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Scene 1

A heath.

(Kent; First Gentleman)

Kent meets a gentleman of the king’s court, who informs him of Lear’s wild, grief-stricken ravings, and that the King is accompanied now only by the Fool. Kent in turn tells him that the French have set foot on Britain’s shores, and asks him to go to Dover to tell Cordelia just how Lear has been treated. (58 lines)

Storm still. Enter Kent disguised as Caius and First Gentleman severally.


Who’s there, besides foul weather?

1. GENT.

One minded like the weather, most unquietly.


I know you. Where’s the King?

1. GENT.

Contending with the fretful elements;

Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,

Or swell the curled waters ’bove the main,

That things might change or cease, tears his white hair,

Which the impetuous blasts with eyeless rage

Catch in their fury, and make nothing of,

Strives in his little world of man to outscorn

The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.

This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,

The lion and the belly-pinched wolf

Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,

And bids what will take all.


But who is with him?

1. GENT.

None but the Fool, who labors to outjest

His heart-struck injuries.


Sir, I do know you,

And dare upon the warrant of my note

Commend a dear thing to you. There is division

(Although as yet the face of it is cover’d

With mutual cunning) ’twixt Albany and Cornwall;

Who have—as who have not, that their great stars

Thron’d and set high?—servants, who seem no less,

Which are to France the spies and speculations

Intelligent of our state. What hath been seen,

Either in snuffs and packings of the Dukes,

Or the hard rein which both of them hath borne

Against the old kind King; or something deeper,

Whereof (perchance) these are but furnishings—

But true it is, from France there comes a power

Into this scattered kingdom, who already

Wise in our negligence, have secret feet

In some of our best ports, and are at point

To show their open banner. Now to you:

If on my credit you dare build so far

To make your speed to Dover, you shall find

Some that will thank you, making just report

Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow

The King hath cause to plain.

I am a gentleman of blood and breeding,

And from some knowledge and assurance, offer

This office to you.

1. GENT.

I will talk further with you.


No, do not.

For confirmation that I am much more

Than my out-wall, open this purse and take

What it contains. If you shall see Cordelia

(As fear not but you shall), show her this ring,

And she will tell you who that fellow is

That yet you do not know. Fie on this storm!

I will go seek the King.

1. GENT.

Give me your hand. Have you no more to say?


Few words, but to effect, more than all yet:

That when we have found the King—in which your pain

That way, I’ll this—he that first lights on him

Holla the other.

Exeunt severally.


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