King Lear - Act 1, scene 2
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Act 1, scene 2
Edmund, the earl of Gloucester’s illegitimate son, plots to displace his legitimate brother, Edgar, as Gloucester’s heir by turning Gloucester against Edgar. He tricks Gloucester into thinking Edgar seeks Gloucester’s life.Enter ⌜Edmund, the⌝ Bastard.
0356 Thou, Nature, art my goddess. To thy law
0357 My services are bound. Wherefore should I
0358 Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
0359 The curiosity of nations to deprive me
0360 5 For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
0361 Lag of a brother? why “bastard”? Wherefore “base,”
0362 When my dimensions are as well compact,
0363 My mind as generous and my shape as true
0364 As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
0365 10 With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,”
0367 Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
0368 More composition and fierce quality
0369 Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
0370 15 Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
0371 Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,
0372 Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
0373 Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
0374 As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, “legitimate.”
0375 20 Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed
0377 Shall ⌜top⌝ th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
0378 Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
0379 Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?
0380 25 And the King gone tonight, prescribed his power,
0381 Confined to exhibition? All this done
0382 Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?
EDMUND 0383 So please your Lordship, none. ⌜He puts a
paper in his pocket.⌝
GLOUCESTER 0384 Why so earnestly seek you to put up that
0385 30 letter?
EDMUND 0386 I know no news, my lord.
GLOUCESTER 0387 What paper were you reading?
EDMUND 0388 Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER 0389 No? What needed then that terrible dispatch
0390 35 of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing
0391 hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see. Come, if
0392 it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.
EDMUND 0393 I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter
0394 from my brother that I have not all o’erread; and
0395 40 for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for
0396 your o’erlooking.
GLOUCESTER 0397 Give me the letter, sir.
EDMUND 0398 I shall offend either to detain or give it. The
0399 contents, as in part I understand them, are to
0400 45 blame.
GLOUCESTER 0401 Let’s see, let’s see.
⌜Edmund gives him the paper.⌝
EDMUND 0402 I hope, for my brother’s justification, he
0403 wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.
GLOUCESTER (reads) 0404 This policy and reverence of age
0405 50 makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps
0406 our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish
0408 oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath
0409 power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I
0410 55 may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked
0411 him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever and
0412 live the beloved of your brother. Edgar.
0413 Hum? Conspiracy? “Sleep till I wake him, you
0414 should enjoy half his revenue.” My son Edgar! Had
0415 60 he a hand to write this? A heart and brain to breed it
0416 in?—When came you to this? Who brought it?
EDMUND 0417 It was not brought me, my lord; there’s the
0418 cunning of it. I found it thrown in at the casement
0419 of my closet.
GLOUCESTER 0420 65You know the character to be your
EDMUND 0422 If the matter were good, my lord, I durst
0423 swear it were his; but in respect of that, I would
0424 fain think it were not.
GLOUCESTER 0425 70It is his.
EDMUND 0426 It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is
0427 not in the contents.
GLOUCESTER 0428 Has he never before sounded you in this
EDMUND 0430 75Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft
0431 maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age and
0432 fathers declined, the father should be as ward to the
0433 son, and the son manage his revenue.
GLOUCESTER 0434 O villain, villain! His very opinion in the
0435 80 letter. Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish
0436 villain! Worse than brutish!—Go, sirrah, seek
0437 him. I’ll apprehend him.—Abominable villain!—
0438 Where is he?
EDMUND 0439 I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please
0440 85 you to suspend your indignation against my brother
0441 till you can derive from him better testimony of his
0442 intent, you should run a certain course; where, if
0444 purpose, it would make a great gap in your own
0445 90 honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience.
0446 I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath
0447 writ this to feel my affection to your Honor, and to
0448 no other pretense of danger.
GLOUCESTER 0449 Think you so?
EDMUND 0450 95If your Honor judge it meet, I will place you
0451 where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an
0452 auricular assurance have your satisfaction, and that
0453 without any further delay than this very evening.
GLOUCESTER 0454 He cannot be such a monster.
⟨EDMUND 0455 100Nor is not, sure.
GLOUCESTER 0456 To his father, that so tenderly and entirely
0457 loves him! Heaven and Earth!⟩ Edmund, seek him
0458 out; wind me into him, I pray you. Frame the
0459 business after your own wisdom. I would unstate
0460 105 myself to be in a due resolution.
EDMUND 0461 I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the
0462 business as I shall find means, and acquaint you
GLOUCESTER 0464 These late eclipses in the sun and moon
0465 110 portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of
0466 nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds
0467 itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools,
0468 friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities, mutinies;
0469 in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and
0470 115 the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. [This villain
0471 of mine comes under the prediction: there’s son
0472 against father. The King falls from bias of nature:
0473 there’s father against child. We have seen the best of
0474 our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and
0475 120 all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our
0476 graves.]—Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall
0477 lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble
0478 and true-hearted Kent banished! His offense, honesty!
0479 ’Tis strange.He exits.
0481 when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of
0482 our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters
0483 the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains
0484 on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves,
0485 130 thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance;
0486 drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced
0487 obedience of planetary influence; and all that we
0488 are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable
0489 evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
0490 135 disposition on the charge of a star! My father
0491 compounded with my mother under the Dragon’s
0492 tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it
0493 follows I am rough and lecherous. ⟨Fut,⟩ I should
0494 have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the
0495 140 firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. ⟨Edgar⟩—
0496 ⟨and⟩ pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
0497 comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a
0498 sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam.—O, these eclipses do
0499 portend these divisions. Fa, sol, la, mi.
EDGAR 0500 145How now, brother Edmund, what serious contemplation
0501 are you in?
EDMUND 0502 I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read
0503 this other day, what should follow these eclipses.
EDGAR 0504 Do you busy yourself with that?
EDMUND 0505 150I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed
0506 unhappily, ⟨as of unnaturalness between the
0507 child and the parent, death, dearth, dissolutions of
0508 ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and
0509 maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences,
0510 155 banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
0511 nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
EDGAR 0512 How long have you been a sectary
EDGAR 0515 160The night gone by.
EDMUND 0516 Spake you with him?
EDGAR 0517 Ay, two hours together.
EDMUND 0518 Parted you in good terms? Found you no
0519 displeasure in him by word nor countenance?
EDGAR 0520 165None at all.
EDMUND 0521 Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended
0522 him, and at my entreaty forbear his presence
0523 until some little time hath qualified the heat
0524 of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in
0525 170 him that with the mischief of your person it would
0526 scarcely allay.
EDGAR 0527 Some villain hath done me wrong.
EDMUND 0528 That’s my fear. [I pray you have a continent
0529 forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower;
0530 175 and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from
0531 whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak.
0532 Pray you go. There’s my key. If you do stir abroad,
0533 go armed.
EDGAR 0534 Armed, brother?]
EDMUND 0535 180Brother, I advise you to the best. I am no
0536 honest man if there be any good meaning toward
0537 you. I have told you what I have seen and heard, but
0538 faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray
0539 you, away.
EDGAR 0540 185Shall I hear from you anon?
EDMUND 0541 I do serve you in this business.Edgar exits.
0542 A credulous father and a brother noble,
0543 Whose nature is so far from doing harms
0544 That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
0545 190 My practices ride easy. I see the business.
0546 Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.
0547 All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.