Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Nahum Tate
Editor: Lynne Bradley
Not Peer Reviewed

King Lear (Adapted by Nahum Tate) (Modern)

A valley near the camp.
2080Enter Edgar and Gloster.
Here, sir, take you the shadow of this tree
For your good host. Pray that the right may thrive.
If ever I return to you again
I'll bring you comfort.
Thanks, friendly sir.
The fortune your good cause deserves betide you.
An alarum, after which Gloster speaks.
The fight grows hot. The whole war's now at work,
2090And the gored battle bleeds in every vein,
Whilst drums and trumpets drown loud slaughter's roar.
Where's Gloster now that used to head the fray,
And scour the ranks where deadliest danger lay?
Here like a shepherd in a lonely shade,
2095Idle, unarmed, and listening to the fight.
Yet the disabled courser, maimed and blind,
When to his stall he hears the rattling war,
Foaming with rage tears up the battered ground
And tugs for liberty.
2100No more of shelter, thou blind worm, but forth
To the open field. The war may come this way
And crush thee into rest. Here lay thee down
And tear the earth, that work befits a mole.
O dark despair! When, Edgar, wilt thou come
2105To pardon and dismiss me to the grave!
A retreat sounded.
Hark! A retreat. The king has lost or won.
Re-enter Edgar, bloody.
Away, old man, give me your hand, away!
2110King Lear has lost, he and his daughter taken,
And this, ye gods, is all that I can save
Of this most precious wreck! Give me your hand.
No farther, sir, a man may rot even here.
What? In ill thoughts again? Men must endure
2115Their going hence even as their coming hither.
And that's true, too.
Flourish. Enter in conquest, Albany, Gonerill, Regan, Bastard. Lear, Kent, Cordelia prisoners.
It is enough to have conquered, cruelty
2120Should never survive the fight. Captain of the guards,
Treat well your royal prisoners till you have
Our further orders, as you hold our pleasure.
Hark, sir, not as you hold our husband's pleasure
To the Captain aside
2125But as you hold your life, dispatch your prisoners.
Our empire can have no sure settlement
But in their death; the earth that covers them
Binds fast our throne. Let me hear they are dead.
I shall obey your orders.
Sir, I approve it safest to pronounce
Sentence of death upon this wretched king,
Whose age has charms in it, his title more,
To draw the commons once more to his side.
'Twere best prevent --
Sir, by your favor,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.
That's as we list to grace him.
Have you forgot that he did lead our powers?
2140Bore the commission of our place and person?
And that authority may well stand up
And call itself your brother.
Not so hot.
In his own merits he exalts himself
2145More than in your addition.
Enter Edgar, disguised.
What art thou?
Pardon me, sir, that I presume to stop
A prince and conqueror, yet ere you triumph,
2150Give ear to what a stranger can deliver
Of what concerns you more than triumph can.
I do impeach your general there of treason,
Lord Edmund, that usurps the name of Gloster,
Of foulest practice against your life and honor.
2155This charge is true, and wretched though I seem
I can produce a champion that will prove
In single combat what I do avouch,
If Edmund dares but trust his cause and sword.
What will not Edmund dare! My lord, I beg
2160The favor that you'd instantly appoint
The place where I may meet this challenger,
Whom I will sacrifice to my wronged fame.
Remember, sir, that injured honor's nice
And cannot brook delay.
Anon, before our tent, in the army's view,
There let the herald cry.
I thank your highness in my champion's name.
He'll wait your trumpet's call.
Lear, Kent, Cordelia remain, guarded.
Oh, Kent, Cordelia!
You are the only pair that I ere wronged,
And the just gods have made you witnesses
2175Of my disgrace, the very shame of fortune,
To see me chained and shackled at these years!
Yet were you but spectators of my woes,
Not fellow sufferers, all were well!
This language, sir, adds yet to our affliction.
Thou, Kent, didst head the troops that fought my
Exposed thy life and fortunes for a master
That had (as I remember) banished thee.
Pardon me, sir, that once I broke your orders.
2185Banished by you, I kept me here disguised
To watch your fortunes, and protect your person.
You know you entertained a rough blunt fellow,
One Cajus, and you thought he did you service.
My trusty Cajus, I have lost him too!
'Twas a rough honesty.
I was that Cajus,
Disguised in that coarse dress to follow you.
My Cajus too! Wert thou my trusty Cajus?
2195Enough, enough --
Ah me, he faints! His blood forsakes his cheek,
Help, Kent --
No, no, they shall not see us weep.
We'll see them rot first. Guards lead away to prison.
2200Come, Kent. Cordelia, come,
We two will sit alone, like birds in the cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. Thus we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
2205At gilded butterflies, hear sycophants
Talk of court news, and we'll talk with them too:
Who loses, and who wins, who's in, who's out.
And take upon us the mystery of things
As if we were heaven's spies.
Upon such sacrifices
The gods themselves throw incense.
Have I caught ye?
He that parts us must bring a brand from heaven.
Together we'll out-toil the spite of hell,
2215And die the wonders of the world. Away.
Exeunt, guarded.
Flourish. Enter before the tents Albany, Gonerill, Regan, guards and attendants. Gonerill speaking apart to the Captain of the Guards entering.
Here's gold for thee. Thou know'st our late command
Upon your prisoners' lives; about it straight, and at
2220Our evening banquet let it raise our mirth
To hear that they are dead.
I shall not fail your orders.
Albany, Gonerill, Regan take their seats.
Now, Gloster, trust to thy single virtue, for thy
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge. Now let our trumpets speak,
And herald read out this.
2230Herald reads.
"If any man of quality, within the lists of the army, will
maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloster, that he is a
manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the
trumpet. He is bold in his defense." Again. Again.
2235Trumpet answers from within.
Enter Edgar, armed.
Lord Edgar!
Ha! My brother!
This is the only combatant that I could fear;
2240For in my breast guilt duels on his side.
But, conscience, what have I to do with thee?
Awe thou thy dull legitimate slaves, but I
Was born a libertine, and so I keep me.
My noble prince, a word. Ere we engage,
2245Into Your Highness's hands I give this paper.
It will the truth of my impeachment prove
Whatever be my fortune in the fight.
We shall peruse it.
Now, Edmund, draw thy sword,
2250That if my speech has wronged a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice. Here in the presence
Of this high prince, these queens, and this crowned list,
I brand thee with the spotted name of traitor;
False to thy gods, thy father and thy brother;
2255And what is more, thy friend, false to this prince.
If then thou shar'st a spark of Gloster's virtue,
Acquit thyself, or if thou shar'st his courage,
Meet this defiance bravely.
And dares Edgar,
2260The beaten, routed Edgar, brave his conqueror?
From all thy troops and thee, I forced the field.
Thou hast lost the general stake, and art thou now
Come with thy petty single stock to play
This after-game?
Half-blooded man,
Thy father's sin first, then his punishment.
The dark and vicious place where he begot thee
Cost him his eyes. From thy licentious mother
Thou draw'st thy villany; but for thy part
2270Of Gloster's blood, I hold thee worth my sword.
Thou bear'st thee on thy mother's piety,
Which I despise. Thy mother being chaste
Thou art assured thou art but Gloster's son.
But mine, disdaining constancy, leaves me
2275To hope that I am sprung from nobler blood,
And possibly a king might be my sire.
But be my birth's uncertain chance as 'twill,
Who 'twas that had the hit to father me
I know not; 'tis enough that I am I.
2280Of this one thing I'm certain -- that I have
A daring soul. And so, have at thy heart.
Sound, trumpet.
Fight, Bastard falls.
Gonerill and Regan
Save him, save him.
This was practice, Gloster.
Thou won'st the field, and wast not bound to fight
A vanquished enemy. Thou art not conquered
But cozened and betrayed.
Shut your mouth, lady,
2290Or with this paper I shall stop it. Hold, sir,
Thou worse than any name, read thy own evil.
No tearing, lady, I perceive you know it.
Say if I do, who shall arraign me for it?
The laws are mine, not thine.
Most monstrous! Ha, thou know'st it too.
Ask me not what I know,
I have not breath to answer idle questions.
I have resolved. Your right, brave sir, has conquered.
To Edgar.
2300Along with me, I must consult your father.
Exeunt Albany and Edgar.
Help every hand to save a noble life.
My half of the kingdom for a man of skill
To stop this precious stream.
Away, ye emperics,
Torment me not with your vain offices.
The sword has pierced too far. Legitimacy
At last has got it.
The pride of nature dies.
Away, the minutes are too precious.
Disturb us not with thy impertinent sorrow.
Art thou my rival then professed?
Why, was our love a secret? Could there be
Beauty like mine, and gallantry like his
2315And not a mutual love? Just nature then
Had erred. Behold that copy of perfection,
That youth whose story will have no foul page
But where it says he stooped to Regan's arms,
Which yet was but compliance, not affection;
2320A charity to begging, ruined beauty!
Who begged when Gonerill writ that? Expose it
Throws her a letter.
And let it be your army's mirth, as 'twas
This charming youth's and mine, when in the bower
2325He breathed the warmest ecstasies of love.
Then, panting on my breast, cried "Matchless Regan,
That Gonerill and thou should ever be kin!"
Die, Circe, for thy charms are at an end.
Expire before my face, and let me see
2330How well that boasted beauty will become
Congealing blood and death's convulsive pangs.
Die and be hushed, for at my tent last night
Thou drank'st thy bane amidst thy reveling bowls.
Ha! Dost thou smile? Is then thy death thy sport,
2335Or has the trusty potion made thee mad?
Thou com'st as short of me in thy revenge
As in my Gloster's love. My jealousy
Inspired me to prevent thy feeble malice
And poison thee at thy own banquet.
No more, my queens, of this untimely strife.
You both deserved my love and both possessed it --
Come, soldiers, bear me in -- and let
Your royal presence grace my last minutes.
2345Now, Edgar, thy proud conquest I forgive.
Who would not choose, like me, to yield his breath
To have rival queens contend for him in death?