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Scene 1

King Lear’s palace.

(Kent; Gloucester; Edmund; King Lear; Cornwall; Albany; Goneril; Regan; Cordelia; Attendants; Gloucester; France; Burgundy)

The Earls of Kent and Gloucester discuss the King’s project to divide the kingdom, remarking that it is impossible to tell which of his two sons-in-law he intends to treat best. Gloucester introduces his bastard son Edmund to Kent, making raunchy comments about him as he does so. Lear and his retinue enter. The King calls for the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France to be brought in, and while they are waiting explains that he is dividing his kingdom between his three daughters while he takes his retirement. To decide which daughter gets which portion, he asks them to tell him how much they love him. Goneril, the wife of the Duke of Albany, and Regan, the wife of the Duke of Cornwall, both speak flatteringly and are given their shares; but Cordelia, the youngest, unmarried, is unwilling to be a hypocrite and refuses to say anything. Pressed further, she makes a lukewarm declaration that enrages Lear. He disinherits her on the spot and splits the last third of the country between the elder daughters. Kent intervenes, attempting to calm Lear down, but the furious King exiles him for his pains. He informs the court that while he is giving up all political power to the two Dukes his sons-in-law, he will keep a hundred knights to serve him and go between their houses month by month, at their charge. Burgundy and France enter and are informed that Cordelia will no longer bring any dowry with her; Burgundy immediately abandons his suit, but the King of France chooses to marry her. Lear lets him take her without offering any blessing. Cordelia bids her sisters farewell. Left alone, Goneril and Regan discuss their father and his wayward temper, and agree to be on guard against him. (297 lines)

Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund.


I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.


It did always seem so to us; but now in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for equalities are so weigh’d, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moi’ty.


Is not this your son, my lord?


His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blush’d to acknowledge him, that now I am braz’d to’t.


I cannot conceive you.


Sir, this young fellow’s mother could; whereupon she grew round-womb’d, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?


I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.


But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Though this knave came something saucily to the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledg’d. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?


No, my lord.


My Lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter as my honorable friend.


My services to your lordship.


I must love you, and sue to know you better.


Sir, I shall study deserving.


He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.

Sound a sennet.

The King is coming.

Enter one bearing a coronet, then King Lear, Cornwall, Albany, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, and Attendants.


Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.


I shall, my lord.

Exit with Edmund.


Mean time we shall express our darker purpose.

Give me the map there. Know that we have divided

In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast intent

To shake all cares and business from our age,

Conferring them on younger strengths, while we

Unburden’d crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,

And you, our no less loving son of Albany,

We have this hour a constant will to publish

Our daughters’ several dowers, that future strife

May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,

Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,

Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,

And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my daughters

(Since now we will divest us both of rule,

Interest of territory, cares of state),

Which of you shall we say doth love us most,

That we our largest bounty may extend

Where nature doth with merit challenge? Goneril,

Our eldest-born, speak first.


Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter,

Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,

Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,

No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;

As much as child e’er lov’d, or father found;

A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable:

Beyond all manner of so much I love you.



What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.


Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,

With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d,

With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,

We make thee lady. To thine and Albany’s issue

Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,

Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall? Speak.


I am made of that self metal as my sister,

And prize me at her worth. In my true heart

I find she names my very deed of love;

Only she comes too short, that I profess

Myself an enemy to all other joys

Which the most precious square of sense possesses,

And find I am alone felicitate

In your dear Highness’ love.



Then poor Cordelia!

And yet not so, since I am sure my love’s

More ponderous than my tongue.


To thee and thine hereditary ever

Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,

No less in space, validity, and pleasure,

Than that conferr’d on Goneril.—Now, our joy,

Although our last and least, to whose young love

The vines of France and milk of Burgundy

Strive to be interess’d, what can you say to draw

A third more opulent than your sisters’? Speak.


Nothing, my lord.






Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.


Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty

According to my bond, no more nor less.


How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,

Lest you may mar your fortunes.


Good my lord,

You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me: I

Return those duties back as are right fit,

Obey you, love you, and most honor you.

Why have my sisters husbands, if they say

They love you all? Happily, when I shall wed,

That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry

Half my love with him, half my care and duty.

Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,

To love my father all.


But goes thy heart with this?


Ay, my good lord.


So young, and so untender?


So young, my lord, and true.


Let it be so: thy truth then be thy dow’r!

For by the sacred radiance of the sun,

The mysteries of Hecat and the night;

By all the operation of the orbs,

From whom we do exist and cease to be;

Here I disclaim all my paternal care,

Propinquity and property of blood,

And as a stranger to my heart and me

Hold thee from this forever. The barbarous Scythian,

Or he that makes his generation messes

To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom

Be as well neighbor’d, pitied, and reliev’d,

As thou my sometime daughter.


Good my liege—


Peace, Kent!

Come not between the dragon and his wrath;

I lov’d her most, and thought to set my rest

On her kind nursery.

To Cordelia.

Hence, and avoid my sight!—

So be my grave my peace, as here I give

Her father’s heart from her. Call France. Who stirs?

Call Burgundy. Cornwall and Albany,

With my two daughters’ dow’rs digest the third;

Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.

I do invest you jointly with my power,

Pre-eminence, and all the large effects

That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,

With reservation of an hundred knights

By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode

Make with you by due turn. Only we shall retain

The name, and all th’ addition to a king;

The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,

Beloved sons, be yours, which to confirm,

This coronet part between you.


Royal Lear,

Whom I have ever honor’d as my king,

Lov’d as my father, as my master follow’d,

As my great patron thought on in my prayers—


The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.


Let it fall rather, though the fork invade

The region of my heart; be Kent unmannerly

When Lear is mad. What wouldest thou do, old man?

Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak

When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound,

When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,

And in thy best consideration check

This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment,

Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,

Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds

Reverb no hollowness.


Kent, on thy life, no more.


My life I never held but as a pawn

To wage against thine enemies, ne’er fear’d to lose it,

Thy safety being motive.


Out of my sight!


See better, Lear, and let me still remain

The true blank of thine eye.


Now, by Apollo—


Now, by Apollo, King,

Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.


O vassal! Miscreant!

Starts to draw his sword.


Dear sir, forbear.


Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow

Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,

Or whilst I can vent clamor from my throat,

I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.


Hear me, recreant,

On thine allegiance, hear me!

That thou hast sought to make us break our vow—

Which we durst never yet—and with strain’d pride

To come betwixt our sentence and our power,

Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,

Our potency made good, take thy reward.

Five days we do allot thee, for provision

To shield thee from disasters of the world,

And on the sixth to turn thy hated back

Upon our kingdom. If, on the tenth day following,

Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,

The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,

This shall not be revok’d.


Fare thee well, King; sith thus thou wilt appear,

Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.

To Cordelia.

The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,

That justly think’st and hast most rightly said!

To Regan and Goneril.

And your large speeches may your deeds approve,

That good effects may spring from words of love.

Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu,

He’ll shape his old course in a country new.


Flourish. Enter Gloucester with France and Burgundy, Attendants.


Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.


My Lord of Burgundy,

We first address toward you, who with this king

Hath rivall’d for our daughter. What, in the least,

Will you require in present dower with her,

Or cease your quest of love?


Most royal Majesty,

I crave no more than hath your Highness offer’d,

Nor will you tender less.


Right noble Burgundy,

When she was dear to us, we did hold her so,

But now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands:

If aught within that little seeming substance,

Or all of it, with our displeasure piec’d,

And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,

She’s there, and she is yours.


I know no answer.


Will you, with those infirmities she owes,

Unfriended, new adopted to our hate,

Dow’r’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our oath,

Take her, or leave her?


Pardon me, royal sir,

Election makes not up in such conditions.


Then leave her, sir, for by the pow’r that made me,

I tell you all her wealth.

To France.

For you, great King,

I would not from your love make such a stray

To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you

T’ avert your liking a more worthier way

Than on a wretch whom Nature is asham’d

Almost t’ acknowledge hers.


This is most strange,

That she, whom even but now was your best object,

The argument of your praise, balm of your age,

The best, the dearest, should in this trice of time

Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle

So many folds of favor. Sure her offense

Must be of such unnatural degree

That monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d affection

Fall into taint; which to believe of her

Must be a faith that reason without miracle

Should never plant in me.


I yet beseech your Majesty—

If for I want that glib and oily art

To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend,

I’ll do’t before I speak—that you make known

It is no vicious blot, murder, or foulness,

No unchaste action, or dishonored step,

That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favor,

But even for want of that for which I am richer—

A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue

That I am glad I have not, though not to have it

Hath lost me in your liking.


Better thou

Hadst not been born than not t’ have pleas’d me better.


Is it but this—a tardiness in nature

Which often leaves the history unspoke

That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,

What say you to the lady? Love’s not love

When it is mingled with regards that stands

Aloof from th’ entire point. Will you have her?

She is herself a dowry.


Royal King,

Give but that portion which yourself propos’d,

And here I take Cordelia by the hand,

Duchess of Burgundy.


Nothing. I have sworn, I am firm.


I am sorry then you have so lost a father

That you must lose a husband.


Peace be with Burgundy!

Since that respects of fortune are his love,

I shall not be his wife.


Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor,

Most choice forsaken, and most lov’d despis’d,

Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon,

Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.

Gods, gods! ’Tis strange that from their cold’st neglect

My love should kindle to inflam’d respect.

Thy dow’rless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,

Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.

Not all the dukes of wat’rish Burgundy

Can buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.

Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind,

Thou losest here, a better where to find.


Thou hast her, France, let her be thine, for we

Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see

That face of hers again.

To Cordelia.

Therefore be gone,

Without our grace, our love, our benison.—

Come, noble Burgundy.

Flourish. Exeunt all but France, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia.


Bid farewell to your sisters.


The jewels of our father, with wash’d eyes

Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are,

And like a sister am most loath to call

Your faults as they are named. Love well our father;

To your professed bosoms I commit him,

But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,

I would prefer him to a better place.

So farewell to you both.


Prescribe not us our duty.


Let your study

Be to content your lord, who hath receiv’d you

At fortune’s alms. You have obedience scanted,

And well are worth the want that you have wanted.


Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides,

Who covers faults, at last with shame derides.

Well may you prosper!


Come, my fair Cordelia.

Exeunt France and Cordelia.


Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.


That’s most certain, and with you; next month with us.


You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little. He always lov’d our sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.


’Tis the infirmity of his age, yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.


The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then must we look from his age to receive not alone the imperfections of long-ingraff’d condition, but therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.


Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.


There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you let us hit together; if our father carry authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.


We shall further think of it.


We must do something, and i’ th’ heat.



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