Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
Scene I
[The Earl of Gloucester’s castle]
Enter Bastard [EDMUND] and CURAN, severally

  Edm.  Save thee, Curan.
  Cur.  And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan his duchess will be here with him this night.
  Edm.  How comes that?
  Cur.  Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad; I mean the whisper’d ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments? 1        4
  Edm.  Not I. Pray you, what are they?
  Cur.  Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 2 ’twixt the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
  Edm.  Not a word.
  Cur.  You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.  Exit.        8
  Edm.  The Duke be here to-night? The better! best!
This weaves itself perforce into my business.
My father hath set guard to take my brother;
And I have one thing, of a queasy question, 3        12
Which I must act. Briefness 4 and fortune, work!

Brother, a word; descend. Brother, I say!
My father watches; O sir, fly this place;
Intelligence is given where you are hid;        16
You have now the good advantage of the night.
Have you not spoken ’gainst the Duke of Cornwall?
He’s coming hither, now, i’ the night, i’ the haste,
And Regan with him. Have you nothing said        20
Upon his party ’gainst the Duke of Albany?
Advise yourself. 5
  Edg.        I am sure on ’t, not a word.
  Edm.  I hear my father coming. Pardon me,        24
In cunning I must draw my sword upon you.
Draw; seem to defend yourself; now quit you well.
Yield! Come before my father. Light, ho, here!—
Fly, brother.—Torches, torches!—So, farewell.  Exit EDGAR.        28
Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion  [Wounds his arm.]
Of my more fierce endeavour. I have seen drunkards
Do more than this in sport.—Father, father!—
Stop, stop!—No help?        32
Enter GLOUCESTER, and Servants with torches

  Glou.  Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?
  Edm.  Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress,—        36
  Glou.        But where is he?
  Edm.  Look, sir, I bleed.
  Glou.        Where is the villain, Edmund?
  Edm.  Fled this way, sir. When by no means he could—        40
  Glou.  Pursue him, ho! Go after. [Exeunt some Servants.] By no means what?
  Edm.  Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;
But that I told him, the revenging gods
’Gainst parricides did all the thunder bend;        44
Spoke, with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to the father; sir, in fine,
Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion, 6        48
With his prepared sword, he charges home
My unprovided body, latch’d 7 mine arm;
And when he saw my best alarum’d spirits,
Bold in the quarrel’s right, rous’d to the encounter,        52
Or whether gasted 8 by the noise I made,
Full suddenly he fled.
  Glou.        Let him fly far.
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;        56
And found,—dispatch. The noble Duke my master,
My worthy arch 9 and patron, comes to-night.
By his authority I will proclaim it,
That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,        60
Bringing the murderous coward to the stake;
He that conceals him, death.
  Edm.  When I dissuaded him from his intent,
And found him pight 10 to do it, with curst speech        64
I threaten’d to discover 11 him; he replied,
“Thou unpossessing bastard! dost thou think,
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth in thee        68
Make thy words faith’d? 12 No! what I should deny,—
As this I would; ay, though thou didst produce
My very character, 13—I’d turn it all
To thy suggestion, 14 plot, and damned practice;        72
And thou must make a dullard of the world 15
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spurs 16
To make thee seek it.”        76
  Glou.        O strange and fast’ned 17 villain!
Would he deny his letter? [I never got him.]  Tucket within.
Hark, the Duke’s trumpets! I know not why he comes.
All ports I’ll bar, the villain shall not scape;        80
The Duke must grant me that. Besides, his picture
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have due note of him; and of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means        84
To make thee capable. 18
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, and Attendants

  Corn.  How now, my noble friend! since I came hither,
Which I can call but now, I have heard strange news.
  Reg.  If it be true, all vengeance comes too short        88
Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?
  Glou.  O, madam, my old heart is crack’d, it’s crack’d!
  Reg.  What, did my father’s godson seek your life?
He whom my father nam’d? your Edgar?        92
  Glou.  O, lady, lady, shame would have it hid!
  Reg.  Was he not companion with the riotous knights
That tended upon my father?
  Glou.  I know not, madam. ’Tis too bad, too bad.        96
  Edm.  Yes, madam, he was of that consort. 19
  Reg.  No marvel, then, though he were ill affected: 20
’Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,
To have the expense and waste of his revenues.        100
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well inform’d of them; and with such cautions,
That if they come to sojourn at my house,
I’ll not be there.        104
  Corn.        Nor I, assure thee, Regan.
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A child-like office.
  Edm.        ’Twas my duty, sir.        108
  Glou.  He did bewray his practice, 21 and receiv’d
This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.
  Corn.  Is he pursued?
  Glou.        Ay, my good lord.        112
  Corn.  If he be taken, he shall never more
Be fear’d of doing harm. Make your own purpose,
How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant        116
So much commend itself, you shall be ours.
Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;
You we first seize on.
  Edm.        I shall serve you, sir,        120
Truly, however else.
  Glou.        For him I thank your Grace.
  Corn.  You know not why we came to visit you,—
  Reg.  Thus out of season, threading dark-ey’d night?        124
Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some poise, 22
Wherein we must have use of your advice.
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best thought it fit        128
To answer from 23 our home; the several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. 24 Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom; and bestow
Your needful counsel to our businesses,        132
Which craves the instant use.
  Glou.        I serve you, madam.
Your Graces are right welcome.  Exeunt. Flourish.
Note 1. Subjects of discussion. [back]
Note 2. Coming on. [back]
Note 3. Requiring delicate handling. [back]
Note 4. Speed. [back]
Note 5. Reflect. [back]
Note 6. With a formidable thrust. [back]
Note 7. Caught, hit. [back]
Note 8. Frightened. [back]
Note 9. Chief. [back]
Note 10. Resolved. [back]
Note 11. Reveal. [back]
Note 12. Believed. [back]
Note 13. Handwriting. [back]
Note 14. Tempting. [back]
Note 15. Suppose the world to be very stupid. [back]
Note 16. Obvious and potent inducements. [back]
Note 17. Confirmed. [back]
Note 18. Able to inherit. [back]
Note 19. Band. [back]
Note 20. Disloyal. [back]
Note 21. Reveal his plot. [back]
Note 22. Weight. [back]
Note 23. Away from. [back]
Note 24. Wait to be sent off. [back]


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