Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
Scene II
[Before Gloucester’s castle]
Enter KENT and Steward [OSWALD], severally

  Osw.  Good dawning to thee, friend. Art of this house?
  Kent.  Ay.
  Osw.  Where may we set our horses?
  Kent.  I’ the mire.        4
  Osw.  Prithee, if thou lov’st me, tell me.
  Kent.  I love thee not.
  Osw.  Why, then, I care not for thee.
  Kent.  If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make thee care for me.        8
  Osw.  Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.
  Kent.  Fellow, I know thee.
  Osw.  What dost thou know me for?
  Kent.  A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, 1 hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting 2 slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deni’st the least syllable of thy addition. 3        12
  Osw.  Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee nor knows thee!
  Kent.  What a brazen-fac’d varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me! Is it two days since I tripp’d up thy heels, and beat thee before the King? Draw, you rogue; for, though it be night, yet the moon shines. I’ll make a sop o’ the moonshine of you, you whoreson cullionly 4 barber-monger! 5 Draw!  [Drawing his sword.]
  Osw.  Away! I have nothing to do with thee.
  Kent.  Draw, you rascal! You come with letters against the King; and take Vanity the puppet’s part against the royalty of her father. Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado 6 your shanks,—draw, you rascal! Come your ways.        16
  Osw.  Help, ho! murder! help!
  Kent.  Strike, you slave! Stand, rogue, stand!
You neat slave, strike.  [Beating him.]
  Osw.  Help, ho! murder! murder!        20
Enter Bastard [EDMUND] with his rapier drawn, CORNWALL, REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and Servants

  Edm.  How now! What’s the matter? Part.
  Kent.  With you, goodman boy, 7 if you please.
Come, I’ll flesh 8 ye; come on, young master.
  Glou.  Weapons! arms! What’s the matter here?        24
  Corn.  Keep peace, upon your lives!
He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?
  Reg.  The messengers from our sister and the King.
  Corn.  What is your difference? Speak.        28
  Osw.  I am scarce in breath, my lord.
  Kent.  No marvel, you have so bestirr’d your valour. You cowardly rascal, Nature disclaims in 9 thee. A tailor made thee.
  Corn.  Thou art a strange fellow. A tailor make a man?
  Kent.  A tailor, sir. A stone-cutter or a painter could not have made him so ill, though they had been but two years o’ the trade.        32
  Corn.  Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?
  Osw.  This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spar’d at suit of his grey beard,—
  Kent.  Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary 10 letter! My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted 11 villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with him. Spare my grey beard, you wagtail?
  Corn.  Peace, sirrah!        36
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
  Kent.  Yes, sir; but anger hath a privilege.
  Corn.  Why art thou angry?
  Kent.  That such a slave as this should wear a sword,        40
Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse 12 to unloose; smooth every passion
That in the natures of their lords rebel;        44
Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;
Renege, 13 affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks 14
With every gale and vary of their masters,
Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.        48
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum Plain,
I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot.        52
  Corn.  What, art thou mad, old fellow?
  Glou.  How fell you out? Say that.
  Kent.  No contraries hold more antipathy
Than I and such a knave.        56
  Corn.  Why dost thou call him knave? What is his fault?
  Kent.  His countenance likes 15 me not.
  Corn.  No more, perchance, does mine, nor his, nor hers.
  Kent.  Sir, ’tis my occupation to be plain;        60
I have seen better faces in my time
Than stands on any shoulder that I see
Before me at this instant.
  Corn.        This is some fellow        64
Who, having been prais’d for bluntness, doth affect
A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb 16
Quite from his nature. He cannot flatter, he;
An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth!        68
An 17 they will take it, so; if not, he’s plain.
These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness
Harbour more craft and more corrupter ends
Than twenty silly ducking observants 18        72
That stretch their duties nicely. 19
  Kent.  Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity,
Under the allowance of your great aspect,
Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire        76
On flickering Phœbus’ front,—
  Corn.        What mean’st by this?
  Kent.  To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer. He that beguil’d you in a plain accent was a plain knave; which for my part I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to ’t.
  Corn.  What was the offence you gave him?        80
  Osw.  I never gave him any.
It pleas’d the King his master very late
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, compact, 20 and flattering his displeasure,        84
Tripp’d me behind; being down, insulted, 21 rail’d,
And put upon him such a deal of man 22
That ’t worthied 23 him, got praises of the King
For him attempting 24 who was self-subdued;        88
And, in the fleshment 25 of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here again.
  Kent.        None of these rogues and cowards
But Ajax is their fool.        92
  Corn.        Fetch forth the stocks!
You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,
We’ll teach you—
  Kent.        Sir, I am too old to learn.        96
Call not your stocks for me; I serve the King,
On whose employment I was sent to you.
You shall do small respects, show too bold malice
Against the grace and person of my master,        100
Stocking his messenger.
  Corn.  Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life and honour, There shall he sit till noon.
  Reg.  Till noon! Till night, my lord; and all night too.
  Kent.  Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog,        104
You should not use me so.
  Reg.        Sir, being his knave, I will.  Stocks brought out.
  Corn.  This is a fellow of the self-same colour 26
Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away the stocks!        108
  Glou.  Let me beseech your Grace not to do so.
[His fault is much, and the good King his master
Will check him for ’t. Your purpos’d low correction
Is such as basest and contemned’st wretches        112
For pilferings and most common trespasses
Are punish’d with.] The King must take it ill
That he’s so slightly valued in his messenger,
Should have him thus restrained.        116
  Corn.        I’ll answer that.
  Reg.  My sister may receive it much more worse
To have her gentleman abus’d, assaulted,
[For following her affairs. Put in his legs.]  [KENT is put in the stocks.]        120
Come, my good lord, away.  Exeunt [all but GLOUCESTER and KENT].
  Glou.  I am sorry for thee, friend; ’tis the Duke’s pleasure,
Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
Will not be rubb’d 27 nor stopp’d. I’ll entreat for thee.        124
  Kent.  Pray, do not, sir. I have watch’d and travell’d hard;
Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I’ll whistle.
A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels.
Give you good morrow!        128
  Glou.  The Duke’s to blame in this; ’twill be ill taken.  Exit.
  Kent.  Good King, that must approve 28 the common saw,
Thou out of heaven’s benediction com’st
To the warm sun! 29        132
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter! Nothing, almost, sees miracles
But misery. I know ’tis from Cordelia,        136
Who hath most fortunately been inform’d
Of my obscured 30 course; [reads] “—and shall find time
From this enormous 31 state—seeking to give
Losses their remedies.”—All weary and o’erwatch’d,        140
Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold
This shameful lodging.
Fortune, good-night! Smile once more; turn thy wheel!  [Sleeps.]
Note 1. Three suits of clothing seem to have been part of a servant’s allowance. [back]
Note 2. All of whose goods go into one trunk. [back]
Note 3. Title. [back]
Note 4. Rascally. [back]
Note 5. Haunter of barber-shops. [back]
Note 6. Slash. [back]
Note 7. Little master. [back]
Note 8. Initiate. [back]
Note 9. Disavows. [back]
Note 10. Z was often omitted from the old dictionaries. [back]
Note 11. Rank. [back]
Note 12. Intricate. [back]
Note 13. Deny. [back]
Note 14. The halcyon or kingfisher was hung up and used as a weather-cock. [back]
Note 15. Pleases. [back]
Note 16. Puts on forcibly a manner not natural to him. [back]
Note 17. If. [back]
Note 18. Obsequious servants. [back]
Note 19. Carry out their duties very punctiliously. [back]
Note 20. Taking his part. [back]
Note 21. Exulted over me. [back]
Note 22. Made himself such a hero. [back]
Note 23. Made to seem worthy. [back]
Note 24. For attacking one who. [back]
Note 25. Exhilaration of a first success. [back]
Note 26. Kind. [back]
Note 27. Impeded. [back]
Note 28. Confirm. [back]
Note 29. From better to worse. [back]
Note 30. Disguised. [back]
Note 31. Monstrous. [back]


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