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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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    A prison.
    2350Lear asleep, with his head on Cordelia's lap.
    What toils, thou wretched king, hast thou endured
    To make thee draw, in chains, a sleep so sound?
    Thy better angel charm thy ravished mind
    With fancied freedom. Peace is used to lodge
    2355On cottage straw; thou hast the beggar's bed,
    Therefore shouldst have the beggar's careless thought.
    And now, my Edgar, I remember thee.
    What fate has seized thee in this general wreck
    I know not, but I know thou must be wretched
    2360Because Cordelia holds thee dear.
    O gods! Sudden gloom overwhelms me, and the image
    Of death overspreads the place. Ha! Who are these?
    Enter Captain and officers with cords.
    Now, sirs, dispatch. Already you are paid
    2365In part, the best of your reward's to come.
    Charge, charge upon their flank, their last wing halts.
    Push, push the battle, and the day's our own.
    Their ranks are broke. Down, down with Albany.
    Who holds my hands? – Oh, thou deceiving sleep,
    2370I was this very minute on the chase.
    And now a prisoner here. What mean the slaves?
    You will not murder me?
    Help earth and heaven!
    For your souls' sakes, dear sirs, and for the gods'.
    No tears, good lady, no pleading against gold and preferment.
    Come, sirs, make ready your cords.
    You, sir, I'll seize.
    You have a human form, and if no prayers
    Can touch your soul to spare a poor king's life,
    2380If there be anything that you hold dear,
    By that I beg you to dispatch me first.
    Comply with her request, dispatch her first.
    Off hell-hounds, by the gods I charge you spare her.
    'Tis my Cordelia, my true pious daughter.
    2385No pity? Nay then, take an old man's vengeance.
    Snatches a partisan, and strikes down two of them. The rest quit Cordelia, and turn upon him. Enter Edgar and Albany.
    Death! Hell! Ye vultures hold your impious hands,
    Or take a speedier death than you would give.
    By whose command?
    Behold the duke, your lord.
    Guards, seize those instruments of cruelty.
    My Edgar, oh!
    My dear Cordelia, lucky was the minute
    Of our approach. The gods have weighed our sufferings;
    2395We are past the fire, and now must shine to ages.
    Look here, my lord, see where the generous king
    Has slain two of them.
    Did I not, fellow?
    I've seen the day, with my good biting falchion
    2400I could have made them skip. I am old now,
    And these vile crosses spoil me. Out of breath!
    Fie, oh! Quite out of breath and spent.
    Bring in old Kent, and, Edgar, guide you hither
    Your father, whom you said was near.
    2405Exit Edgar.
    He may be an ear-witness at the least
    Of our proceedings.
    Kent brought in here.
    Who are you?
    2410My eyes are none of the best, I'll tell you straight.
    Oh, Albany! Well, sir, we are your captives,
    And you are come to see death pass upon us.
    Why this delay? Or is it Your Highness' pleasure
    To give us first the torture? Say ye so?
    2415Why here's old Kent and I, as tough a pair
    As ever bore tyrant's stroke. But my Cordelia,
    My poor Cordelia here, oh pity!
    Take off their chains. Thou injured majesty,
    The wheel of fortune now has made her circle,
    2420And blessings yet stand betwixt thy grave and thee.
    Com'st thou, inhuman lord, to soothe us back
    To a fool's paradise of hope, to make
    Our doom more wretched? Go to, we are too well-
    Acquainted with misfortune to be gulled
    2425With lying hope. No, we will hope no more.
    I have a tale to unfold so full of wonder
    As cannot meet an easy faith,
    But by that royal injured head 'tis true.
    What would Your Highness?
    Know the noble Edgar
    Impeached Lord Edmund since the fight, of treason,
    And dared him for the proof to single combat,
    In which the gods confirmed his charge by conquest.
    I left even now the traitor wounded mortally.
    And whither tends this story?
    Ere they fought,
    Lord Edgar gave into my hands this paper,
    A blacker scroll of treason and of lust
    Than can be found in the records of hell.
    2440There, sacred sir, behold the character
    Of Gonerill, the worst of daughters, but
    More vicious wife.
    Could there be yet addition to their guilt?
    What will not they that wrong a father do?
    Since then my injuries, Lear, fall in with thine.
    I have resolved the same redress for both.
    What says my lord?
    Speak, for me thought I heard
    The charming voice of a descending god.
    The troops by Edmund raised, I have disbanded.
    Those that remain are under my command.
    What comfort may be brought to cheer your age
    And heal your savage wrongs, shall be applied,
    For to your majesty we do resign
    2455Your kingdom, save what part yourself conferred
    On us in marriage.
    Hear you that, my liege?
    Then there are gods, and virtue is their care.
    Is it possible?
    2460Let the spheres stop their course, the sun make halt,
    The winds be hushed, the seas and fountains rest;
    All nature pause, and listen to the change.
    Where is my Kent, my Cajus?
    Here, my liege.
    Why, I have news that will recall thy youth.
    Ha! Didst thou hear it, or did the inspiring gods
    Whisper to me alone? Old Lear shall be
    A king again.
    The prince, that like a god has power, has said it.
    Cordelia then shall be a queen, mark that;
    Cordelia shall be queen. Winds catch the sound
    And bear it on your rosy wings to heaven.
    Cordelia is a queen.
    Re-enter Edgar with Gloster.
    Look, sir, where pious Edgar comes
    Leading his eyeless father. O my liege!
    His wondrous story will deserve your leisure,
    What he has done and suffered for your sake,
    What for the fair Cordelia's.
    Where is my liege? Conduct me to his knees to hail
    His second birth of empire. My dear Edgar
    Has, with himself, revealed the king's blest restoration.
    My poor, dark Gloster.
    O let me kiss that once-more sceptered hand!
    Hold, thou mistak'st the majesty, kneel here.
    Cordelia has our power, Cordelia's queen.
    Speak, is not that the noble suffering Edgar?
    My pious son, more dear than my lost eyes.
    I wronged him too, but here's the fair amends.
    Your leave, my liege, for an unwelcome message.
    Edmund (but that's a trifle) is expired.
    What more will touch you: your imperious daughters
    Gonerill and haughty Regan, both are dead,
    Each by the other poisoned at a banquet.
    2495This, dying, they confessed.
    O fatal period of ill-governed life!
    Ingrateful as they were, my heart feels yet
    A pang of nature for their wretched fall.
    But, Edgar, I defer thy joys too long.
    2500Thou served'st distressed Cordelia; take her crowned,
    The imperial grace fresh blooming on her brow.
    Nay, Gloster, thou hast here a father's right.
    Thy helping hand to heap blessings on their head.
    Old Kent throws in his hearty wishes too.
    The gods and you too largely recompense
    What I have done. The gift strikes merit dumb.
    Nor do I blush to own myself overpaid
    For all my sufferings past.
    Now, gentle gods, give Gloster his discharge.
    No, Gloster, thou hast business yet for life.
    Thou, Kent and I, retired to some cool cell,
    Will gently pass our short reserves of time
    In calm reflections on our fortunes past,
    Cheered with relation of the prosperous reign
    2515Of this celestial pair. Thus our remains
    Shall in an even course of thought be passed.
    Enjoy the present hour, nor fear the last.
    Our drooping country now erects her head,
    Peace spreads her balmy wings, and plenty blooms.
    It was important to Tate's politics that his play end with the restoration of peace. See more. [[ Document Tate_footnotes does not exist ]]
    2520Divine Cordelia, all the gods can witness
    How much thy love to empire I prefer!
    Thy bright example shall convince the world
    (Whatever storms of fortune are decreed)
    That truth and virtue shall at last succeed.
    2525Exeunt all.