Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act II
Scene IV
[The same]
Enter LEAR, Fool, and Gentleman. [KENT in the stocks]

  Lear.  ’Tis strange that they should so depart from home,
And not send back my messengers.
  Gent.        As I learn’d,
The night before there was no purpose in them        4
Of this remove.
  Kent.        Hail to thee, noble master!
  Lear.  Ha!
Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?        8
  Kent.        No, my lord.
  Fool.  Ha, ha! he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied by the heads, dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys by the loins, and men by the legs. When a man’s over-lusty at legs, then he wears wooden nether-stocks. 1
  Lear.  What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
To set thee here?        12
  Kent.        It is both he and she;
Your son and daughter.
  Lear.  No.
  Kent.  Yes.        16
  Lear.  No, I say,
  Kent.  I say, yea.
  [Lear.  No, no, they would not.
  Kent.  Yes, they have.]        20
  Lear.  By Jupiter, I swear, no.
  Kent.  By Juno, I swear, ay.
  Lear.        They durst not do ’t;
They could not, would not do ’t. ’Tis worse than murder,        24
To do upon respect 2 such violent outrage.
Resolve 3 me, with all modest haste, which way
Thou mightst deserve, or they impose, this usage,
Coming from us.        28
  Kent.        My lord, when at their home
I did commend 4 your Highness’ letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that show’d
My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,        32
Stew’d in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
From Goneril, his mistress, salutations;
Deliver’d letters, spite of intermission, 5
Which presently they read. On those contents,        36
They summon’d up their meiny, 6 straight took horse;
Commanded me to follow, and attend
The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks:
And meeting here the other messenger,        40
Whose welcome, I perceiv’d, had poison’d mine,—
Being the very fellow which of late
Display’d 7 so saucily against your Highness,—
Having more man than wit about me, drew.        44
He rais’d the house with loud and coward cries.
Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
The shame which here it suffers.
  Fool.  Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.
        “Fathers that wear rags
  Do make their children blind;
But fathers that bear bags
  Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne’er turns the key to the poor.”
But, for 8 all this, thou shalt have as many dolours 9 for thy daughters
as thou canst tell 10 in a year.
  Lear.  O, how this mother 11 swells up toward my heart!
Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow,
Thy element’s below!—Where is this daughter?        52
  Kent.  With the Earl, sir, here within.
  Lear.        Follow me not;
Stay here.  Exit.
  Gent.  Made you no more offence but what you speak of?        56
  Kent.  None.
How chance the King comes with so small a number?
  Fool.  An thou hadst been set i’ the stocks for that question, thou’dst well deserv’d it.
  Kent.  Why, Fool?        60
  Fool.  We’ll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there’s no labouring i’ the winter. All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men; and there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following; but the great one that goes upward, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again; I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
        “That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the Fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly.
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The Fool no knave, perdy.”

  Kent.  Where learn’d you this, Fool?
  Fool.  Not i’ the stocks, fool.
  Lear.  Deny to speak with me? They are sick? They are weary?        64
They have travell’d all the night? Mere fetches; 12
The images 13 of revolt and flying off.
Fetch me a better answer.
  Glou.        My dear lord,        68
You know the fiery quality of the Duke;
How unremovable and fix’d he is
In his own course.
  Lear.  Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!        72
“Fiery”? What “quality”? Why, Gloucester, Gloucester,
I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
  Glou.  Well, my good lord, I have inform’d them so.
  Lear.  “Inform’d” them! Dost thou understand me, man?        76
  Glou.  Ay, my good lord.
  Lear.  The King would speak with Cornwall; the dear father
Would with his daughter speak, commands her service.
Are they “inform’d” of this? My breath and blood!        80
“Fiery”? The fiery duke? Tell the hot duke that—
No, but not yet; may be he is not well.
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound; we are not ourselves        84
When nature, being oppress’d, commands the mind
To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear;
And am fallen out with my more headier 14 will,
To take the indispos’d and sickly fit        88
For the sound man.—Death on my state! wherefore  [Looking on KENT.]
Should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion 15 of the Duke and her
Is practice 16 only. Give me my servant forth.        92
Go tell the Duke and ’s wife I’d speak with them,
Now, presently. 17 Bid them come forth and hear me,
Or at their chamber-door I’ll beat the drum
Till it cry sleep to death.  Exit.        96
  Glou.  I would have all well betwixt you.
  Lear.  O me, my heart, my rising heart! But, down!
  Fool.  Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels when she put ’em i’ the paste alive; she knapp’d ’em o’ the coxcombs with a stick, and cried, “Down, wantons, down!” ’Twas her brother that, in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.

  Lear.  Good morrow to you both.
  Corn.        Hail to your Grace!  KENT is set at liberty.
  Reg.  I am glad to see your Highness.
  Lear.  Regan, I think you are; I know what reason
I have to think so. If thou shouldst not be glad,        104
I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,
Sepulchring an adulteress. [To KENT.] O, are you free?
Some other time for that. Beloved Regan,
Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied        108
Sharp-tooth’d unkindness, like a vulture, here.  [Points to his heart.]
I can scarce speak to thee; thou’lt not believe
With how deprav’d a quality—O Regan!
  Reg.  I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope You less know how to value her desert Than she to scant her duty.        112
  Lear.        Say, how is that?
  Reg.  I cannot think my sister in the least Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance She have restrain’d the riots of your followers, ’Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end, As clears her from all blame.
  Lear.  My curses on her!
  Reg.        O, sir, you are old;        116
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine. You should be rul’d and led
By some discretion that discerns your state
Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you,        120
That to our sister you do make return;
Say you have wrong’d her, sir.
  Lear.        Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the house: 18        124
“Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;  [Kneeling.]
Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
  Reg.  Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks.        128
Return you to my sister.
  Lear.        [Rising.]  Never, Regan:
She hath abated 19 me of half my train;
Look’d black upon me; struck me with her tongue,        132
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart.
All the stor’d vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
You taking 20 airs, with lameness!        136
  Corn.        Fie, sir, fie!
  Lear.  You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck’d fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,        140
To fall 21 and blast her pride!
  Reg.  O the blest gods! so will you wish on me,
When the rash mood is on.
  Lear.  No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.        144
Thy tender-hefted 22 nature shall not give
Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce; but thine
Do comfort and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,        148
To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes, 23
And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
Against my coming in. Thou better know’
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,        152
Effects 24 of courtesy, dues of gratitude.
Thy half o’ the kingdom hast thou not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow’d.
  Reg.        Good sir, to the purpose.  Tucket within        156
  Lear.  Who put my man i’ the stocks?
Enter Steward [OSWALD]

  Corn.        What trumpet’s that?
  Reg.  I know ’t; my sister’s. This approves 25 her letter,
That she would soon be here. [To OSWALD.] Is your lady come?        160
  Lear.  This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
Out, varlet, from my sight!
  Corn.        What means your Grace?        164

  Lear.  Who stock’d my servant? Regan, I have good hope
Thou didst not know on ’t. Who comes here? O heavens,
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow 26 obedience, if you yourselves are old,        168
Make it your cause; send down, and take my part!
[To GON.] Art not asham’d to look upon this beard?
O Regan, will you take her by the hand?
  Gon.  Why not by the hand, sir? How have I offended?        172
All’s not offence that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.
  Lear.        O sides, you are too tough;
Will you yet hold? How came my man i’ the stocks?        176
  Corn.  I set him there, sir; but his own disorders
Deserv’d much less advancement.
  Lear.        You! did you?
  Reg.  I pray you, father, being weak, seem so        180
If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
I am now from home, and out of that provision        184
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
  Lear.  Return to her, and fifty men dismiss’d!
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To wage 27 against the enmity o’ the air;        188
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,—
Necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her?
Why, the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
Our youngest born, I could as well be brought        192
To knee 28 his throne, and, squire-like, pension beg
To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter 29
To this detested groom.  [Pointing at OSWALD.]        196
  Gon.        At your choice, sir.
  Lear.  I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad;
I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell!
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another.        200
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine; thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, an embossed 30 carbuncle,        204
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it.
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.        208
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure.
I can be patient; I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.
  Reg.        Not altogether so;        212
I look’d not for you yet, nor am provided
For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister;
For be content to think you old, and so—
But she knows what she does.        216
  Lear.        Is this well spoken?
  Reg.  I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers!
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many, sith that both charge 31 and danger        220
Speak ’gainst so great a number? How, in one house,
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? ’Tis hard; almost impossible.
  Gon.  Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance        224
From those that she calls servants or from mine?
  Reg.  Why not, my lord? If then they chanc’d to slack ye, 32
We could control them. If you will come to me,—
For now I spy a danger—I entreat you        228
To bring but five and twenty; to no more
Will I give place or notice.
  Lear.  I gave you all.
  Reg.        And in good time you gave it.        232
  Lear.  Made you my guardians, my depositaries; 33
But kept a reservation to be followed
With such a number. What, must I come to you
With five and twenty, Regan? Said you so?        236
  Reg.  And speak ’t again, my lord; no more with me.
  Lear.  Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour’d
When others are more wicked; not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise. [To GON.] I’ll go with thee.        240
Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,
And thou art twice her love.
  Gon.        Hear me, my lord;
What need you five and twenty, ten, or five,        244
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?
  Reg.        What need one?
  Lear.  O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars        248
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow 34 not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,        252
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,—
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,        256
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,        260
And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall—I will do such things,—        264
What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be
The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep:
No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart  Storm and tempest.        268
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws, 35
Or ere I’ll weep. O, Fool! I shall go mad!  Exeunt LEAR, GLOUCESTER, KENT, and Fool.
  Corn.  Let us withdraw; ’twill be a storm.
  Reg.  This house is little; the old man and ’s people        272
Cannot be well bestow’d. 36
  Gon.  ’Tis his own blame; hath put himself from rest,
And must needs taste his folly.
  Reg.  For his particular, 37 I’ll receive him gladly,        276
But not one follower.
  Gon.        So am I purpos’d.
Where is my Lord of Gloucester?

  Corn.  Followed the old man forth. He is return’d.
  Glou.  The King is in high rage.
  Corn.        Whither is he going?
  Glou.  He calls to horse; but will I know not whither.
  Corn.  ’Tis best to give him way; he leads himself.        284
  Gon.  My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
  Glou.  Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
Do sorely ruffle; 38 for many miles about
There’s scarce a bush.        288
  Reg.        O, sir, to wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
He is attended with a desperate train;        292
And what they may incense him to, being apt
To have his ear abus’d, 39 wisdom bids fear.
  Corn.  Shut up your doors, my lord; ’tis a wild night:
My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ the storm.  [Exeunt.        296
Note 1. Stockings. [back]
Note 2. Deliberately. [back]
Note 3. Answer. [back]
Note 4. Deliver. [back]
Note 5. Regardless of interrupting me. [back]
Note 6. Retinue. [back]
Note 7. Behaved. [back]
Note 8. On account of. [back]
Note 9. Pun on “griefs” and “dollars.” [back]
Note 10. Count. [back]
Note 11. Hysteria, suffocation. [back]
Note 12. Subterfuges. [back]
Note 13. Signs. [back]
Note 14. More impetuous. [back]
Note 15. Seclusion. [back]
Note 16. Craft. [back]
Note 17. At once. [back]
Note 18. Family relation. [back]
Note 19. Deprived. [back]
Note 20. Infectious. [back]
Note 21. Humble. [back]
Note 22. Gently disposed. [back]
Note 23. Allowances. [back]
Note 24. Workings. [back]
Note 25. Confirms. [back]
Note 26. Approve of. [back]
Note 27. Contend. [back]
Note 28. Kneel before. [back]
Note 29. Pack-horse (driver?). [back]
Note 30. Swollen. [back]
Note 31. Expense. [back]
Note 32. Be slack in their performance of duties. [back]
Note 33. Stewards and trustees. [back]
Note 34. If you allow not. [back]
Note 35. Fragments. [back]
Note 36. Lodged. [back]
Note 37. Him individually. [back]
Note 38. Bluster. [back]
Note 39. Deceived. [back]


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