Internet Shakespeare Editions

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

A desert heath.
Enter Lear and Kent in the storm.
Blow, winds, and burst your cheeks. Rage louder yet!
895Fantastic lightning singe, singe my white head.
Spout cataracts, and hurricanos fall
Till you have drowned the towns and palaces
Of proud, ingrateful man.
Not all my best entreaties can persuade him
900Into some needful shelter, or to 'bide
This poor slight covering on his aged head,
Exposed to this wild war of earth and heaven.
Rumble thy fill. Fight whirlwind, rain and fire!
Not fire, wind, rain or thunder are my daughters.
905I tax not you, ye elements, with unkindness.
I never gave you kingdoms, called you children,
You owe me no obedience. Then let fall
Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man.
910Yet I will call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters joined
Their high-engendered battle against a head
So old and white as mine. Oh! Oh! 'Tis foul.
Hard by, sir, is a hovel that will lend
915Some shelter from this tempest.
I will forget my nature. What? So kind a father.
Ay, there's the point.
Consider, good my liege, things that love night
Love not such nights as this. These wrathful skies
920Frighten the very wanderers of the dark,
And make them keep their caves. Such drenching rain,
Such sheets of fire, such claps of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring winds have never been known.
Let the great gods
925That keep this dreadful pudder over our heads
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undiscovered crimes.
Hide, thou bloody hand,
Thou perjured villain, holy, holy hypocrite,
930That drinks the widow's tears, sigh now and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinned against than sinning.
Good sir, to the hovel.
My wit begins to burn.
935Come on, my boy, how dost my boy? Art cold?
I'm cold myself. Show me this straw, my fellow.
The art of our necessity is strange,
And can make vile things precious. My poor knave,
Cold as I am at heart, I've one place there
940Loud storm.
That's sorry yet for thee.
Gloster's palace. Enter Bastard.
The storm is in our louder revelings drowned.
945Thus would I reign could I but mount a throne.
The riots of these proud imperial sisters
Already have imposed the galling yoke
Of taxes and hard impositions on
The drudging peasants' neck, who bellow out
950Their loud complaints in vain. Triumphant queens!
With what assurance do they tread the crowd.
Oh for a taste of such majestic beauty,
Which none but my hot veins are fit to engage!
Nor are my wishes desperate, for even now
955During the banquet I observed their glances
Shot thick at me; and as they left the room
Each cast by stealth a kind inviting smile,
The happy earnest -- ha!
Two servants from several entrances deliver him each a letter, and exeunt.
"Where merit is so transparent, not to behold it
were blindness, and not to reward it ingratitude.
Enough! Blind and ingrateful should I be
965Not to obey the summons of this oracle.
Now for a second letter.
Opens the other.
"If modesty be not your enemy, doubt not to
find me your friend.
Excellent sybil! Oh, my glowing blood!
I am already sick of expectation,
And pant for the possession -- here Gloster comes
With business on his brow. Be hushed my joys.
I come to seek thee, Edmund, to impart a business of
Importance. I know thy loyal heart is touched to see the cruelty
of these ingrateful daughters against our royal master.
Most savage and unnatural.
This change in the state sits uneasy. The commons repine aloud
980at their female tyrants. Already they cry out for the
reinstallment of their good old king, whose injuries I fear will
inflame them into mutiny.
'Tis to be hoped, not feared.
Thou hast it, boy, 'tis to be hoped indeed.
985On me they cast their eyes, and hourly court me
To lead them on, and whilst this head is mine
I am theirs. A little covert craft, my boy,
And then for open action. 'Twill be employment
Worthy such honest daring souls as thine.
990Thou, Edmund, art my trusty emissary.
Haste on the spur at the first break of day
With these dispatches to the Duke of Cambrai.
Gives him letters.
You know what mortal feuds have always flamed
995Between this Duke of Cornwall's family and his.
Full twenty thousand mountaineers
The inveterate prince will send to our assistance.
Dispatch. Commend us to His Grace, and prosper.
Yes, credulous old man,
I will commend you to His Grace,
His Grace the Duke of Cornwall -- instantly
To show him these contents in thy own character
And sealed with thy own signet. Then forthwith
1005The choleric duke gives sentence on thy life,
And to my hand thy vast revenues fall
To glut my pleasure that till now has starved.
Gloster going off is met by Cordelia entering, attended by Arante. Bastard observing at a distance.
Turn, Gloster, turn, by all the sacred powers
1010I do conjure you give my griefs a hearing.
You must, you shall, nay I am sure you will,
For you were always styled the just and good.
What wouldst thou, princess? Rise and speak thy griefs.
Nay, you shall promise to redress them too,
1015Or here I'll kneel forever. I entreat
Thy succor for a father and a king,
An injured father and an injured king.
Oh, charming sorrow! How her tears adorn her
Like dew on flowers. But she is virtuous,
1020And I must quench this hopeless fire in the kindling.
Consider, princess,
For whom thou begg'st, 'tis for the king that wronged thee.
Oh, name not that. He did not, could not wrong me.
Nay muse not, Gloster, for it is too likely
1025This injured king ere this is past your aid,
And gone distracted with his savage wrongs.
I'll gaze no more -- and yet my eyes are charmed.
Or what if it be worse? Can there be worse?
As 'tis too probable this furious night
1030Has pierced his tender body, the bleak winds
And cold rain chilled, or lightning struck him dead.
If it be so, your promise is discharged,
And I have only one poor boon to beg,
That you'd convey me to his breathless trunk,
1035With my torn robes to wrap his hoary head,
With my torn hair to bind his hands and feet,
Then with a shower of tears
To wash his clay-smeared cheeks, and die beside him.
Rise, fair Cordelia, thou hast piety
1040Enough to atone for both thy sisters' crimes.
I have already plotted to restore
My injured master, and thy virtue tells me
We shall succeed, and suddenly.
Dispatch, Arante,
Provide me a disguise. We'll instantly
Go seek the king, and bring him some relief.
How, madam? Are you ignorant
Of what your impious sisters have decreed?
1050Immediate death for any that relieve him.
I cannot dread the furies in this case.
In such a night as this? Consider, madam,
For many miles about there's scarce a bush
To shelter in.
Therefore no shelter for the king,
And more our charity to find him out.
What have not women dared for vicious love?
And we'll be shining proofs that they can dare
For piety as much. Blow winds, and lightnings fall.
1060Bold in my virgin innocence, I'll fly
My royal father to relieve, or die.
Exeunt Cordelia and Arante.
"Provide me a disguise, we'll instantly
Go seek the king" -- Ha! Ha! A lucky change.
1065That virtue which I feared would be my hindrance
Has proved the bond to my design.
I'll bribe two ruffians that shall at a distance follow,
And seize them in some desert place, and there
Whilst one retains her the other shall return
1070To inform me where she's lodged. I'll be disguised too.
Whilst they are poaching for me I'll to the duke
With these dispatches. Then to the field
Where like the vigorous Jove I will enjoy
This Semele in a storm. 'Twill deaf her cries
1075Like drums in battle, lest her groans should pierce
My pitying ear, and make the amorous fight less fierce.
Storm still. The field scene. Enter Lear and Kent.
Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter.
1080The tyranny of this open night's too rough
For nature to endure.
Let me alone.
Good my lord, enter.
Wilt break my heart?
Beseech you, sir.
Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin; so 'tis to thee.
But where the greater malady is fixed
The lesser is scarce felt. The tempest in my mind
1090Does from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there: filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to it? But I'll punish home.
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
1095To shut me out -- Pour on, I will endure
In such a night as this. O Regan, Gonerill,
Your old kind father whose frank heart gave all--
Oh that way madness lies, let me shun that,
No more of that.
See, my lord, here's the entrance.
Well, I'll go in
And pass it all. I'll pray and then I'll sleep.
Poor naked wretches wheresoe'er you are,
That abide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
1105How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides
Sustain this shock, your raggedness defend you
From seasons such as these?
Oh, I have taken too little care of this.
Take physic, pomp.
1110Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst cast the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
Edgar in the hovel.
Five fathom and a half, poor Tom!
What art thou that dost grumble there in the straw?
Come forth.
Away! The foul fiend follows me -- through the sharp
Hawthorn blows the cold wind -- Mum! Go to thy bed and warm
Thee. -- Ha! What do I see? By all my griefs, the poor old
1120king beheaded,
And drenched in this foul storm. Professing siren,
Are all your protestations come to this?
Tell me, fellow, didst thou give all to thy daughters?
Who gives anything to Poor Tom, whom the foul fiend has
led through fire and through flame, through bushes and bogs,
that has laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew,
that has made him proud of heart to ride on a bay-trotting horse
over four inched bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor?
1130-- Bless thy five wits, Tom's a-cold.
Shivers. Bless thee from whirlwinds,
Star-blasting and taking. Do poor Tom some charity, whom
the foul fiend vexes. -- Sa, sa, there I could have him now,
and there, and there again.
Have his daughters brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
He has no daughters, sir.
Death, traitor, nothing could have subdued nature
To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
Pillicock sat upon Pillicock Hill; Hallo, hallo, hallo.
Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
Should have such little mercy on their flesh?
Judicious punishment, 'twas this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.
Take heed of the foul fiend, obey thy parents, keep thy word
justly, swear not, commit not with man's sworn spouse, set not
thy sweetheart on proud array. Tom's a-cold.
What hast thou been?
A servingman, proud of heart, that curled my hair, used perfume
1150and washes; that served the lust of my mistress's heart, and did
the act of darkness with her. Swore as many oaths as I spoke
words, and broke them all in the sweet face of heaven. Let not the
paint, nor the patch, nor the rushing of silks betray thy poor
heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of
1155plackets, thy pen from creditors' books, and defy the foul fiend
-- still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind --
Sess, suum, mun, nonny, dolphin my boy -- hist! The boy,
sesey! Soft, let him trot by.
Death! Thou wert better in thy grave, than thus to answer with
1160thy uncovered body this extremity of the sky. And yet consider
him well, and man's no more than this. Thou art indebted to the
worm for no silk, to the beast for no hide, to the cat for no
perfume -- Ha! Here's two of us are sophisticated; thou art
the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more than such a poor
1165bare, forked animal as thou art.
Off, off, ye vain disguises, empty lendings.
I'll be my original self. Quick, quick, uncase me.
Defend his wits, good heaven!
One point I had forgot; what's your name?
Poor Tom that eats the swimming frog, the walnut, and
the water-nut; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend
rages, eats cow-dung for salads, swallows the old rat and the
ditch-dog, that drinks the green mantle of the standing pool;
that's whipped from tithing to tithing; that has three suits to his
1175back, six shirts to his body,
Horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But rats and mice, and such small deer
Have been Tom's food for seven long year.
Beware, my follower. Peace, Smulkin, peace, thou foul fiend.
One word more, but be sure true counsel. Tell me, is a madman a
gentleman or a yeoman?
I feared it would come to this, his wits are gone.
Fraterreto calls me, and tells me Nero is an
angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the
1185foul fiend.
Right, ha! Ha! Was it not pleasant to have a thousand with red
hot spits come hizzing in upon them?
My tears begin to take his part so much
They mar my counterfeiting.
The little dogs and all, Trey, Blanch and Sweetheart, see they
bark at me.
Tom will throw his head at 'em. Avaunt, ye curs.
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite,
1195Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel, grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach or hym,
Bobtail, tight, or trundle-tail,
Tom will make them weep and wail.
For with throwing thus my head
1200Dogs leap the hatch, and all are fled.
Ud, de, de, de. Se, se, se. Come march to wakes and fairs and
market towns -- Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
You sir, I entertain you for one of my hundred, only I do not
like the fashion of your garments. You'll say they're
1205Persian, but no matter, let them be changed.
Enter Gloster.
This is the foul Flibbertigibbet. He begins at curfew and
walks at first cock; he gives the web and the pin, knits the
elflock, squints the eye, and makes the harelip, mildews the
1210white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of the earth.
Swithin footed thrice the cold,
He met the nightmare and her nine-fold,
'Twas there he did appoint her;
He bid her alight and her troth plight,
1215And aroint the witch, aroint her.
What, has your grace no better company?
The prince of darkness is a gentleman; Modo he is called,
and Mahu.
Go with me, sir, hard by I have a tenant.
1220My duty cannot suffer me to obey in all your daughters' hard
commands, who have enjoined me to make fast my doors, and let
this tyrannous night take hold upon you. Yet have I ventured to
come seek you out, and bring you where both fire and food is
Good my lord, take his offer.
First let me talk with this philosopher.
Say, Stagirite, what is the cause of thunder?
Beseech you, sir, go with me.
I'll talk a word with this same learned Theban.
1230What is your study?
How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
Let me ask you a word in private.
His wits are quite unsettled. Good sir, let's force him hence.
Canst blame him? His daughters seek his death. This bedlam but
1235disturbs him the more. Fellow, be gone.
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still "Fie, fo and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man." -- Oh torture!
Now, I prithee, friend, let's take him in our arms, and carry him
where he shall meet both welcome and protection. Good sir, along
with us.
You say right, let them anatomize Regan, see what breeds
about her heart. Is there any cause in nature for these hard
Beseech your grace.
Hist! -- Make no noise, make no noise -- So so; we'll
to supper in the morning.
1250Enter Cordelia and Arante.
Dear madam, rest ye here, our search is vain.
Look here's a shed. Beseech ye, enter here.
Prithee go in thyself, seek thy own ease.
Where the mind's free, the body's delicate.
1255This tempest but diverts me from the thought
Of what would hurt me more.
Enter two Ruffians.
1 Ruffian
We have dogged them far enough, this place is private.
I'll keep them prisoners here within this hovel,
1260Whilst you return and bring Lord Edmund hither.
But help me first to house them.
2 Ruffian
Nothing but this dear devil
Shows gold.
Should have drawn me through all this tempest.
1265But to our work.
They seize Cordelia and Arante, who shriek out.
Soft, madam, we are friends. Dispatch, I say!
Help, murder, help! Gods! Some kind thunderbolt
To strike me dead.
1270Enter Edgar.
What cry was that? Ha, women seized by ruffians?
Is this a place and time for villainy?
Avaunt, ye bloodhounds.
Drives them with his quarter-staff.
12751 Ruffian and 2 Ruffian
The devil, the devil!
Run off.
O speak, what are ye that appear to be
Of the tender sex, and yet unguarded wander
Through the dead mazes of this dreadful night,
1280Where (though at full) the clouded moon scarce darts
Imperfect glimmerings?
First say what art thou.
Our guardian angel, that wert pleased to assume
That horrid shape to fright the ravishers?
1285We'll kneel to thee.
O my tumultuous blood!
By all my trembling veins, Cordelia's voice!
'Tis she herself! My senses sure conform
To my wild garb, and I am mad indeed.
Whatever thou art, befriend a wretched virgin,
And if thou canst, direct our weary search.
Who relieves Poor Tom, that sleeps on the nettle, with the
hedge-pig for his pillow?
Whilst Smug plied the bellows
1295She trucked with her fellows,
The freckle-faced Mab
Was a blouze and a drab,
Yet Swithin made Oberon jealous--Oh!
Alack, madam, a poor wandering lunatic.
And yet his language seemed but now well-tempered.
Speak, friend, to one more wretched than thyself,
And if thou hast one interval of sense,
Inform us if thou canst, where we may find
1305A poor old man, who through this heath has strayed
The tedious night. Speak, saw'st thou such a one?
The king, her father, whom she's come to seek
Through all the terrors of this night. O gods!
1310That such amazing piety, such tenderness
Should yet to me be cruel --
Yes, fair one, such a one was lately here,
And is conveyed by some that came to seek him
To a neighboring cottage; but distinctly where,
1315I know not.
Blessings on them.
Let's find him out, Arante, for thou seest
We are in heaven's protection.
Going off.
O Cordelia!
Ha! -- Thou know'st my name.
As you did once know Edgar's.
The poor remains of Edgar, what your scorn
1325Has left him.
Do we wake, Arante?
My father seeks my life, which I preserved
In hopes of some blest minute to oblige
Distressed Cordelia, and the gods have given it.
1330That thought alone prevailed with me to take
This frantic dress, to make the earth my bed,
With these bare limbs all change of seasons 'bide,
Noon's scorching heat, and midnight's piercing cold,
To feed on offals, and to drink with herds,
1335To combat with the winds, and be the sport
Of clowns, or what's more wretched yet, their pity.
Was ever tale so full of misery!
But such a fall as this I grant was due
To my aspiring love, for 'twas presumptuous,
1340Though not presumptuously pursued;
For well you know I wore my flames concealed,
And silent as the lamps that burn in tombs,
'Till you perceived my grief, with modest grace
Drew forth the secret, and then sealed my pardon.
You had your pardon, nor can you challenge more.
What do I challenge more?
Such vanity agrees not with these rags.
When in my prosperous state rich Gloster's heir,
You silenced my pretences, and enjoined me
1350To trouble you upon that theme no more,
Then what reception must love's language find
From these bare limbs and beggar's humble weeds?
Such as the voice of pardon to a wretch condemned;
Such as the shouts
1355Of succoring forces to a town besieged.
Ah! What new method now of cruelty?
Come to my arms, thou dearest, best of men,
And take the kindest vows that ever were spoke
By a protesting maid.
Is it possible?
By the dear vital stream that bathes my heart,
These hallowed rags of thine, and naked virtue,
These abject tassels, these fantastic shreds,
(Ridiculous even to the meanest clown)
1365To me are dearer than the richest pomp
Of purple monarchs.
Generous charming maid,
The gods alone that made, can rate thy worth!
This most amazing excellence shall be
1370Fame's triumph in succeeding ages, when
Thy bright example shall adorn the scene,
And teach the world perfection.
Cold and weary,
We'll rest a while, Arante, on that straw,
1375Then forward to find out the poor old king.
Look, I have flint and steel, the implements
Of wandering lunatics. I'll strike a light,
And make a fire beneath this shed, to dry
Thy storm-drenched garments, ere thou lie to rest thee.
1380Then fierce and wakeful as the Hesperian dragon,
I'll watch beside thee to protect thy sleep.
Meanwhile, the stars shall dart their kindest beams,
And angels visit my Cordelia's dreams.