A chamber in a farmhouse adjoining the castle.
(Kent; Gloucester; Lear; Edgar; Fool)
Gloucester brings Lear and his bedraggled retinue to a small farmhouse adjoining his castle, promising to return soon with things to make it more comfortable. Lear appoints Kent, the Fool and Edgar as judges and proceeds to hold a trial of his daughters for their ingratitude. Moved, Edgar finds it harder and harder to keep up his role. Kent tries to persuade Lear to sleep. Gloucester returns in a hurry, having overheard a plot against Lear’s life; he urges Kent to take the King towards Dover. (96 lines)
Enter Kent disguised as Caius and Gloucester.
Here is better than the open air, take it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what addition I can. I will not be long from you.
All the pow’r of his wits have given way to his impatience. The gods reward your kindness!
Enter Lear, Edgar, and Fool.
Frateretto calls me, and tells me Nero is an angler in the lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.
Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman?
A king, a king!
No, he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son; for he’s a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before him.
To have a thousand with red burning spits
Come hizzing in upon ’em—
The foul fiend bites my back.
He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.
It shall be done, I will arraign them straight.
Come sit thou here, most learned justicer;
To the Fool.
Thou, sapient sir, sit here. Now, you she-foxes—
Look where he stands and glares! Want’st thou eyes at trial, madam?
“Come o’er the bourn, Bessy, to me”—
Her boat hath a leak,
And she must not speak
Why she dares not come over to thee.
The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a nightingale. Hoppedance cries in Tom’s belly for two white herring. Croak not, black angel, I have no food for thee.
How do you, sir? Stand you not so amaz’d.
Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?
I’ll see their trial first, bring in their evidence.
Thou robed man of justice, take thy place,
To the Fool.
And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity,
Bench by his side.
You are o’ th’ commission,
Sit you too.
Let us deal justly.
Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
Thy sheep be in the corn,
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm.
Purr the cat is grey.
Arraign her first, ’tis Goneril. I here take my oath before this honorable assembly, she kick’d the poor king her father.
Come hither, mistress. Is your name Goneril?
She cannot deny it.
Cry you mercy, I took you for a join-stool.
And here’s another, whose warp’d looks proclaim
What store her heart is made an. Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place!
False justicer, why hast thou let her scape?
Bless thy five wits!
O pity! Sir, where is the patience now
That you so oft have boasted to retain?
My tears begin to take his part so much,
They mar my counterfeiting.
The little dogs and all,
Trey, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me.
Tom will throw his head at them. Avaunt, you curs!
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
Mastiff, greyhound, mongril grim,
Hound or spaniel, brach or lym,
Or bobtail tike or trundle-tail,
Tom will make him weep and wail,
For with throwing thus my head,
Dogs leapt the hatch, and all are fled.
Do de, de, de. Sessa! Come, march to wakes and fairs and market towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is dry.
Then let them anatomize Regan; see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that make these hard hearts?
You, sir, I entertain for one of my hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments. You will say they are Persian, but let them be chang’d.
Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.
Make no noise, make no noise, draw the curtains. So, so; we’ll go to supper i’ th’ morning.
And I’ll go to bed at noon.
Come hither, friend; where is the King my master?
Here, sir, but trouble him not—his wits are gone.
Good friend, I prithee take him in thy arms;
I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him.
There is a litter ready, lay him in’t,
And drive toward Dover, friend, where thou shalt meet
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master;
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
With thine and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assured loss. Take up, take up,
And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.
Oppressed nature sleeps.
This rest might yet have balm’d thy broken sinews,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.
To the Fool.
Come help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.
Come, come, away.
Exeunt all but Edgar.
When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers, suffers most i’ th’ mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind,
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the King bow:
He childed as I fathered! Tom, away!
Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray
When false opinion, whose wrong thoughts defile thee,
In thy just proof repeals and reconciles thee.
What will hap more tonight, safe scape the King!