A hall in the Duke of Albany’s palace.
(Kent; Lear; Knights; Attendants; Oswald; Fool; Goneril; Albany)
Kent has shaved off his beard and disguised himself as a commoner. He asks Lear to let him serve, pretending not to know who the King is. Lear accepts. Oswald, Goneril’s steward, pays no attention to Lear as he passes through, and one of Lear’s men points out that the other servants are being haughty as well. Oswald, called back, refuses to acknowledge Lear as anything more than his mistress’ father, and Kent beats him up. While waiting to speak to Goneril, Lear trades barbs with his Fool, who reproves him for giving away his land and hence his power. Goneril enters, and rebukes Lear for the wildness and insolence of his followers. Lear is affronted, unable to believe that he is being treated with so little respect, and behaves as though Goneril were not his daughter. She requires that he dismiss some of his followers, and in a rage he immediately decides to leave for Regan’s. Albany, entering, is shocked to find Lear raving, as he has no idea what on earth is going on. Lear lays a powerful curse on Goneril, begging the gods to make her sterile, and leaves. Albany is uncertain which way to turn, but Goneril tells him to be quiet. She sends Oswald to Regan’s to inform her of what has occurred and what Lear has said. (274 lines)
Enter Kent disguised as Caius.
If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech defuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I raz’d my likeness. Now, banish’d Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st,
Shall find thee full of labors.
Horns within. Enter Lear, Knights, and Attendants from hunting.
Let me not stay a jot for dinner, go get it ready.
Exit an Attendant.
How now, what art thou?
A man, sir.
What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot choose, and to eat no fish.
What art thou?
A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.
If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he’s for a king, th’ art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
Who wouldst thou serve?
Dost thou know me, fellow?
No, sir, but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
What services canst do?
I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
How old art thou?
Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing. I have years on my back forty-eight.
Follow me, thou shalt serve me. If I like thee no worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho, dinner! Where’s my knave? My Fool? Go you and call my Fool hither.
Exit an Attendant.
Enter Steward Oswald.
You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?
So please you—
What says the fellow there? Call the clotpole back.
Exit a Knight.
Where’s my Fool? Ho! I think the world’s asleep.
How now? Where’s that mongrel?
He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
Why came not the slave back to me when I call’d him?
Sir, he answer’d me in the roundest manner, he would not.
He would not?
My lord, I know not what the matter is, but to my judgment your Highness is not entertain’d with that ceremonious affection as you were wont. There’s a great abatement of kindness appears as well in the general dependents as in the Duke himself also, and your daughter.
Ha? Say’st thou so?
I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken, for my duty cannot be silent when I think your Highness wrong’d.
Thou but rememb’rest me of mine own conception. I have perceiv’d a most faint neglect of late, which I have rather blam’d as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretense and purpose of unkindness. I will look further into’t. But where’s my Fool? I have not seen him this two days.
Since my young lady’s going into France, sir, the Fool hath much pin’d away.
No more of that, I have noted it well. Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
Exit an Attendant.
Go you call hither my Fool.
Exit another Attendant.
Enter Steward Oswald.
O, you, sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?
My lady’s father.
“My lady’s father”? My lord’s knave! You whoreson dog, you slave, you cur!
I am none of these, my lord, I beseech your pardon.
Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
I’ll not be strucken, my lord.
Nor tripp’d neither, you base football player.
Tripping up his heels.
I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll love thee.
Come, sir, arise, away! I’ll teach you differences. Away, away! If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry; but away! Go to, have you wisdom? So.
Pushes Oswald out.
Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee, there’s earnest of thy service.
Giving Kent money.
Let me hire him too, here’s my coxcomb.
Offering Kent his cap.
How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?
Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
Why? For taking one’s part that’s out of favor. Nay, and thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt catch cold shortly. There, take my coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banish’d two on ’s daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will; if thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.—How now, nuncle? Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
Why, my boy?
If I gave them all my living, I’ld keep my coxcombs myself. There’s mine, beg another of thy daughters.
Take heed, sirrah—the whip.
Truth’s a dog must to kennel, he must be whipt out, when the Lady Brach may stand by th’ fire and stink.
A pestilent gall to me!
Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.
Mark it, nuncle:
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest;
Leave thy drink and thy whore,
And keep in a’ door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.
This is nothing, Fool.
Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer, you gave me nothing for’t. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
Why, no, boy, nothing can be made out of nothing.
Prithee tell him, so much the rent of his land comes to. He will not believe a fool.
A bitter fool!
Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?
No, lad, teach me.
That lord that counsell’d thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand.
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear:
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
Dost thou call me fool, boy?
All thy other titles thou hast given away, that thou wast born with.
This is not altogether fool, my lord.
No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would have part an’t. And ladies too, they will not let me have all the fool to myself, they’ll be snatching. Nuncle, give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
What two crowns shall they be?
Why, after I have cut the egg i’ th’ middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’ th’ middle and gav’st away both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipt that first finds it so.
“Fools had ne’er less grace in a year,
For wise men are grown foppish,
And know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.”
When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
I have us’d it, nuncle, e’er since thou mad’st thy daughters thy mothers, for when thou gav’st them the rod, and put’st down thine own breeches,
“Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.”
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy Fool to lie—I would fain learn to lie.
And you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipt.
I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipt for speaking true; thou’lt have me whipt for lying; and sometimes I am whipt for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o’ thing than a Fool, and yet I would not be thee, nuncle: thou hast par’d thy wit o’ both sides, and left nothing i’ th’ middle. Here comes one o’ the parings.
How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on? You are too much of late i’ th’ frown.
Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning, now thou art an O without a figure. I am better than thou art now, I am a Fool, thou art nothing.
Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing.
He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
Weary of all, shall want some.
Pointing to Lear.
That’s a sheal’d peascod.
Not only, sir, this your all-licens’d Fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be-endur’d riots. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
That you protect this course and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offense,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
For you know, nuncle,
“The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had it head bit off by it young.”
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
Are you our daughter?
I would you would make use of your good wisdom
(Whereof I know you are fraught) and put away
These dispositions which of late transport you
From what you rightly are.
May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?
“Whoop, Jug! I love thee.”
Does any here know me? This is not Lear.
Does Lear walk thus? Speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
I would learn that, for by the marks of sovereignty,
Knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded
I had daughters.
Which they will make an obedient father.
Your name, fair gentlewoman?
This admiration, sir, is much o’ th’ savor
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright,
As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
Men so disorder’d, so debosh’d and bold,
That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
Makes it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a grac’d palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy. Be then desir’d
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train,
And the remainders that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
Which know themselves and you.
Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together!
Degenerate bastard, I’ll not trouble thee;
Yet have I left a daughter.
You strike my people,
And your disorder’d rabble make servants of their betters.
Woe, that too late repents!—O, sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir.—Prepare my horses.—
Ingratitude! Thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous when thou show’st thee in a child
Than the sea-monster.
Pray, sir, be patient.
Detested kite, thou liest.
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
Which, like an engine, wrench’d my frame of nature
From the fix’d place; drew from my heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in
Striking his head.
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
Exeunt Knights and Kent.
My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant
Of what hath moved you.
It may be so, my lord.
Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful.
Into her womb convey sterility,
Dry up in her the organs of increase,
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honor her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur’d torment to her.
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!—Away, away!
Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
Never afflict yourself to know more of it,
But let his disposition have that scope
As dotage gives it.
What, fifty of my followers at a clap?
Within a fortnight?
What’s the matter, sir?
I’ll tell thee.
Life and death! I am asham’d
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
Th’ untented woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you loose,
To temper clay. Yea, is’t come to this?
Ha? Let it be so: I have another daughter,
Who I am sure is kind and comfortable.
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She’ll flea thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off forever.
Do you mark that?
I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you—
Pray you, content.—What, Oswald, ho!
To the Fool.
You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry, take the Fool with thee.
A fox, when one has caught her,
And such a daughter,
Should sure to the slaughter,
If my cap would buy a halter,
So the Fool follows after.
This man hath had good counsel—a hundred knights!
’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights; yes, that on every dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their pow’rs,
And hold our lives in mercy.—Oswald, I say!
Well, you may fear too far.
Safer than trust too far.
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
What he hath utter’d I have writ my sister;
If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
When I have show’d th’ unfitness—
Enter Steward Oswald.
How now, Oswald?
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
Take you some company, and away to horse.
Inform her full of my particular fear,
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact it more. Get you gone,
And hasten your return.
No, no, my lord,
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attax’d for want of wisdom
Than prais’d for harmful mildness.
How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
Well, well, th’ event.