Away, away.
    Exit with his followers.
    Presuming thus upon his numerous train
    He thinks to play the tyrant here, and hold
    Our lives at will.
    Well, you may bear too far.