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Navigate this workKing Lear
Act 2, scene 4
At Gloucester’s castle, Lear is angered that his messenger has been stocked and further angered that Regan and Cornwall refuse to see him. When Goneril arrives, Lear quarrels bitterly with her and with Regan, who claim that he needs no attendants of his own. When each daughter says that he may stay with her only if he dismisses all his knights, he rushes, enraged, out into a storm. Cornwall, Regan, and Goneril shut Gloucester’s castle against Lear.Enter Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.
1361 ’Tis strange that they should so depart from home
1362 And not send back my ⟨messenger.⟩
GENTLEMAN 1363 As I learned,
1364 The night before there was no purpose in them
1365 5 Of this remove.
KENT, ⌜waking⌝ 1366 Hail to thee, noble master.
LEAR 1367 Ha?
1368 Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?
[KENT 1369 No, my lord.]
FOOL 1370 10Ha, ha, he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied
1371 by the heads, dogs and bears by th’ neck, monkeys
1372 by th’ loins, and men by th’ legs. When a ⟨man’s⟩
1373 overlusty at legs, then he wears wooden
1375 15 What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
1376 To set thee here?
KENT 1377 It is both he and she,
1378 Your son and daughter.
p. 99LEAR 1379 No.
KENT 1380 20Yes.
LEAR 1381 No, I say.
KENT 1382 I say yea.
LEAR 1383 By Jupiter, I swear no.
[KENT 1384 By Juno, I swear ay.
LEAR] 1385 25 They durst not do ’t.
1386 They could not, would not do ’t. ’Tis worse than
1388 To do upon respect such violent outrage.
1389 Resolve me with all modest haste which way
1390 30 Thou might’st deserve or they impose this usage,
1391 Coming from us.
KENT 1392 My lord, when at their home
1393 I did commend your Highness’ letters to them,
1394 Ere I was risen from the place that showed
1395 35 My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
1396 Stewed in his haste, half breathless, ⟨panting⟩ forth
1397 From Goneril his mistress salutations;
1398 Delivered letters, spite of intermission,
1399 Which presently they read; on ⟨whose⟩ contents
1400 40 They summoned up their meiny, straight took
1402 Commanded me to follow and attend
1403 The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks;
1404 And meeting here the other messenger,
1405 45 Whose welcome, I perceived, had poisoned mine,
1406 Being the very fellow which of late
1407 Displayed so saucily against your Highness,
1408 Having more man than wit about me, drew.
1409 He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
1410 50 Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
1411 The shame which here it suffers.
[FOOL 1412 Winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that
p. 1011414 Fathers that wear rags
1415 55 Do make their children blind,
1416 But fathers that bear bags
1417 Shall see their children kind.
1418 Fortune, that arrant whore,
1419 Ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.
1420 60 But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for
1421 thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.]
1422 O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
1423 ⌜Hysterica⌝ passio, down, thou climbing sorrow!
1424 Thy element’s below.—Where is this daughter?
KENT 1425 65With the Earl, sir, here within.
LEAR, ⌜to Fool and Gentleman⌝ 1426 Follow me not. Stay
1427 here.He exits.
1428 Made you no more offense but what you speak of?
KENT 1429 None.
1430 70 How chance the King comes with so small a number?
FOOL 1431 An thou hadst been set i’ th’ stocks for that
1432 question, thou ’dst well deserved it.
KENT 1433 Why, Fool?
FOOL 1434 We’ll set thee to school to an ant to teach thee
1435 75 there’s no laboring i’ th’ winter. All that follow
1436 their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and
1437 there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him
1438 that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel
1439 runs down a hill lest it break thy neck with following;
1440 80 but the great one that goes upward, let him
1441 draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better
1442 counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but
1443 knaves follow it, since a Fool gives it.
1444 That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
1445 85 And follows but for form,
1446 Will pack when it begins to rain
p. 1031447 And leave thee in the storm.
1448 But I will tarry; the Fool will stay,
1449 And let the wise man fly.
1450 90 The knave turns fool that runs away;
1451 The Fool no knave, perdie.
KENT 1452 Where learned you this, Fool?
FOOL 1453 Not i’ th’ stocks, fool.
Enter Lear and Gloucester.
1454 Deny to speak with me? They are sick? They are
1455 95 weary?
1456 They have traveled all the night? Mere fetches,
1457 The images of revolt and flying off.
1458 Fetch me a better answer.
GLOUCESTER 1459 My dear lord,
1460 100 You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
1461 How unremovable and fixed he is
1462 In his own course.
1463 Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!
1464 “Fiery”? What “quality”? Why Gloucester,
1465 105 Gloucester,
1466 I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.
1467 Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.
1468 “Informed them”? Dost thou understand me,
GLOUCESTER 1470 110Ay, my good lord.
1471 The King would speak with Cornwall. The dear
1473 Would with his daughter speak, commands, tends
1475 115 [Are they “informed” of this? My breath and
p. 1051477 “Fiery”? The “fiery” duke? Tell the hot duke that—
1478 No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
1479 Infirmity doth still neglect all office
1480 120 Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves
1481 When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
1482 To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,
1483 And am fallen out with my more headier will,
1484 To take the indisposed and sickly fit
1485 125 For the sound man. ⌜Noticing Kent again.⌝ Death on
1486 my state! Wherefore
1487 Should he sit here? This act persuades me
1488 That this remotion of the Duke and her
1489 Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
1490 130 Go tell the Duke and ’s wife I’d speak with them.
1491 Now, presently, bid them come forth and hear me,
1492 Or at their chamber door I’ll beat the drum
1493 Till it cry sleep to death.
GLOUCESTER 1494 I would have all well betwixt you.
1495 135 O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!
FOOL 1496 Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels
1497 when she put ’em i’ th’ paste alive. She knapped
1498 ’em o’ th’ coxcombs with a stick and cried “Down,
1499 wantons, down!” ’Twas her brother that in pure
1500 140 kindness to his horse buttered his hay.
Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, Servants.
LEAR 1501 Good morrow to you both.
CORNWALL 1502 Hail to your Grace.
Kent here set at liberty.
REGAN 1503 I am glad to see your Highness.
1504 Regan, I think ⟨you⟩ are. I know what reason
1505 145 I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
1506 I would divorce me from thy ⟨mother’s⟩ tomb,
p. 1071507 Sepulch’ring an adult’ress. ⌜To Kent.⌝ O, are you
1509 Some other time for that.—Belovèd Regan,
1510 150 Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied
1511 Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.
1512 I can scarce speak to thee. Thou ’lt not believe
1513 With how depraved a quality—O Regan!
1514 I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
1515 155 You less know how to value her desert
1516 Than she to scant her duty.
[LEAR 1517 Say? How is that?
1518 I cannot think my sister in the least
1519 Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
1520 160 She have restrained the riots of your followers,
1521 ’Tis on such ground and to such wholesome end
1522 As clears her from all blame.]
LEAR 1523 My curses on her.
REGAN 1524 O sir, you are old.
1525 165 Nature in you stands on the very verge
1526 Of his confine. You should be ruled and led
1527 By some discretion that discerns your state
1528 Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you
1529 That to our sister you do make return.
1530 170 Say you have wronged her.
LEAR 1531 Ask her forgiveness?
1532 Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
1533 “Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
1534 Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
1535 175 That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”
1536 Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks.
1537 Return you to my sister.
p. 109LEAR, ⌜rising⌝ 1538 Never, Regan.
1539 She hath abated me of half my train,
1540 180 Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue
1541 Most serpentlike upon the very heart.
1542 All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
1543 On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
1544 You taking airs, with lameness!
CORNWALL 1545 185 Fie, sir, fie!
1546 You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
1547 Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
1548 You fen-sucked fogs drawn by the powerful sun
1549 To fall and blister!
1550 190 O, the blest gods! So will you wish on me
1551 When the rash mood is on.
1552 No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.
1553 Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
1554 Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but
1555 195 thine
1556 Do comfort and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
1557 To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
1558 To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
1559 And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
1560 200 Against my coming in. Thou better know’st
1561 The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
1562 Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude.
1563 Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot,
1564 Wherein I thee endowed.
REGAN 1565 205 Good sir, to th’ purpose.
1566 Who put my man i’ th’ stocks?
CORNWALL 1567 What trumpet’s that?
1568 I know ’t—my sister’s. This approves her letter,
1569 That she would soon be here.
Enter ⌜Oswald, the⌝ Steward.
1570 210 Is your lady come?
1571 This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
1572 Dwells in the ⟨fickle⟩ grace of her he follows.—
1573 Out, varlet, from my sight!
CORNWALL 1574 What means your Grace?
1575 215 Who stocked my servant? Regan, I have good hope
1576 Thou didst not know on ’t.
1577 Who comes here? O heavens,
1578 If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
1579 Allow obedience, if you yourselves are old,
1580 220 Make it your cause. Send down and take my part.
1581 ⌜To Goneril.⌝ Art not ashamed to look upon this
1582 beard?⌜Regan takes Goneril’s hand.⌝
1583 O Regan, will you take her by the hand?
1584 Why not by th’ hand, sir? How have I offended?
1585 225 All’s not offense that indiscretion finds
1586 And dotage terms so.
LEAR 1587 O sides, you are too tough!
1588 Will you yet hold?—How came my man i’ th’
1590 230 I set him there, sir, but his own disorders
1591 Deserved much less advancement.
LEAR 1592 You? Did you?
1593 I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
1594 If till the expiration of your month
p. 1131595 235 You will return and sojourn with my sister,
1596 Dismissing half your train, come then to me.
1597 I am now from home and out of that provision
1598 Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
1599 Return to her? And fifty men dismissed?
1600 240 No! Rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
1601 To wage against the enmity o’ th’ air,
1602 To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,
1603 Necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her?
1604 Why the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
1605 245 Our youngest born—I could as well be brought
1606 To knee his throne and, squire-like, pension beg
1607 To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
1608 Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
1609 To this detested groom.⌜He indicates Oswald.⌝
GONERIL 1610 250 At your choice, sir.
1611 I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
1612 I will not trouble thee, my child. Farewell.
1613 We’ll no more meet, no more see one another.
1614 But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter,
1615 255 Or, rather, a disease that’s in my flesh,
1616 Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil,
1617 A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle
1618 In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee.
1619 Let shame come when it will; I do not call it.
1620 260 I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
1621 Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
1622 Mend when thou canst. Be better at thy leisure.
1623 I can be patient. I can stay with Regan,
1624 I and my hundred knights.
REGAN 1625 265Not altogether so.
1626 I looked not for you yet, nor am provided
1627 For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister,
1628 For those that mingle reason with your passion
p. 1151629 Must be content to think you old, and so—
1630 270 But she knows what she does.
LEAR 1631 Is this well spoken?
1632 I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
1633 Is it not well? What should you need of more?
1634 Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
1635 275 Speak ’gainst so great a number? How in one house
1636 Should many people under two commands
1637 Hold amity? ’Tis hard, almost impossible.
1638 Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
1639 From those that she calls servants, or from mine?
1640 280 Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack
1642 We could control them. If you will come to me
1643 (For now I spy a danger), I entreat you
1644 To bring but five-and-twenty. To no more
1645 285 Will I give place or notice.
LEAR 1646 I gave you all—
REGAN 1647 And in good time you gave it.
1648 Made you my guardians, my depositaries,
1649 But kept a reservation to be followed
1650 290 With such a number. What, must I come to you
1651 With five-and-twenty? Regan, said you so?
1652 And speak ’t again, my lord. No more with me.
1653 Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favored
1654 When others are more wicked. Not being the worst
1655 295 Stands in some rank of praise. ⌜To Goneril.⌝ I’ll go
1656 with thee.
1657 Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
1658 And thou art twice her love.
GONERIL 1659 Hear me, my lord.
p. 1171660 300 What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
1661 To follow in a house where twice so many
1662 Have a command to tend you?
REGAN 1663 What need one?
1664 O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
1665 305 Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
1666 Allow not nature more than nature needs,
1667 Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;
1668 If only to go warm were gorgeous,
1669 Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
1670 310 Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true
1672 You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
1673 You see me here, you gods, a poor old man
1674 As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
1675 315 If it be you that stirs these daughters’ hearts
1676 Against their father, fool me not so much
1677 To bear it tamely. Touch me with noble anger,
1678 And let not women’s weapons, water drops,
1679 Stain my man’s cheeks.—No, you unnatural hags,
1680 320 I will have such revenges on you both
1681 That all the world shall—I will do such things—
1682 What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
1683 The terrors of the Earth! You think I’ll weep.
1684 No, I’ll not weep.
1685 325 I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Storm and tempest.
1686 Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
1687 Or ere I’ll weep.—O Fool, I shall go mad!
⟨Lear, Kent, and Fool⟩ exit
⌜with Gloucester and the Gentleman.⌝
CORNWALL 1688 Let us withdraw. ’Twill be a storm.
1689 This house is little. The old man and ’s people
1690 330 Cannot be well bestowed.
1691 ’Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,
1692 And must needs taste his folly.
1693 For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly,
1694 But not one follower.
1695 335 So am I purposed. Where is my lord of Gloucester?
1696 Followed the old man forth.
1697 He is returned.
GLOUCESTER 1698 The King is in high rage.
[CORNWALL 1699 Whither is he going?
1700 340 He calls to horse,] but will I know not whither.
1701 ’Tis best to give him way. He leads himself.
GONERIL, ⌜to Gloucester⌝
1702 My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.
1703 Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
1704 Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
1705 345 There’s scarce a bush.
REGAN 1706 O sir, to willful men
1707 The injuries that they themselves procure
1708 Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
1709 He is attended with a desperate train,
1710 350 And what they may incense him to, being apt
1711 To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.
1712 Shut up your doors, my lord. ’Tis a wild night.
1713 My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.