The British camp near Dover.
(Edmund; Regan; First Gentlemen; Second Gentlemen; Albany; Goneril; Soldiers; Edgar; Edmund)
Edmund sends to find out whether Albany has changed his mind yet again about how to go about the battle. Jealous, Regan asks Edmund to assure her that he does not love Goneril, which he does. Albany insists that he is only fighting because the opposing army is French, not against Lear. Edmund and Albany arrange a later meeting to discuss combining their forces. Regan insists that Goneril not follow, to keep her away from Edmund. Edgar, disguised, enters and gives Albany the love letter he found, promising the Duke that a champion will vouch for its truth if he asks for one. Edmund urges Albany to go to the battle, which is about to begin. Alone, he reflects on how he has won the love of both sisters, and cannot decide between them, though they both have their uses. He is determined to make sure that Albany’s plan to be merciful to Cordelia and Lear fails. (78 lines)
Enter, with Drum and Colors, Edmund, Regan, Gentlemen, and Soldiers.
Know of the Duke if his last purpose hold,
Or whether since he is advis’d by aught
To change the course. He’s full of alteration
And self-reproving—bring his constant pleasure.
To Second Gentleman, who goes out.
Our sister’s man is certainly miscarried.
’Tis to be doubted, madam.
Now, sweet lord,
You know the goodness I intend upon you:
Tell me but truly, but then speak the truth,
Do you not love my sister?
In honor’d love.
But have you never found my brother’s way
To the forfended place?
That thought abuses you.
I am doubtful that you have been conjunct
And bosom’d with her—as far as we call hers.
No, by mine honor, madam.
I never shall endure her. Dear my lord,
Be not familiar with her.
Fear me not.
She and the Duke her husband!
Enter, with Drum and Colors, Albany, Goneril, Soldiers.
I had rather lose the battle than that sister
Should loosen him and me.
Our very loving sister, well bemet.
Sir, this I heard: the King is come to his daughter,
With others whom the rigor of our state
Forc’d to cry out. Where I could not be honest,
I never yet was valiant. For this business,
It touches us as France invades our land,
Not bolds the King, with others whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.
Sir, you speak nobly.
Why is this reason’d?
Combine together ’gainst the enemy;
For these domestic and particular broils
Are not the question here.
Let’s then determine
With th’ ancient of war on our proceeding.
I shall attend you presently at your tent.
Sister, you’ll go with us?
’Tis most convenient, pray go with us.
O ho, I know the riddle.—I will go.
Exeunt both the armies.
As they are going out, enter Edgar disguised. Albany remains.
If e’er your Grace had speech with man so poor,
Hear me one word.
I’ll overtake you.—Speak.
Before you fight the battle, ope this letter.
If you have victory, let the trumpet sound
For him that brought it. Wretched though I seem,
I can produce a champion that will prove
What is avouched there. If you miscarry,
Your business of the world hath so an end,
And machination ceases. Fortune love you!
Stay till I have read the letter.
I was forbid it.
When time shall serve, let but the herald cry,
And I’ll appear again.
Why, fare thee well, I will o’erlook thy paper.
The enemy’s in view, draw up your powers.
Here is the guess of their true strength and forces,
By diligent discovery, but your haste
Is now urg’d on you.
We will greet the time.
To both these sisters have I sworn my love;
Each jealous of the other, as the stung
Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take?
Both? One? Or neither? Neither can be enjoy’d
If both remain alive: to take the widow
Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril,
And hardly shall I carry out my side,
Her husband being alive. Now then, we’ll use
His countenance for the battle, which being done,
Let her who would be rid of him devise
His speedy taking off. As for the mercy
Which he intends to Lear and to Cordelia,
The battle done, and they within our power,
Shall never see his pardon; for my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate.