Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > King Lear
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
King Lear
 
Act I. Scene IV.
 
A Hall in the Same.
 
Enter KENT, disguised.
  Kent.  If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue        5
For which I raz’d my likeness. Now, banish’d Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn’d,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st,
Shall find thee full of labours.
 
Horns within.  Enter LEAR, Knights, and Attendants.
        10
  Lear.  Let me not stay a jot for dinner. go, get it ready.  [Exit an Attendant.]  How now! what art thou?
  Kent.  A man, sir.
  Lear.  What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?
  Kent.  I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him truly that will put me in trust; to love him that is honest; to converse with him that is wise, and says little; to fear judgment; to fight when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
  Lear.  What art thou?        15
  Kent.  A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
  Lear.  If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
  Kent.  Service.
  Lear.  Whom wouldst thou serve?
  Kent.  You.        20
  Lear.  Dost thou know me, fellow?
  Kent.  No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
  Lear.  What’s that?
  Kent.  Authority.
  Lear.  What services canst thou do?        25
  Kent.  I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly; that which ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.
  Lear.  How old art thou?
  Kent.  Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor so old to dote on her for any thing; I have years on my back forty-eight.
  Lear.  Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no worse after dinner I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho! dinner! Where’s my knave? my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.  [Exit an Attendant.
 
Enter OSWALD.
        30
You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?
  Osw.  So please you,—  [Exit.
  Lear.  What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.  [Exit a Knight.]  Where’s my fool, ho? I think the world’s asleep. How now! where’s that mongrel?
 
Re-enter Knight.
  Knight.  He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.        35
  Lear.  Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?
  Knight.  Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would not.
  Lear.  He would not!
  Knight.  My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you were wont; there’s a great abatement of kindness appears as well in the general dependants as in the duke himself also and your daughter.
  Lear.  Ha! sayest thou so?        40
  Knight.  I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.
  Lear.  Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception: I have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness: I will look further into ’t. But where’s my fool? I have not seen him this two days.
  Knight.  Since my young lady’s going into France, sir, the fool hath much pined him away.
  Lear.  No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you and tell my daughter I would speak with her.  [Exit an Attendant.
Go you, call hither my fool.  [Exit an Attendant.        45
 
Re-enter OSWALD.
O! you sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?
  Osw.  My lady’s father.
  Lear.  ‘My lady’s father!’ my lord’s knave: you whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
  Osw.  I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon.        50
  Lear.  Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?  [Striking him.
  Osw.  I’ll not be struck, my lord.
  Kent.  Nor tripped neither, you base football player.  [Tripping up his heels.
  Lear.  I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I’ll love thee.
  Kent.  Come, sir, arise, away! I’ll teach you differences: away, away! If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry; but away! Go to; have you wisdom? so.  [Pushes OSWALD out.        55
  Lear.  Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there’s earnest of thy service.  [Gives KENT money.
 
Enter Fool.
  Fool.  Let me hire him too: here’s my coxcomb.  [Offers KENT his cap.
  Lear.  How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?
  Fool.  Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.        60
  Kent.  Why, fool?
  Fool.  Why? for taking one’s part that’s out of favour. Nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two on ’s daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will: if thou follow him thou must needs wear my coxcomb. How now, nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
  Lear.  Why, my boy?
  Fool.  If I gave them all my living, I’d keep my coxcombs myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy daughters.
  Lear.  Take heed, sirrah; the whip.        65
  Fool.  Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.
  Lear.  A pestilent gall to me!
  Fool.  [To KENT.]  Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.
  Lear.  Do.
  Fool.  Mark it, nuncle:—        70
        Have more than thou showest,
        Speak less than thou knowest,
        Lend less than thou owest,
        Ride more than thou goest,
        Learn more than thou trowest,        75
        Set less than thou throwest;
        Leave thy drink and thy whore,
        And keep in-a-door,
        And thou shalt have more
        Than two tens to a score.        80
  Kent.  This is nothing, fool.
  Fool.  Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer, you gave me nothing for ’t. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
  Lear.  Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.
  Fool.  [To KENT.]  Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of his land comes to: he will not believe a fool.
  Lear.  A bitter fool!        85
  Fool.  Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
  Lear.  No, lad; teach me.
  Fool.  That lord that counsell’d thee
          To give away thy land,
        Come place him here by me,        90
          Do thou for him stand:
        The sweet and bitter fool
          Will presently appear;
        The one in motley here,
          The other found out there.        95
  Lear.  Dost thou call me fool, boy?
  Fool.  All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast born with.
  Kent.  This is not altogether fool, my lord.
  Fool.  No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if I had a monopoly out, they would have part on ’t, and ladies too: they will not let me have all fool to myself; they’ll be snatching. Nuncle, give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
  Lear.  What two crowns shall they be?        100
  Fool.  Why, after I have cut the egg i’ the middle and eat up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’ the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thine ass on thy back o’er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in this, let him be whipped that first finds it so.
Fools had ne’er less grace in a year;
  For wise men are grown foppish,
And know not how their wits to wear,
  Their manners are so apish.
  Lear.  When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
  Fool.  I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy daughters thy mothers; for when thou gavest them the rod and puttest down thine own breeches,
Then they for sudden joy did weep,
  And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
  And go the fools among.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.
  Lear.  An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped.        105
  Fool.  I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are: they’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o’ thing than a fool; and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides, and left nothing i’ the middle: here comes one o’ the parings.
 
Enter GONERIL.
  Lear.  How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i’ the frown.
  Fool.  Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure. I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.  [To GONERIL.]  Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face bids me, though you say nothing.
        Mum, mum;        110
        He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
        Weary of all, shall want some.
That’s a shealed peascod.  [Pointing to LEAR.
  Gon.  Not only, sir, this your all-licens’d fool,
But other of your insolent retinue        115
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done,        120
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not ’scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,        125
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
  Fool.  For you trow, nuncle,
        The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
        That it had it head bit off by it young.        130
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
  Lear.  Are you our daughter?
  Gon.  I would you would make use of your good wisdom,
Where of I know you are fraught; and put away
These dispositions which of late transform you        135
From what you rightly are.
  Fool.  May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.
  Lear.  Does any here know me? This is not Lear:
Does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings        140
Are lethargied. Ha! waking? ’tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
  Fool.  Lear’s shadow.
  Lear.  I would learn that; for, by the marks of sovereignty, knowledge and reason, I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
  Fool.  Which they will make an obedient father.        145
  Lear.  Your name, fair gentlewoman?
  Gon.  This admiration, sir, is much o’ the favour
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright:
As you are old and reverend, should be wise.        150
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;
Men so disorder’d, so debosh’d, and bold,
That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel        155
Than a grac’d palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy; be then desir’d
By her that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainder, that shall still depend,        160
To be such men as may besort your age,
Which know themselves and you.
  Lear.        Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together.
Degenerate bastard! I’ll not trouble thee:        165
Yet have I left a daughter.
  Gon.  You strike my people, and your disorder’d rabble
Make servants of their betters.
 
Enter ALBANY.
  Lear.  Woe, that too late repents;        170
        [To ALBANY.]  O! sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show’st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster.        175
  Alb.        Pray, sir, be patient.
  Lear.  [To GONERIL.]  Detested kite! thou liest:
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support        180
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
Which, like an engine, wrench’d my frame of nature
From the fix’d place, drew from my heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!        185
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,  [Striking his head.
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
  Alb.  My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath mov’d you.
  Lear.        It may be so, my lord.        190
Hear, Nature, hear! dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase,        195
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur’d torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,        200
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!  [Exit.        205
  Alb.  Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
  Gon.  Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.
 
Re-enter LEAR.
        210
  Lear.  What! fifty of my followers at a clap,
Within a fortnight?
  Alb.        What’s the matter, sir?
  Lear.  I’ll tell thee.  [To GONERIL.]  Life and death! I am asham’d
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,        215
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
Th’ untented woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,        220
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, is it come to this?
Let it be so: I have another daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails        225
She’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.  [Exeunt LEAR, KENT, and Attendants.
  Gon.  Do you mark that?
  Alb.  I cannot be so partial, Goneril,        230
To the great love I bear you.—
  Gon.  Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
[To the Fool.]  You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
  Fool.  Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear! tarry, and take the fool with thee.
        A fox, when one has caught her,        235
        And such a daughter,
        Should sure to the slaughter,
        If my cap would buy a halter;
        So the fool follows after.  [Exit.
  Gon.  This man hath had good counsel. A hundred knights!        240
’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights; yes, that on every dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!        245
  Alb.  Well, you may fear too far.
  Gon.        Safer than trust too far.
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart.
What he hath utter’d I have writ my sister;        250
If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
When I have show’d the unfitness,—
 
Re-enter OSWALD.
        How now, Oswald!
What! have you writ that letter to my sister?        255
  Osw.  Ay, madam.
  Gon.  Take you some company, and away to horse:
Inform her full of my particular fear;
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact it more. Get you gone,        260
And hasten your return.  [Exit OSWALD.]  No, no, my lord,
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask’d for want of wisdom
Than prais’d for harmful mildness.        265
  Alb.  How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
  Gon.  Nay, then—
  Alb.  Well, well; the event.  [Exeunt.
 
 
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