(Cornwall; Regan; Goneril; Edmund; First Servant; Second Servant; Third Servant; Oswald; Gloucester)
Cornwell sends Goneril to warn Albany that the French army has landed, and tells Edmund to accompany her, to avoid his seeing what, exactly, is going to be done to Gloucester, whom servants have gone to seek. The sisters want him immediately punished. Oswald informs them that the King has been sent towards Dover. Gloucester is brought in, and Regan and Cornwall have him tied to a chair. They interrogate him about his links to France, pulling out the letter that Edmund told them about. Gloucester admits that he has communicated with them, but insists his correspondent was a neutral party. They do not believe him. Asked why he sent the King to Dover despite orders to the contrary, he finally bursts out how he wanted to protect Lear from his daughters. Cornwall puts out one of Gloucester’s eyes, and is about to do the other when his servant insist that he stop. Cornwall fights the servant, who wounds him, and Regan stabs the servant from behind. Despite his wound, Cornwall pulls out Gloucester’s other eye, and when he calls on Edmund for help, Regan informs him that it was Edmund who betrayed him. Just blinded, Gloucester sees the truth about his sons. The wounded Cornwall realizes that his wound is both serious and ill-timed. He orders that Gloucester be turned out. The servants decide to ask the madman to guide Gloucester. One of them dresses Gloucester’s wounded eyes. (111 lines)
Enter Cornwall, Regan, Goneril, Bastard Edmund, and Servants.
Post speedily to my lord your husband, show him this letter. The army of France is landed.—Seek out the traitor Gloucester.
Exeunt some of the Servants.
Hang him instantly.
Pluck out his eyes.
Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our sister company; the revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding. Advise the Duke, where you are going, to a most festinate preparation; we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister, farewell, my Lord of Gloucester.
Enter Steward Oswald.
How now? Where’s the King?
My Lord of Gloucester hath convey’d him hence.
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,
Hot questrists after him, met him at gate,
Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,
Are gone with him toward Dover, where they boast
To have well-armed friends.
Get horses for your mistress.
Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
Exeunt Goneril, Edmund, and Oswald.
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.
Exeunt other Servants.
Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a court’sy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control.
Enter Gloucester, brought in by two or three Servants.
Who’s there? The traitor?
Ingrateful fox, ’tis he.
Bind fast his corky arms.
What means your Graces? Good my friends, consider
You are my guests. Do me no foul play, friends.
Bind him, I say.
Servants bind him.
Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!
Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.
To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt find—
Regan plucks his beard.
By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.
So white, and such a traitor?
These hairs which thou dost ravish from my chin
Will quicken and accuse thee. I am your host,
With robber’s hands my hospitable favors
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?
Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?
Be simple-answer’d, for we know the truth.
And what confederacy have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?
To whose hands you have sent the lunatic King—
I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one oppos’d.
Where hast thou sent the King?
Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charg’d at peril—
Wherefore to Dover? Let him answer that.
I am tied to th’ stake, and I must stand the course.
Wherefore to Dover?
Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes, nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh rash boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endur’d, would have buoy’d up
And quench’d the stelled fires;
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that dearn time,
Thou shouldst have said, “Good porter, turn the key.”
All cruels else subscribe; but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
See’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair,
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.
He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help! O cruel! O you gods!
One side will mock another; th’ other too.
If you see vengeance—
Hold your hand, my lord!
I have serv’d you ever since I was a child;
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.
How now, you dog?
If you did wear a beard upon your chin,
I’ld shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?
Draw and fight.
Nay then come on, and take the chance of anger.
Cornwall is wounded.
Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus?
She takes a sword and runs at him behind; kills him.
O, I am slain! My lord, you have one eye left
To see some mischief on him. O!
Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vild jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?
All dark and comfortless! Where’s my son Edmund?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature,
To quit this horrid act.
Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call’st on him that hates thee. It was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us,
Who is too good to pity thee.
O my follies! Then Edgar was abus’d.
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!
Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell
His way to Dover.
Exit one with Gloucester.
How is’t, my lord? How look you?
I have receiv’d a hurt; follow me, lady.—
Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave
Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace,
Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm.
Exit, led by Regan.
I’ll never care what wickedness I do,
If this man come to good.
If she live long,
And in the end meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.
Let’s follow the old Earl, and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would; his roguish madness
Allows itself to any thing.
Go thou. I’ll fetch some flax and whites of eggs
To apply to his bleeding face. Now heaven help him!