The Earl of Gloucester’s castle.
(Edmund; Curan; Edgar; Gloucester; Servants; Cornwall; Regan; Attendants)
Edmund finds out that Regan and her husband Cornwall will be visiting his father, and that there are rumours that Cornwall and the Duke of Albany are arming against each other. Seizing the opportunity presented by the Duke’s visit, Edmund convinces Edgar to flee, warning him that it is rumoured that he has spoken against the Duke and that that is why Cornwall is on his way. They stage a fight, and Edgar runs off. Edmund wounds himself, and pretends to his father that his brother is the cause; he claims that he was fighting Edgar to stop him from killing Gloucester. Gloucester announces that he will ask Cornwall to condemn Edgar to death. Cornwall, approving of young Edmund’s apparent valor and loyalty, takes him to his service. Regan explains that she prefers to deal with her father at Gloucester’s rather that at her own house, given what she has heard from her sister. (136 lines)
Enter Bastard Edmund and Curan severally.
’Save thee, Curan.
And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan his duchess will be here with him this night.
How comes that?
Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad, I mean the whisper’d ones, for they are yet but ear-bussing arguments?
Not I. Pray you, what are they?
Have you heard of no likely wars toward, ’twixt the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
Not a word.
You may do then in time. Fare you well, sir.
The Duke be here tonight? The better! Best!
This weaves itself perforce into my business.
My father hath set guard to take my brother,
And I have one thing, of a queasy question,
Which I must act. Briefness and fortune, work!
Brother, a word! Descend. Brother, I say!
My father watches: O sir, fly this place,
Intelligence is given where you are hid;
You have now the good advantage of the night.
Have you not spoken ’gainst the Duke of Cornwall?
He’s coming hither, now i’ th’ night, i’ th’ haste,
And Regan with him. Have you nothing said
Upon his party ’gainst the Duke of Albany?
I am sure on’t, not a word.
I hear my father coming. Pardon me:
In cunning I must draw my sword upon you.
Draw, seem to defend yourself; now quit you well.—
Yield! Come before my father. Light ho, here!—
Fly, brother.—Torches, torches!—So farewell.
Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion
Wounds his arm.
Of my more fierce endeavor. I have seen drunkards
Do more than this in sport.—Father, father!
Stop, stop! No help?
Enter Gloucester, and Servants with torches.
Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?
Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand ’s auspicious mistress.
But where is he?
Look, sir, I bleed.
Where is the villain, Edmund?
Fled this way, sir, when by no means he could—
Pursue him, ho! Go after.
Exeunt some Servants.
By no means what?
Persuade me to the murder of your lordship,
But that I told him, the revengive gods
’Gainst parricides did all the thunder bend,
Spoke, with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to th’ father; sir, in fine,
Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion
With his prepared sword he charges home
My unprovided body, latch’d mine arm;
And when he saw my best alarum’d spirits,
Bold in the quarrel’s right, rous’d to th’ encounter,
Or whether gasted by the noise I made,
Full suddenly he fled.
Let him fly far.
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;
And found—dispatch. The noble Duke my master,
My worthy arch and patron, comes tonight.
By his authority I will proclaim it,
That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,
Bringing the murderous coward to the stake;
He that conceals him, death.
When I dissuaded him from his intent,
And found him pight to do it, with curst speech
I threaten’d to discover him; he replied,
“Thou unpossessing bastard, dost thou think,
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee
Make thy words faith’d? No. What I should deny
(As this I would, ay, though thou didst produce
My very character), I’ld turn it all
To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice;
And thou must make a dullard of the world
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spirits
To make thee seek it.”
O strange and fast’ned villain!
Would he deny his letter, said he? I never got him.
Hark, the Duke’s trumpets! I know not why he comes.
All ports I’ll bar, the villain shall not scape;
The Duke must grant me that. Besides, his picture
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have due note of him, and of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means
To make thee capable.
Enter Cornwall, Regan, and Attendants.
How now, my noble friend? Since I came hither
(Which I can call but now) I have heard strange news.
If it be true, all vengeance comes too short
Which can pursue th’ offender. How dost, my lord?
O madam, my old heart is crack’d, it’s crack’d!
What, did my father’s godson seek your life?
He whom my father nam’d, your Edgar?
O lady, lady, shame would have it hid!
Was he not companion with the riotous knights
That tended upon my father?
I know not, madam. ’Tis too bad, too bad.
Yes, madam, he was of that consort.
No marvel then, though he were ill affected:
’Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,
To have th’ expense and waste of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well inform’d of them, and with such cautions,
That if they come to sojourn at my house,
I’ll not be there.
Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A child-like office.
It was my duty, sir.
He did bewray his practice, and receiv’d
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.
Is he pursued?
Ay, my good lord.
If he be taken, he shall never more
Be fear’d of doing harm. Make your own purpose,
How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
So much commend itself, you shall be ours.
Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;
You we first seize on.
I shall serve you, sir,
Truly, however else.
For him I thank your Grace.
You know not why we came to visit you?
Thus out of season, threading dark-ey’d night:
Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some prize,
Wherein we must have use of your advice.
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home; the several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow
Your needful counsel to our businesses,
Which craves the instant use.
I serve you, madam.
Your Graces are right welcome.