The French camp near Dover.
(Kent; First Gentleman)
Kent meets the gentlemen he sent with news to Dover, from whom learns that troubles at home have forced the King of France to leave his army and return to his country, leaving Cordelia and a marshal in charge. The gentleman tells Kent of Cordelia’s grief as she heard how her sisters treated their father. Kent tells him that Lear refuses to see his daughter, so ashamed is he of how he treated her. (56 lines)
Enter Kent and First Gentleman.
Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back, know you no reason?
Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his coming forth is thought of, which imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger that his personal return was most requir’d and necessary.
Who hath he left behind him general?
The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Fer.
Did your letters pierce the Queen to any demonstration of grief?
Ay, sir, she took them, read them in my presence,
And now and then an ample tear trill’d down
Her delicate cheek. It seem’d she was a queen
Over her passion, who, most rebel-like,
Sought to be king o’er her.
O then it mov’d her.
Not to a rage, patience and sorrow strove
Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
Sunshine and rain at once; her smiles and tears
Were like a better way: those happy smilets
That play’d on her ripe lip seem’d not to know
What guests were in her eyes, which, parted thence,
As pearls from diamonds dropp’d. In brief,
Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved,
If all could so become it.
Made she no verbal question?
Faith, once or twice she heav’d the name of “father”
Pantingly forth, as if it press’d her heart;
Cried, “Sisters, sisters! Shame of ladies, sisters!
Kent! Father! Sisters! What, i’ th’ storm? I’ th’ night?
Let pity not be believ’d!” There she shook
The holy water from her heavenly eyes,
And, clamor-moistened, then away she started
To deal with grief alone.
It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions,
Else one self mate and make could not beget
Such different issues. You spoke not with her since?
Was this before the King return’d?
Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear’s i’ th’ town,
Who sometime, in his better tune, remembers
What we are come about, and by no means
Will yield to see his daughter.
Why, good sir?
A sovereign shame so elbows him: his own unkindness,
That stripp’d her from his benediction, turn’d her
To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights
To his dog-hearted daughters—these things sting
His mind so venomously, that burning shame
Detains him from Cordelia.
Alack, poor gentleman!
Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers you heard not?
’Tis so, they are afoot.
Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master Lear,
And leave you to attend him. Some dear cause
Will in concealment wrap me up awhile;
When I am known aright, you shall not grieve
Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you go
Along with me.