Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Scenes from the Tragedies
The Death of Lear
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From ‘King Lear

[Enter Lear, with Cordelia in his arms.]

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!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;        5
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
  Kent—                    Is this the promis’d end?
  Edgar—Or image of that horror?
  Albany—                        Fall, and cease!
  Lear—This feather stirs; she lives! If it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows        10
That ever I have felt.
  Kent  [kneeling]—O my good master!
  Lear—Prithee, away.
  Edgar—                ’T is noble Kent, your friend.
  Lear—A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have sav’d her; now she’s gone for ever!        15
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
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.
  Gentleman—’Tis true, my lords, he did.
  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?
Mine eyes are not o’ the best. I’ll tell you straight.
  Kent—If Fortune brag of two she lov’d and hated,        25
One of them we behold.
  Lear—This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
  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.        30
  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.
  Lear—                            You are welcome hither.
  Kent—Nor no man else; all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.        35
Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
And desperately are dead.
  Lear—                        Ay, so I think.
  Albany—He knows not what he says; and vain is it
That we present us to him.
[Enter a Messenger.]
  Edgar—                            Very bootless.
  Messenger—Edmund is dead, my lord.
  Albany—                        That’s but a trifle here.—
You lords and noble friends, know our intent.
What comfort to this great decay may come
Shall be appli’d. For us, we will resign,
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute gower;  [to Edgar and Kent]  you, to your rights,        45
With boot, and such addition as your honors
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!        50
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.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,        55
Look there, look there!  [Dies.]
  Edgar—                    He faints! My lord! my lord!
  Kent—Break, heart; I prithee, break!
  Edgar—                            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.
  Edgar—                        He is gone, indeed.
  Kent—The wonder is he hath endur’d so long;
He but usurp’d his life.
  Albany—Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.  [To Kent and Edgar.]  Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gor’d state sustain.        65
  Kent—I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
My master calls me; I must not say no.
  Edgar—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        70
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.  [Exeunt, with a dead march.]

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