Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act IV
Scene VII
[A tent in the French camp]
Enter CORDELIA, KENT, and Doctor

  Cor.  O thou good Kent, how shall I live and work
To match thy goodness? My life will be too short,
And every measure fail me.
  Kent.  To be acknowledg’d, madam, is o’er-paid.        4
All my reports go with the modest truth;
Nor more nor clipp’d, 1 but so.
  Cor.        Be better suited;
These weeds are memories of those worser hours.        8
I prithee, put them off.
  Kent.        Pardon, dear madam;
Yet to be known shortens my made intent. 2
My boon I make it, that you know me not        12
Till time and I think meet.
  Cor.  Then be ’t so, my good lord. [To the Doctor.] How does the King?
  Doct.  Madam, sleeps still.
  Cor.  O you kind gods,        16
Cure this great breach in his abused nature!
The untun’d and jarring senses, O, wind up
Of this child-changed 3 father!
  Doct.        So please your Majesty        20
That we may wake the King? He hath slept long.
  Cor.  Be govern’d by your knowledge, and proceed
I’ the sway of your own will.
Enter LEAR in a chair carried by Servants. [Gentleman in attendance]

        Is he array’d?
  Gent.  Ay, madam; in the heaviness of sleep
We put fresh garments on him.
  Doct.  Be by, good madam, when we do awake him;
I doubt not of his temperance. 4        28
  [Cor.        Very well.
  Doct.  Please you, draw near.—Louder the music there!]
  Cor.  O my dear father! Restoration hang
Thy medicine on my lips; and let this kiss        32
Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
Have in thy reverence made!
  Kent.        Kind and dear princess!
  Cor.  Had you not been their father, these white flakes        36
Did challenge pity of them. Was this a face
To be oppos’d against the warring winds?
[To stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?
In the most terrible and nimble stroke        40
Of quick, cross lightning? to watch—poor perdu! 5
With this thin helm?] Mine enemy’s dog,
Though he had bit me, should have stood that night
Against my fire; and wast thou fain, poor father,        44
To hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn
In short and musty straw? Alack, alack!
’Tis wonder that thy life and wits at once
Had not concluded all. He wakes; speak to him.        48
  Doct.  Madam, do you; ’tis fittest.
  Cor.  How does my royal lord? How fares your Majesty?
  Lear.  You do me wrong to take me out o’ the grave.
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound        52
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
  Cor.        Sir, do you know me?
  Lear.  You are a spirit, I know; when did you die?        56
  Cor.  Still, still, far wide! 6
  Doct.  He’s scarce awake; let him alone a while.
  Lear.  Where have I been? Where am I? Fair daylight?
I am mightily abus’d. I should even die with pity,        60
To see another thus. I know not what to say.
I will not swear these are my hands. Let’s see;
I feel this pin prick. Would I were assur’d
Of my condition!        64
  Cor.        O, look upon me, sir,
And hold your hand in benediction o’er me.
[No, sir,] you must not kneel.
  Lear.        Pray, do not mock me.        68
I am a very foolish fond 7 old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.        72
Methinks I should know you, and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly 8 ignorant
What place this is, and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not        76
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.
  Cor.        And so I am, I am.        80
  Lear.  Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray, weep not.
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong;        84
You have some cause, they have not.
  Cor.        No cause, no cause.
  Lear.  Am I in France?
  Kent.        In your own kingdom, sir.        88
  Lear.  Do not abuse me.
  Doct.  Be comforted, good madam; the great rage, 9
You see, is kill’d in him: [and yet it is danger
To make him even o’er the time he has lost.]        92
Desire him to go in; trouble him no more
Till further settling.
  Cor.  Will ’t please your Highness walk?
  Lear.        You must bear with me.        96
Pray you now, forget and forgive; I am old and foolish.  Exeunt [all but KENT and Gentleman].
  [Gent.  Holds it true, sir, that the Duke of Cornwall was so slain?
  Kent.  Most certain, sir.
  Gent.  Who is conductor of his people?        100
  Kent.  As ’tis said, the bastard son of Gloucester.
  Gent.  They say Edgar, his banish’d son, is with the Earl of Kent in Germany.
  Kent.  Report is changeable. ’Tis time to look about; the powers of the kingdom approach apace.
  Gent.  The arbitrement 10 is like to be bloody.        104
Fare you well, sir.  [Exit.]
  Kent.  My point and period will be throughly wrought,
Or well or ill, as this day’s battle’s fought.]  Exit.
Note 1. Shortened. [back]
Note 2. Interferes with the plan I have formed. [back]
Note 3. Changed by the cruelty of his children. [back]
Note 4. Sanity. [back]
Note 5. A soldier put on dangerous sentry duty. [back]
Note 6. Delirious. [back]
Note 7. Foolish. [back]
Note 8. Quite. [back]
Note 9. Frenzy. [back]
Note 10. Decision. [back]


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