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Navigate this workKing Lear
Act 4, scene 6
To cure Gloucester of despair, Edgar pretends to aid him in a suicide attempt, a fall from Dover Cliff to the beach far below. When Gloucester wakes from his faint, Edgar (now in the disguise of a peasant) tells him that the gods intervened to save his life. The two meet the mad Lear, who talks with Gloucester about lechery, abuses of power, and other human follies. Lear runs off when some of Cordelia’s search party come upon him. When Oswald appears and tries to kill Gloucester, Edgar kills Oswald and finds on his body a letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting Albany’s death.Enter Gloucester and Edgar ⌜dressed as a peasant.⌝
2733 When shall I come to th’ top of that same hill?
2734 You do climb up it now. Look how we labor.
2735 Methinks the ground is even.
EDGAR 2736 Horrible steep.
2737 5 Hark, do you hear the sea?
GLOUCESTER 2738 No, truly.
2739 Why then, your other senses grow imperfect
2740 By your eyes’ anguish.
GLOUCESTER 2741 So may it be indeed.
2742 10 Methinks thy voice is altered and thou speak’st
2743 In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
2744 You’re much deceived; in nothing am I changed
2745 But in my garments.
GLOUCESTER 2746 Methinks you’re better spoken.
2747 15 Come on, sir. Here’s the place. Stand still. How
2749 And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low!
2750 The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
2751 Show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down
2752 20 Hangs one that gathers samphire—dreadful trade;
2753 Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
2754 The fishermen that ⟨walk⟩ upon the beach
2755 Appear like mice, and yond tall anchoring bark
2756 Diminished to her cock, her cock a buoy
2757 25 Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge
2758 That on th’ unnumbered idle pebble chafes
2759 Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more
2760 Lest my brain turn and the deficient sight
2761 Topple down headlong.
GLOUCESTER 2762 30 Set me where you stand.
2763 Give me your hand. You are now within a foot
2764 Of th’ extreme verge. For all beneath the moon
2765 Would I not leap upright.
GLOUCESTER 2766 Let go my hand.
2767 35 Here, friend, ’s another purse; in it a jewel
2768 Well worth a poor man’s taking. Fairies and gods
2769 Prosper it with thee.⌜He gives Edgar a purse.⌝
2770 Go thou further off.
2771 Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
EDGAR, ⌜walking away⌝
2772 40 Now fare you well, good sir.
GLOUCESTER 2773 With all my heart.
2774 Why I do trifle thus with his despair
2775 Is done to cure it.
p. 199GLOUCESTER 2776 O you mighty gods!⟨He kneels.⟩
2777 45 This world I do renounce, and in your sights
2778 Shake patiently my great affliction off.
2779 If I could bear it longer, and not fall
2780 To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
2781 My snuff and loathèd part of nature should
2782 50 Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!—
2783 Now, fellow, fare thee well.⟨He falls.⟩
EDGAR 2784 Gone, sir. Farewell.—
2785 And yet I know not how conceit may rob
2786 The treasury of life, when life itself
2787 55 Yields to the theft. Had he been where he thought,
2788 By this had thought been past. Alive or dead?—
2789 Ho you, sir! Friend, hear you. Sir, speak.—
2790 Thus might he pass indeed. Yet he revives.—
2791 What are you, sir?
GLOUCESTER 2792 60 Away, and let me die.
2793 Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
2794 So many fathom down precipitating,
2795 Thou ’dst shivered like an egg; but thou dost
2797 65 Hast heavy substance, bleed’st not, speak’st, art
2799 Ten masts at each make not the altitude
2800 Which thou hast perpendicularly fell.
2801 Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again.
GLOUCESTER 2802 70But have I fall’n or no?
2803 From the dread summit of this chalky bourn.
2804 Look up a-height. The shrill-gorged lark so far
2805 Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.
GLOUCESTER 2806 Alack, I have no eyes.
2807 75 Is wretchedness deprived that benefit
2808 To end itself by death? ’Twas yet some comfort
2809 When misery could beguile the tyrant’s rage
2810 And frustrate his proud will.
p. 201EDGAR 2811 Give me your arm.
⌜He raises Gloucester.⌝
2812 80 Up. So, how is ’t? Feel you your legs? You stand.
2813 Too well, too well.
EDGAR 2814 This is above all strangeness.
2815 Upon the crown o’ th’ cliff, what thing was that
2816 Which parted from you?
GLOUCESTER 2817 85 A poor unfortunate beggar.
2818 As I stood here below, methought his eyes
2819 Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
2820 Horns whelked and waved like the enragèd sea.
2821 It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father,
2822 90 Think that the clearest gods, who make them
2824 Of men’s impossibilities, have preserved thee.
2825 I do remember now. Henceforth I’ll bear
2826 Affliction till it do cry out itself
2827 95 “Enough, enough!” and die. That thing you speak of,
2828 I took it for a man. Often ’twould say
2829 “The fiend, the fiend!” He led me to that place.
2830 Bear free and patient thoughts.
2831 But who comes here?
2832 100 The safer sense will ne’er accommodate
2833 His master thus.
LEAR 2834 No, they cannot touch me for ⟨coining⟩. I am the
2835 King himself.
EDGAR 2836 O, thou side-piercing sight!
LEAR 2837 105Nature’s above art in that respect. There’s your
2838 press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a
2839 crowkeeper. Draw me a clothier’s yard. Look, look,
p. 2032840 a mouse! Peace, peace! This piece of toasted cheese
2841 will do ’t. There’s my gauntlet; I’ll prove it on a
2842 110 giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird!
2843 I’ th’ clout, i’ th’ clout! Hewgh! Give the word.
EDGAR 2844 Sweet marjoram.
LEAR 2845 Pass.
GLOUCESTER 2846 I know that voice.
LEAR 2847 115Ha! Goneril with a white beard? They flattered
2848 me like a dog and told me I had the white hairs in
2849 my beard ere the black ones were there. To say “ay”
2850 and “no” to everything that I said “ay” and “no” to
2851 was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me
2852 120 once and the wind to make me chatter, when the
2853 thunder would not peace at my bidding, there I
2854 found ’em, there I smelt ’em out. Go to. They are
2855 not men o’ their words; they told me I was everything.
2856 ’Tis a lie. I am not ague-proof.
2857 125 The trick of that voice I do well remember.
2858 Is ’t not the King?
LEAR 2859 Ay, every inch a king.
2860 When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
2861 I pardon that man’s life. What was thy cause?
2862 130 Adultery? Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No.
2863 The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly does
2864 lecher in my sight. Let copulation thrive, for
2865 Gloucester’s bastard son was kinder to his father
2866 than my daughters got ’tween the lawful sheets. To
2867 135 ’t, luxury, pell-mell, for I lack soldiers. Behold yond
2868 simp’ring dame, whose face between her forks
2869 presages snow, that minces virtue and does shake
2870 the head to hear of pleasure’s name. The fitchew
2871 nor the soiled horse goes to ’t with a more riotous
2872 140 appetite. Down from the waist they are centaurs,
2873 though women all above. But to the girdle do the
2874 gods inherit; beneath is all the fiend’s. There’s hell,
p. 2052875 there’s darkness, there is the sulphurous pit; burning,
2876 scalding, stench, consumption! Fie, fie, fie, pah,
2877 145 pah! Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary;
2878 sweeten my imagination. There’s money for thee.
GLOUCESTER 2879 O, let me kiss that hand!
LEAR 2880 Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.
2881 O ruined piece of nature! This great world
2882 150 Shall so wear out to naught. Dost thou know me?
LEAR 2883 I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou
2884 squinny at me? No, do thy worst, blind Cupid, I’ll
2885 not love. Read thou this challenge. Mark but the
2886 penning of it.
2887 155 Were all thy letters suns, I could not see.
2888 I would not take this from report. It is,
2889 And my heart breaks at it.
LEAR 2890 Read.
GLOUCESTER 2891 What, with the case of eyes?
LEAR 2892 160O ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your
2893 head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in
2894 a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you see how
2895 this world goes.
GLOUCESTER 2896 I see it feelingly.
LEAR 2897 165What, art mad? A man may see how this world
2898 goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears. See how
2899 yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark in
2900 thine ear. Change places and, handy-dandy, which
2901 is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a
2902 170 farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?
GLOUCESTER 2903 Ay, sir.
LEAR 2904 And the creature run from the cur? There thou
2905 might’st behold the great image of authority: a
2906 dog’s obeyed in office.
p. 2072907 175 Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
2908 Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thy own back.
2909 Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind
2910 For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the
2912 180 Through tattered clothes ⟨small⟩ vices do appear.
2913 Robes and furred gowns hide all. [⌜Plate sin⌝ with
2915 And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks.
2916 Arm it in rags, a pygmy’s straw does pierce it.
2917 185 None does offend, none, I say, none; I’ll able ’em.
2918 Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
2919 To seal th’ accuser’s lips.] Get thee glass eyes,
2920 And like a scurvy politician
2921 Seem to see the things thou dost not. Now, now,
2922 190 now, now.
2923 Pull off my boots. Harder, harder. So.
2924 O, matter and impertinency mixed,
2925 Reason in madness!
2926 If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
2927 195 I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.
2928 Thou must be patient. We came crying hither;
2929 Thou know’st the first time that we smell the air
2930 We wawl and cry. I will preach to thee. Mark.
GLOUCESTER 2931 Alack, alack the day!
2932 200 When we are born, we cry that we are come
2933 To this great stage of fools.—This’ a good block.
2934 It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
2935 A troop of horse with felt. I’ll put ’t in proof,
2936 And when I have stol’n upon these son-in-laws,
2937 205 Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!
Enter a Gentleman ⌜and Attendants.⌝
p. 209GENTLEMAN, ⌜noticing Lear⌝
2938 O, here he is. ⌜To an Attendant.⌝ Lay hand upon
2940 Your most dear daughter—
2941 No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even
2942 210 The natural fool of Fortune. Use me well.
2943 You shall have ransom. Let me have surgeons;
2944 I am cut to th’ brains.
GENTLEMAN 2945 You shall have anything.
LEAR 2946 No seconds? All myself?
2947 215 Why, this would make a man a man of salt,
2948 To use his eyes for garden waterpots,
2949 ⟨Ay, and laying autumn’s dust.⟩
2950 I will die bravely like a smug bridegroom. What?
2951 I will be jovial. Come, come, I am a king,
2952 220 Masters, know you that?
2953 You are a royal one, and we obey you.
LEAR 2954 Then there’s life in ’t. Come, an you get it, you
2955 shall get it by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa.
⟨The King exits running ⌜pursued by Attendants.⌝⟩
2956 A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
2957 225 Past speaking of in a king. Thou hast a daughter
2958 Who redeems nature from the general curse
2959 Which twain have brought her to.
EDGAR 2960 Hail, gentle sir.
GENTLEMAN 2961 Sir, speed you. What’s your will?
2962 230 Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?
2963 Most sure and vulgar. Everyone hears that,
2964 Which can distinguish sound.
EDGAR 2965 But, by your favor,
2966 How near’s the other army?
2967 235 Near and on speedy foot. The main descry
2968 Stands on the hourly thought.
EDGAR 2969 I thank you, sir. That’s all.
2970 Though that the Queen on special cause is here,
2971 Her army is moved on.
EDGAR 2972 240 I thank you, sir.
2973 You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me;
2974 Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
2975 To die before you please.
EDGAR 2976 Well pray you, father.
GLOUCESTER 2977 245Now, good sir, what are you?
2978 A most poor man, made tame to Fortune’s blows,
2979 Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
2980 Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand;
2981 I’ll lead you to some biding.
⌜He takes Gloucester’s hand.⌝
GLOUCESTER 2982 250 Hearty thanks.
2983 The bounty and the benison of heaven
2984 To boot, and boot.
Enter ⌜Oswald, the⌝ Steward.
OSWALD, ⌜drawing his sword⌝
2985 A proclaimed prize! Most happy!
2986 That eyeless head of thine was first framed flesh
2987 255 To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
2988 Briefly thyself remember; the sword is out
2989 That must destroy thee.
GLOUCESTER 2990 Now let thy friendly hand
2991 Put strength enough to ’t.
⌜Edgar steps between Gloucester and Oswald.⌝
OSWALD 2992 260 Wherefore, bold peasant,
p. 2132993 Dar’st thou support a published traitor? Hence,
2994 Lest that th’ infection of his fortune take
2995 Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
EDGAR 2996 Chill not let go, zir, without vurther ’casion.
OSWALD 2997 265Let go, slave, or thou diest!
EDGAR 2998 Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor
2999 volk pass. An ’chud ha’ bin zwaggered out of my
3000 life, ’twould not ha’ bin zo long as ’tis by a vortnight.
3001 Nay, come not near th’ old man. Keep out,
3002 270 che vor’ ye, or Ise try whether your costard or my
3003 ballow be the harder. Chill be plain with you.
OSWALD 3004 Out, dunghill.
EDGAR 3005 Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come, no matter vor
3006 your foins.⟨They fight.⟩
3007 275 Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
3008 If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body,
3009 And give the letters which thou find’st about me
3010 To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
3011 Upon the English party. O, untimely death! Death!
3012 280 I know thee well, a serviceable villain,
3013 As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
3014 As badness would desire.
GLOUCESTER 3015 What, is he dead?
EDGAR 3016 Sit you down, father; rest you.
3017 285 Let’s see these pockets. The letters that he speaks of
3018 May be my friends. He’s dead; I am only sorry
3019 He had no other deathsman. Let us see.
⌜He opens a letter.⌝
3020 Leave, gentle wax, and, manners, blame us not.
3021 To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts.
3022 290 Their papers is more lawful.Reads the letter.
3023 Let our reciprocal vows be remembered. You have
3024 many opportunities to cut him off. If your will want
3025 not, time and place will be fruitfully offered. There is
p. 2153026 nothing done if he return the conqueror. Then am I
3027 295 the prisoner, and his bed my jail, from the loathed
3028 warmth whereof deliver me and supply the place for
3029 your labor.
3030 Your (wife, so I would say) affectionate servant,
3031 ⟨and, for you, her own for venture,⟩Goneril.
3032 300 O indistinguished space of woman’s will!
3033 A plot upon her virtuous husband’s life,
3034 And the exchange my brother.—Here, in the sands
3035 Thee I’ll rake up, the post unsanctified
3036 Of murderous lechers; and in the mature time
3037 305 With this ungracious paper strike the sight
3038 Of the death-practiced duke. For him ’tis well
3039 That of thy death and business I can tell.
3040 The King is mad. How stiff is my vile sense
3041 That I stand up and have ingenious feeling
3042 310 Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract.
3043 So should my thoughts be severed from my griefs,
3044 And woes, by wrong imaginations, lose
3045 The knowledge of themselves.Drum afar off.
EDGAR 3046 Give me your hand.
3047 315 Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum.
3048 Come, father, I’ll bestow you with a friend.