Before Gloucester’s castle.
(Lear; Fool; First Gentleman; Kent; Gloucester; Cornwall; Regan; Gloucester; Servants; Oswald; Goneril)
Lear and his retinue arrive at Gloucester’s. The King finds it odd that Regan and Cornwall decided to leave their castle just as they heard of his approach, and that Kent has not returned. Kent salutes him from the stocks, and Lear is incensed at the insult, though he at first refuses to believe that Regan and Cornwall are responsible. Lear feels himself on the verge of losing control. Kent and the Fool banter as the King asks to see his daughter and son-in-law, but the latter two refuse, as they are exceedingly tired. Lear tries desperately to keep control of his increasingly demented temper. When Regan and Cornwall finally appear, Lear appeals to his daughter, weeping over Goneril’s bad treatment of him, but is shocked when Regan refuses to share his opinion. He attempts to reassure himself that she will never treat him the way Goneril did, but at that moment Goneril herself arrives, and the two sisters band together. Regan refuses to take Lear in, making the eminently reasonable point that she is not prepared to receive him; Goneril refuses to take him back unless he dismisses fifty of his knights. Between them they whittle down the number of knights he should be allowed, until they refuse to take any followers with him. His powerlessness brought home to him, Lear tries desperately not to weep. He stalks off with the Fool, despite the coming storm. Gloucester is worried about him, but the two sisters and Cornwall prevent him from helping the King. Cornwall coldly orders that the doors be barred against the storm, trapping Lear outside. (324 lines)
Enter Lear, Fool, and First Gentleman. Kent, disguised as Caius, in the stocks.
’Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
And not send back my messenger.
As I learn’d,
The night before there was no purpose in them
Of this remove.
Hail to thee, noble master!
Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?
No, my lord.
Hah, ha, he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by the heads, dogs and bears by th’ neck, monkeys by th’ loins, and men by th’ legs. When a man’s overlusty at legs, then he wears wooden nether-stocks.
What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
To set thee here?
It is both he and she,
Your son and daughter.
No, I say.
I say yea.
No, no, they would not.
Yes, they have.
By Jupiter, I swear no.
By Juno, I swear ay.
They durst not do’t;
They could not, would not do’t. ’Tis worse than murder
To do upon respect such violent outrage.
Resolve me with all modest haste which way
Thou mightst deserve, or they impose, this usage,
Coming from us.
My lord, when at their home
I did commend your Highness’ letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that showed
My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
Stew’d in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
From Goneril his mistress salutations;
Deliver’d letters, spite of intermission,
Which presently they read; on those contents
They summon’d up their meiny, straight took horse,
Commanded me to follow, and attend
The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks:
And meeting here the other messenger,
Whose welcome I perceiv’d had poison’d mine—
Being the very fellow which of late
Display’d so saucily against your Highness—
Having more man than wit about me, drew.
He rais’d the house with loud and coward cries.
Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
The shame which here it suffers.
Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind,
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.
But for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
O how this mother swells up toward my heart!
Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow,
Thy element’s below.—Where is this daughter?
With the Earl, sir, here within.
Follow me not,
Made you no more offense but what you speak of?
How chance the King comes with so small a number?
And thou hadst been set i’ th’ stocks for that question, thou’dst well deserv’d it.
We’ll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there’s no laboring i’ th’ winter. All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following; but the great one that goes upward, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again, I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry, the Fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly.
The knave turns fool that runs away,
The Fool no knave, perdie.
Where learn’d you this, Fool?
Not i’ th’ stocks, fool.
Enter Lear and Gloucester.
Deny to speak with me? They are sick? They are weary?
They have travell’d all the night? Mere fetches,
The images of revolt and flying off.
Fetch me a better answer.
My dear lord,
You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
How unremovable and fix’d he is
In his own course.
Vengeance! Plague! Death! Confusion!
Fiery? What quality? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
I’ld speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
Well, my good lord, I have inform’d them so.
‘Inform’d them?’ Dost thou understand me, man?
Ay, my good lord.
The King would speak with Cornwall, the dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands, tends service.
Are they inform’d of this? My breath and blood!
‘Fiery?’ The fiery Duke? Tell the hot Duke that—
No, but not yet, may be he is not well:
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound; we are not ourselves
When nature, being oppress’d, commands the mind
To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indispos’d and sickly fit
For the sound man.
Looking on Kent.
Death on my state! Wherefore
Should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion of the Duke and her
Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
Go tell the Duke, and ’s wife, I’ld speak with them—
Now, presently. Bid them come forth and hear me,
Or at their chamber-door I’ll beat the drum
Till it cry sleep to death.
I would have all well betwixt you.
O me, my heart! My rising heart! But down!
Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she put ’em i’ th’ paste alive; she knapp’d ’em o’ th’ coxcombs with a stick, and cried, “Down, wantons, down!” ’Twas her brother that, in pure kindness to his horse, butter’d his hay.
Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, Servants.
Good morrow to you both.
Hail to your Grace!
Kent here set at liberty.
I am glad to see your Highness.
Regan, I think you are; I know what reason
I have to think so. If thou shouldst not be glad,
I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,
Sepulchring an adult’ress.
O, are you free?
Some other time for that.
Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied
Sharp-tooth’d unkindness, like a vulture, here.
Points to his heart.
I can scarce speak to thee; thou’lt not believe
With how deprav’d a quality—O Regan!
I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
You less know how to value her desert
Than she to scant her duty.
Say? How is that?
I cannot think my sister in the least
Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
She have restrain’d the riots of your followers,
’Tis on such ground and to such wholesome end
As clears her from all blame.
My curses on her!
O sir, you are old,
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of his confine. You should be rul’d and led
By some discretion that discerns your state
Better than you yourself. Therefore I pray you
That to our sister you do make return.
Say you have wrong’d her.
Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the house!
“Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks.
Return you to my sister.
She hath abated me of half my train;
Look’d black upon me, strook me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart.
All the stor’d vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking airs, with lameness!
Fie, sir, fie!
You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck’d fogs, drawn by the pow’rful sun,
To fall and blister!
O the blest gods! So
Will you wish on me, when the rash mood is on.
No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.
Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but thine
Do comfort, and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
And in conclusion to oppose the bolt
Against my coming in. Thou better know’st
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude:
Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow’d.
Good sir, to th’ purpose.
Who put my man i’ th’ stocks?
Enter Steward Oswald.
What trumpet’s that?
I know’t, my sister’s. This approves her letter,
That she would soon be here.
Is your lady come?
This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
Out, varlet, from my sight!
What means your Grace?
Who stock’d my servant? Regan, I have good hope
Thou didst not know on’t. Who comes here? O heavens!
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow obedience, if you yourselves are old,
Make it your cause; send down, and take my part.
Art not asham’d to look upon this beard?
O Regan, will you take her by the hand?
Why not by th’ hand, sir? How have I offended?
All’s not offense that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.
O sides, you are too tough!
Will you yet hold? How came my man i’ th’ stocks?
I set him there, sir; but his own disorders
Deserv’d much less advancement.
You? Did you?
I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
If till the expiration of your month
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
I am now from home, and out of that provision
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
Return to her? And fifty men dismiss’d?
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage against the enmity o’ th’ air,
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl—
Necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her?
Why, the hot-bloodied France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought
To knee his throne, and squire-like, pension beg
To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
To this detested groom.
Pointing at Oswald.
At your choice, sir.
I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell:
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another.
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter—
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a bile,
A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle,
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee,
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it.
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
Mend when thou canst, be better at thy leisure,
I can be patient, I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.
Not altogether so,
I look’d not for you yet, nor am provided
For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister,
For those that mingle reason with your passion
Must be content to think you old, and so—
But she knows what she does.
Is this well spoken?
I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many? Sith that both charge and danger
Speak ’gainst so great a number? How in one house
Should many people under two commands
Hold amity? ’Tis hard, almost impossible.
Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
From those that she calls servants or from mine?
Why not, my lord? If then they chanc’d to slack ye,
We could control them. If you will come to me
(For now I spy a danger), I entreat you
To bring but five and twenty; to no more
Will I give place or notice.
I gave you all—
And in good time you gave it.
Made you my guardians, my depositaries,
But kept a reservation to be followed
With such a number. What, must I come to you
With five and twenty? Regan, said you so?
And speak’t again, my lord, no more with me.
Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favor’d
When others are more wicked; not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise.
I’ll go with thee,
Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,
And thou art twice her love.
Hear me, my lord:
What need you five and twenty? Ten? Or five?
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?
What need one?
O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But for true need—
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall—I will do such things—
What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
The terrors of the earth! You think I’ll weep:
No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Storm and tempest.
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. O Fool, I shall go mad!
Exeunt Lear, Gloucester, First Gentleman, and Fool.
Let us withdraw, ’twill be a storm.
This house is little, the old man and ’s people
Cannot be well bestow’d.
’Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,
And must needs taste his folly.
For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly,
But not one follower.
So am I purpos’d.
Where is my Lord of Gloucester?
Followed the old man forth.
He is return’d.
The King is in high rage.
Whither is he going?
He calls to horse, but will I know not whither.
’Tis best to give him way, he leads himself.
My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There’s scarce a bush.
O sir, to willful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
He is attended with a desperate train,
And what they may incense him to, being apt
To have his ear abus’d, wisdom bids fear.
Shut up your doors, my lord, ’tis a wild night,
My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.