Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act V
Scene III
[The British camp near Dover]
Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, EDMUND; LEAR and CORDELIA as prisoners: Captain, Soldiers, etc.

  Edm.  Some officers take them away. Good guard,
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure 1 them.
  Cor.        We are not the first        4
Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, I am cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false Fortune’s frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?        8
  Lear.  No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison;
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,        12
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;        16
And take upon ’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects 2 of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.        20
  Edm.        Take them away.
  Lear.  Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,        24
And fire us hence like foxes. 3 Wipe thine eyes;
The good-years 4 shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep. We’ll see ’em starv’d first.
Come.  Exeunt [LEAR and CORDELIA, guarded].        28
  Edm.  Come hither, captain; hark.
Take thou this note [giving a paper]; go follow them to prison.
One step I have advanc’d thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way        32
To noble fortunes. Know thou this, that men
Are as the time is; to be tender-minded
Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
Will not bear question; 5 either say thou’lt do ’t,        36
Or thrive by other means.
  Capt.        I’ll do ’t, my lord.
  Edm.  About it; and write happy 6 when thou hast done.
Mark, I say, instantly; and carry it so        40
As I have set it down.
  [Capt.  I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats;
If it be man’s work, I’ll do ’t.]  Exit.
Flourish. Enter ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, [another Captain] and Soldiers

  Alb.  Sir, you have show’d to-day your valiant strain, 7
And fortune led you well. You have the captives
Who were the opposites 8 of this day’s strife;
I do require them of you, so to use them
As we shall find their merits and our safety        48
May equally determine.
  Edm.        Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention 9 [and appointed guard];        52
Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
And turn our impress’d lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the Queen,        56
My reason all the same; and they are ready
To-morrow, or at further space, to appear
Where you shall hold your session. [At this time
We sweat and bleed: the friend hath lost his friend;        60
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs’d
By those that feel their sharpness:
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.]        64
  Alb.        Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.
  Reg.        That’s as we list to grace him.        68
Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded,
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy 10 may well stand up,        72
And call itself your brother.
  Gon.        Not so hot.
In his own grace he doth exalt himself,
More than in your addition. 11        76
  Reg.        In my rights,
By me invested, he compeers 12 the best.
  Gon.  That were the most, if he should husband you.
  Reg.  Jesters do oft prove prophets.        80
  Gon.        Holla, holla!
That eye that told you so look’d but a-squint.
  Reg.  Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach. 13 General,        84
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine.
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.        88
  Gon.        Mean you to enjoy him?
  Alb.  The let-alone 14 lies not in your good will.
  Edm.  Nor in thine, lord.
  Alb.        Half-blooded fellow, yes.        92
  Reg.  [To EDMUND.]  Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
  Alb.  Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason; and, in thy arrest,
This gilded serpent. [Pointing to GON.] For your claim, fair sister,        96
I bar it in the interest of my wife.
’Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your bans.
If you will marry, make your loves to me,        100
My lady is bespoke.
  Gon.        An interlude! 15
  Alb.  Thou art armed, Gloucester; let the trumpet sound.
If none appear to prove upon thy person        104
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge [throwing down a glove]. I’ll prove it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim’d thee.        108
  Reg.        Sick, O sick!
  Gon.  [Aside.]  If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.
  Edm.  There’s my exchange [throwing down a glove]. What in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.        112
Call by the trumpet;—he that dares approach,
On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.
  Alb.  A herald, ho!        116
  [Edm.        A herald, ho, a herald!]
  Alb.  Trust to thy single virtue; 16 for thy soldiers,
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.        120
  Reg.        My sickness grows upon me.
  Alb.  She is not well; convey her to my tent.  [Exit REGAN, led.]
Enter a Herald

Come hither, herald,—Let the trumpet sound—
And read out this.        124
  [Capt. Sound, trumpet!]        A trumpet sounds.
  Her. (Reads.)  “If any man of quality or decree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his defence.”
  [Edm.  Sound!]  First trumpet.
  Her.  Again!  Second trumpet.        128
  Her.  Again!  Third trumpet. Trumpet answers within.
Enter EDGAR, at the third sound, armed, with a trumpet 17 before him.

  Alb.  Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o’ the trumpet.
  Her.        What are you?        132
Your name, your quality? and why you answer
This present summons?
  Edg.        Know, my name is lost,
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit, 18        136
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope. 19
  Alb.        Which is that adversary?
  Edg.  What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?        140
  Edm.  Himself; what say’st thou to him?
  Edg.        Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice; here is mine.        144
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession. I protest,
Maugre 20 thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
Despite thy victor-sword and fire-hewn 21 fortune,        148
Thy valour, and thy heart, 22 thou art a traitor;
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince;
And, from the extremest upward of thy head        152
To the descent 23 and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “No,”
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,        156
Thou liest.
  Edm.        In wisdom I should ask thy name;
But, since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
And that thy tongue some ’say 24 of breeding breathes,        160
What safe and nicely I might well delay,
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head;
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart;        164
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!  Alarums. They fight. [EDMUND falls.]
  Alb.  Save him, save him!        168
  Gon.        This is [mere] practice, 25 Gloucester.
By the law of war thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite. 26 Thou art not vanquish’d,
But cozen’d 27 and beguil’d.        172
  Alb.        Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it. Hold, sir.—
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
No tearing, lady; I perceive you know it.        176
  Gon.  Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine.
Who can arraign me for ’t?  [Exit.]
  Alb.        Most monstrous! oh!—
Know’st thou this paper?        180
  Edm.        Ask me not what I know.
  Alb.  Go after her; she’s desperate; govern her.
  Edm.  What you have charg’d me with, that have I done;
And more, much more; the time will bring it out.        184
’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou ’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.
  Edg.        Let’s exchange charity.        188
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more thou ’st wrong’d me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices        192
Make instruments to plague us.
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.
  Edm.        Thou ’st spoken right, ’tis true.        196
The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
  Alb.  Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I        200
Did hate thee or thy father!
  Edg.        Worthy prince, I know ’t.
  Alb.  Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?        204
  Edg.  By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale;
And when ’tis told, oh, that my heart would burst!
The bloody proclamation to escape,
That follow’d me so near,—oh, our lives’ sweetness!        208
That we the pain of death would hourly die
Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags, to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain’d; and in this habit        212
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
Led him, begg’d for him, sav’d him from despair;
Never,—O fault!—reveal’d myself unto him,        216
Until some half-hour past, when I was arm’d.
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask’d his blessing, and from first to last
Told him our pilgrimage; but his flaw’d 28-heart,        220
Alack, too weak the conflict to support!
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.
  Edm.        This speech of yours hath mov’d me,        224
And shall perchance do good. But speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.
  Alb.  If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;
For I am almost ready to dissolve, 29        228
Hearing of this.
  [Edg.        This would have seem’d a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,        232
And top extremity. 30
Whilst I was big 31 in clamour came there in a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn’d my abhorr’d society; but then, finding        236
Who ’twas that so endur’d, with his strong arms
He fastened on my neck, and bellowed out
As he’d burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him        240
That ever ear received; which in recounting,
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
And there I left him tranc’d.        244
  Alb.        But who was this?
  Edg.  Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent; who in disguise
Follow’d his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.]        248
Enter a Gentleman with a bloody knife

  Gent.  Help, help, O, help?
  Edg.        What kind of help?
  Alb.        Speak, man.
  Edg.  What means this bloody knife?        252
  Gent.        ’Tis hot, it smokes;
It came even from the heart of—O, she’s dead!
  Alb.  Who dead? Speak, man.
  Gent.  Your lady, sir, your lady; and her sister        256
By her is poison’d; she confesses it.
  Edm.  I was contracted to them both. All three
Now marry in an instant.
  Edg.        Here comes Kent.        260
Enter KENT

  Alb.  Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
This judgement of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
Touches us not with pity.  [ExitGentleman.]
            —O, is this he?        264
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.
  Kent.        I am come
To bid my king and master aye good-night.        268
Is he not here?
  Alb.        Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? and where’s Cordelia?  The bodies of GONERIL andREGAN are brought in.
See’st thou this object, 32 Kent?        272
  Kent.  Alack, why thus?
  Edm.        Yet Edmund was belov’d!
The one the other poison’d for my sake,
And after slew herself.        276
  Alb.  Even so. Cover their faces.
  Edm.  I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ        280
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time.
  Alb.        Run, run, O, run!
  Edg.  To who, my lord? Who has the office? Send        284
Thy token of reprieve.
  Edm.  Well thought on. Take my sword,
Give it the captain.
  Edg.        Haste thee, for thy life.  [Exit Gentleman.]        288
  Edm.  He hath commission from thy wife and me
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid 33 herself.        292
  Alb.  The gods defend her! Bear him hence a while.  [EDMUND is borne off.]
Re-enter LEAR, with CORDELIA in his arms; [Gentleman following]

  Lear.  Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!        296
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.        300
  Kent.        Is this the promis’d end?
  Edg.  Or image of that horror? 34
  Alb.        Fall, and cease!
  Lear.  This feather stirs; she lives! If it be so,        304
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
  Kent.  [Kneeling.]  O my good master!
  Lear.  Prithee, away.        308
  Edg.        ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
  Lear.  A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have sav’d her; now she’s gone for ever!
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!        312
What is ’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.
  Gent.  ’Tis true, my lords, he did.        316
  Lear.        Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made him skip. I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?        320
Mine eyes are not o’ the best. I’ll tell you straight.
  Kent.  If Fortune brag of two she lov’d and hated,
One of them we behold.
  Lear.  This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?        324
  Kent.        The same,
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
  Lear.  He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He’ll strike, and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.        328
  Kent.  No, my good lord; I am the very man,—
  Lear.  I’ll see that straight.
  Kent.  That, from your first of difference and decay,
Have follow’d your sad steps.        332
  Lear.        You are welcome hither.
  Kent.  Nor no man else; all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
And desperately are dead.        336
  Lear.        Ay, so I think.
  Alb.  He knows not what he says; and vain is it
That we present us to him.
Enter a Messenger

  Edg.        Very bootless.
  Mess.  Edmund is dead, my lord.
  Alb.        That’s but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay 35 may come        344
Shall be appli’d. For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power; [to EDGAR and KENT] you, to your rights,
With boot, 36 and such addition as your honours        348
Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes
The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
  Lear.  And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!        352
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir.        356
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!  Dies.
  Edg.        He faints! My lord, my lord!
  Kent.  Break, heart; I prithee, break!        360
  Edg.        Look up, my lord.
  Kent.  Vex not his ghost; O, let him pass! He hates him
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.        364
  Edg.        He is gone, indeed.
  Kent.  The wonder is he hath endur’d so long;
He but usurp’d his life.
  Alb.  Bear them from hence. Our present business        368
Is general woe. [To KENT and EDGAR.] Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gor’d 37 state sustain.
  Kent.  I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
My master calls me; I must not say no.        372
  Edg.  The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.  Exeunt, with a dead march.        376
Note 1. Judge. [back]
Note 2. Factions and parties. [back]
Note 3. As foxes are driven from their holes, by lighting a fire in them. [back]
Note 4. Devils, plagues. [back]
Note 5. Discussion. [back]
Note 6. Consider your prosperity assured. [back]
Note 7. Stock. [back]
Note 8. Opponents. [back]
Note 9. Confinement. [back]
Note 10. Close connection. [back]
Note 11. Praises. [back]
Note 12. Equals. [back]
Note 13. Passionate language. [back]
Note 14. Usually interpreted, hindering. [back]
Note 15. Play. [back]
Note 16. Your unaided strength. [back]
Note 17. Trumpeter. [back]
Note 18. Worm-eaten. [back]
Note 19. Encounter. [back]
Note 20. In spite of. [back]
Note 21. Brand-new. [back]
Note 22. Courage. [back]
Note 23. Lowest part. [back]
Note 24. Taste. [back]
Note 25. Treachery. [back]
Note 26. Opponent. [back]
Note 27. Cheated. [back]
Note 28. Cracked. [back]
Note 29. Melt in tears. [back]
Note 30. Surpass everything. [back]
Note 31. Loud. [back]
Note 32. Sight. [back]
Note 33. Destroyed. [back]
Note 34. “Is this the state of things foretold as the end of the world? Edg. Or only something resembling that fearful day?”—This is the usual interpretation. [back]
Note 35. General disaster (?). Lear (?). [back]
Note 36. Something thrown in to the bargain. [back]
Note 37. Wounded. [back]


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