Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act III
 
Scene II
 
 
[The same.] Storm still
Enter LEAR and Fool

  Lear.  Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing 1 fires,        4
Vaunt-couriers 2 of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens 3 spill 4 at once,        8
That makes ingrateful man!
  Fool.  O nuncle, court holy-water 5 in a dry house is better than this rain-water out o’ door. Good nuncle, in; ask thy daughters’ blessing. Here’s a night pities neither wise men nor fools.
  Lear.  Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters.        12
I tax 6 not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children;
You owe me no subscription. 7 Then let fall
Your horrible pleasure. Here I stand, your slave,        16
A poor, infirm, weak, and despis’d old man;
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That will with two pernicious daughters join
Your high engender’d battles 8 ’gainst a head        20
So old and white as this. Oh! Oh! ’tis foul!
  Fool.  He that has a house to put ’s head in has a good head-piece.
        “The cod-piece that will house
  Before the head has any,
The head and he shall louse;
  So beggars marry many.
The man that makes his toe
  What he his heart should make
Shall of a corn cry woe,
  And turn his sleep to wake.” 9
For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass.
 
Enter KENT

  Lear.  No, I will be the pattern of all patience; I will say nothing.
  Kent.  Who’s there?        24
  Fool.  Marry, here’s grace and a cod-piece; that’s a wise man and a fool
  Kent.  Alas, sir, are you here? Things that love night
Love not such nights as these; the wrathful skies
Gallow 10 the very wanderers of the dark,        28
And make them keep their caves. Since I was man,
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard. Man’s nature cannot carry        32
The affliction nor the fear.
  Lear.        Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pudder 11 o’er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,        36
That hast within thee undivulged crimes,
Unwhipp’d of justice! Hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjur’d, and thou simular 12 of virtue
That art incestuous! Caitiff, to pieces shake,        40
That under covert and convenient seeming
Has practis’d 13 on man’s life! Close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents, 14 and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. 15 I am a man        44
More sinn’d against than sinning.
  Kent.        Alack, bare-headed!
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel;
Some friendship will it lend you ’gainst the tempest.        48
Repose you there; while I to this hard house—
More harder than the stones whereof ’tis rais’d;
Which even but now, demanding after you,
Deni’d 16 me to come in—return, and force        52
Their scanted courtesy.
  Lear.        My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?        56
The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious. Come, your hovel.
Poor Fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.        60
  Fool.  [Singing.]
        “He that has and a little tiny wit,—
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain,—
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.”
  Lear.  True, boy. Come, bring us to this hovel.  Exeunt [LEAR and KENT].
  Fool.  This is a brave night to cool a courtezan.
I’ll speak a prophecy ere I go:
        When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors;
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors;
When every case in law is right;
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues;
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold i’ the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build:
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.
Then comes the time, who lives to see ’t,
That going shall be us’d with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time.  Exit.
        64
 
Note 1. Quick as thought. [back]
Note 2. Fore-runners. [back]
Note 3. Seeds. [back]
Note 4. Destroy. [back]
Note 5. Flattery. [back]
Note 6. Blame. [back]
Note 7. Allegiance. [back]
Note 8. Battalions mustered in the heavens. [back]
Note 9. He who cherishes the mean in preference to the worthy, shall suffer from the mean. [back]
Note 10. Frighten. [back]
Note 11. Turmoil. [back]
Note 12. Simulator. [back]
Note 13. Plotted against. [back]
Note 14. What hides you. [back]
Note 15. For mercy. [back]
Note 16. Refused to allow. [back]
 

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