Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act IV
Scene III
The French camp near Dover
Enter KENT and a Gentleman

  Kent.  Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back, know you no reason?
  Gent.  Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his coming forth is thought of; which imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger that his personal return was most required and necessary.
  Kent.  Who hath he left behind him General?
  Gent.  The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Far.        4
  Kent.  Did your letters pierce the Queen to any demonstration of grief?
  Gent.  Ay, sir; she took them, read them in my presence;
And now and then an ample tear trill’d 1 down
Her delicate cheek. It seem’d she was a queen        8
Over her passion, 2 who, most rebel-like,
Sought to be king o’er her.
  Kent.        O, then it mov’d her.
  Gent.  Not to a rage; patience and sorrow strove        12
Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears
Were like a better way; those happy smilets
That play’d on her ripe lip seem’d not to know        16
What guests were in her eyes, which, parted thence,
As pearls from diamonds dropp’d. In brief,
Sorrow would be a rarity most beloved,
If all could so become it.        20
  Kent.        Made she no verbal question?
  Gent.  Faith, once or twice she heav’d the name of “father”
Pantingly forth, as if it press’d her heart;
Cried, “Sisters! sisters! Shame of ladies! sisters!        24
Kent! father! sisters! What, i’ the storm? i’ the night?
Let pity 3 not be believ’d!” There she shook
The holy water from her heavenly eyes;
And, clamour-moistened, then away she started        28
To deal with grief alone.
  Kent.        It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions; 4
Else one self mate and make 5 could not beget        32
Such different issues. You spoke not with her since?
  Gent.  No.
  Kent.  Was this before the King return’d?
  Gent.        No, since.        36
  Kent.  Well, sir, the poor distressed Lear’s i’ the town;
Who sometime, in his better tune, remembers
What we are come about, and by no means
Will yield to see his daughter.        40
  Gent.        Why, good sir?
  Kent.  A sovereign shame so elbows 6 him. His own unkindness,
That stripp’d her from his benediction, turn’d her
To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights        44
To his dog-hearted daughters,—these things sting
His mind so venomously, that burning shame
Detains him from Cordelia.
  Gent.        Alack, poor gentleman!        48
  Kent.  Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers 7 you heard not?
  Gent.  ’Tis so, they are afoot.
  Kent.  Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master Lear,
And leave you to attend him. Some dear 8 cause        52
Will in concealment wrap me up a while;
When I am known aright, you shall not grieve
Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you, go
Along with me.]  Exeunt.        56
Note 1. Trickled. [back]
Note 2. Emotion. [back]
Note 3. The existence of pity. [back]
Note 4. Dispositions. [back]
Note 5. Husband and wife. [back]
Note 6. Shoves him back. [back]
Note 7. Armies. [back]
Note 8. Important and intimate. [back]


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