The British camp near Dover.
(Edmund; Lear; Cordelia; Soldiers; First Captain; Second Captain; Albany; Goneril; Regan; Herald; Edgar; Second Gentleman; Kent; Second Messenger)
Edmund’s forces have captured Lear and Cordelia, and he sends them off to jail. Lear consoles his daughter with the fact that they will be together. Edmund bribes a captain to follow them and make an end of them. Albany enters, asking for the captives, and Edmund explains that he will produce them the next day. Albany puts him in his place, reminding him that he is not one of the rulers of the land. Regan immediately insists that he might as well be, as she intends to marry him. Goneril challenges her on this, and the quarrel escalates until Regan calls on Edmund to use his army to attack Albany’s. Albany arrests Edmund for treason, and challenges him. Regan is taken ill and has to leave, which is hardly surprising as Goneril has poisoned her. Edgar, masked, appears to take up the challenge against Edmund. They fight, and Edgar bests his half-brother. When Goneril tries to protest on a technicality, Albany proves to her that he has her love-letter, and advises her to stay quiet. Goneril, reminding Albany that she is Lear’s heir, not him, leaves. Edgar identifies himself, and tells of how Gloucester died when he told his father who he was. A messenger rushes in: Goneril has stabbed herself. Albany orders the bodies of the two sisters brought in, while Kent appears, looking for Lear. Suddenly remembering the existence of the old king, Albany asks Edmund where he sent them. Edmund, in his dying moments, tries to do some good and advises them to run, admitting that Lear and Cordelia are to be executed on his orders. But it is too late: Lear enters, holding the hanged Cordelia in his arms. He tries desperately to find some sign that Cordelia is still alive, but in vain. He recognizes Kent, but refuses to listen to his friend’s story of also being his servant ‘Caius’. Albany announces his intent to give supreme power back to Lear, but the old King dies. Albany asks Kent and Edgar to rule, but Kent intends to follow his master. (382 lines)
Enter in conquest, with Drum and Colors, Edmund, Lear and Cordelia as prisoners, Soldiers, Captain.
Some officers take them away. Good guard,
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure them.
We are not the first
Who with best meaning have incurr’d the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, I am cast down,
Myself could else out-frown false Fortune’s frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
No, no, no, no! Come let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ cage;
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too—
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out—
And take upon ’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by th’ moon.
Take them away.
Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
The good-years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep! We’ll see ’em starv’d first.
Exit with Cordelia, guarded.
Come hither, captain; hark.
Take thou this note
Giving a paper.
go follow them to prison.
One step I have advanc’d thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes. Know thou this, that men
Are as the time is: to be tender-minded
Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
Will not bear question; either say thou’lt do’t,
Or thrive by other means.
I’ll do’t, my lord.
About it, and write happy when th’ hast done.
Mark, I say instantly, and carry it so
As I have set it down.
I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats,
If it be man’s work, I’ll do’t.
Exit First Captain.
Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, another Captain, Soldiers.
Sir, you have show’d today your valiant strain,
And fortune led you well. You have the captives
Who were the opposites of this day’s strife;
I do require them of you, so to use them
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.
Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable King
To some retention and appointed guard,
Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
And turn our impress’d lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the Queen,
My reason all the same, and they are ready
Tomorrow, or at further space, t’ appear
Where you shall hold your session. At this time
We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend,
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs’d
By those that feel their sharpness.
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.
Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.
That’s as we list to grace him.
Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
Bore the commission of my place and person,
The which immediacy may well stand up,
And call itself your brother.
Not so hot.
In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
More than in your addition.
In my rights,
By me invested, he compeers the best.
That were the most, if he should husband you.
Jesters do oft prove prophets.
That eye that told you so look’d but a-squint.
Lady, I am not well, else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach. General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.
Mean you to enjoy him?
The let-alone lies not in your good will.
Nor in thine, lord.
Half-blooded fellow, yes.
Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
Stay yet, hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason, and in thy attaint,
This gilded serpent
Pointing to Goneril.
For your claim, fair sister,
I bar it in the interest of my wife;
’Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your banes.
If you will marry, make your loves to me,
My lady is bespoke.
Thou art armed, Gloucester, let the trumpet sound.
If none appear to prove upon thy person
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge
Throwing down a glove.
I’ll make it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim’d thee.
Sick, O, sick!
If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.
There’s my exchange.
Throwing down a glove.
What in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
Call by the trumpet; he that dares approach:
On him, on you—who not?—I will maintain
My truth and honor firmly.
A herald, ho!
A herald, ho, a herald!
Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers,
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.
My sickness grows upon me.
She is not well, convey her to my tent.
Exit Regan, led.
Enter a Herald.
Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound,
And read out this.
A trumpet sounds.
“If any man of quality or degree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his defense.”
Trumpet answers within.
Enter Edgar at the third sound, armed, a Trumpet before him.
Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o’ th’ trumpet.
What are you?
Your name, your quality? And why you answer
This present summons?
Know, my name is lost,
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit,
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.
Which is that adversary?
What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?
Himself; what say’st thou to him?
Draw thy sword,
That if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice; here is mine:
Behold, it is my privilege,
The privilege of mine honors,
My oath, and my profession. I protest,
Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
Despite thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valor, and thy heart, thou art a traitor;
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince,
And from th’ extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “No,”
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
In wisdom I should ask thy name,
But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,
Which for they yet glance by, and scarcely bruise,
This sword of mine shall give them instant way
Where they shall rest forever. Trumpets, speak!
Alarums. They fight. Edmund falls.
Save him, save him!
This is practice, Gloucester.
By th’ law of war thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquish’d,
But cozen’d and beguil’d.
Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stopple it. Hold, sir.—
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
No tearing, lady, I perceive you know it.
Say if I do, the laws are mine, not thine;
Who can arraign me for’t?
Most monstrous! O!
Know’st thou this paper?
Ask me not what I know.
Go after her; she’s desperate, govern her.
What you have charg’d me with, that have I done,
And more, much more, the time will bring it out.
’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.
Let’s exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more th’ hast wrong’d me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us:
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.
th’ hast spoken right, ’tis true.
The wheel is come full circle, I am here.
Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father.
Worthy prince, I know’t.
Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?
By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
And when ’tis told, O that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape,
That follow’d me so near (O, our lives’ sweetness!
That we the pain of death would hourly die
Rather than die at once!), taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags, t’ assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain’d; and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
Led him, begg’d for him, sav’d him from despair;
Never (O fault!) reveal’d myself unto him,
Until some half hour past, when I was arm’d.
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask’d his blessing, and from first to last
Told him our pilgrimage. But his flaw’d heart
(Alack, too weak the conflict to support!)
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
This speech of yours hath mov’d me,
And shall perchance do good: but speak you on,
You look as you had something more to say.
If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.
This would have seem’d a period
To such as love not sorrow, but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity. Whilst I
Was big in clamor, came there in a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn’d my abhorr’d society, but then finding
Who ’twas that so endur’d, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
As he’d burst heaven, threw him on my father,
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear received, which in recounting,
His grief grew puissant and the strings of life
Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
And there I left him tranc’d.
But who was this?
Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent, who in disguise
Followed his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.
Enter Second Gentleman with a bloody knife.
Help, help! O, help!
What kind of help?
What means this bloody knife?
’Tis hot, it smokes,
It came even from the heart of—O, she’s dead!
Who dead? Speak, man.
Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister
By her is poison’d; she confesses it.
I was contracted to them both; all three
Now marry in an instant.
Here comes Kent.
Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
Exit Second Gentleman.
This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
Touches us not with pity.—O, is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.
I am come
To bid my king and master aye good night.
Is he not here?
Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s Cordelia?
Goneril and Regan’s bodies brought out.
Seest thou this object, Kent?
Alack, why thus?
Yet Edmund was belov’d!
The one the other poison’d for my sake,
And after slew herself.
Even so. Cover their faces.
I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send
(Be brief in it) to th’ castle, for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time.
Run, run, O, run!
To who, my lord? Who has the office? Send
Thy token of reprieve.
Well thought on. Take my sword. The captain—
Give it the captain.
Haste thee, for thy life.
He hath commission from thy wife and me
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.
The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
Edmund is borne off.
Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms, Edgar and Second Gentleman following.
Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’ld use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone forever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass,
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why then she lives.
Is this the promis’d end?
Or image of that horror?
Fall, and cease!
This feather stirs, she lives! If it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
O my good master!
’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have sav’d her, now she’s gone forever!
Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.
’Tis true, my lords, he did.
Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip. I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o’ th’ best; I’ll tell you straight.
If Fortune brag of two she lov’d and hated,
One of them we behold.
This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He’ll strike, and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.
No, my good lord, I am the very man—
I’ll see that straight.
That from your first of difference and decay,
Have follow’d your sad steps—
You are welcome hither.
Nor no man else. All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
Your eldest daughters have foredone themselves,
And desperately are dead.
Ay, so I think.
He knows not what he says, and vain is it
That we present us to him.
Enter Second Messenger.
Edmund is dead, my lord.
That’s but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come
Shall be applied. For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power.
To Edgar and Kent.
You, to your rights,
With boot, and such addition as your honors
Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never.
Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her! Look her lips,
Look there, look there!
He faints. My lord, my lord!
Break, heart, I prithee break!
Look up, my lord.
Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass, he hates him
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
He is gone indeed.
The wonder is he hath endur’d so long,
He but usurp’d his life.
Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.
To Kent and Edgar.
Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gor’d state sustain.
I have a journey, sir, shortly to go:
My master calls me, I must not say no.
The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say:
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.
Exeunt with a dead march.