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Navigate this workKing Lear
Act 5, scene 3
Edmund sends Lear and Cordelia to prison and secretly commissions their assassination. Albany confronts Edmund and Goneril with their intended treachery against him and calls for the champion that Edgar said he would produce. Edgar himself, in full armor, appears to accuse Edmund of treachery. In the ensuing trial by combat, Edgar mortally wounds Edmund. Edgar reveals his identity, tells about his life as Poor Tom, and describes Gloucester’s death. A messenger announces the deaths of Regan (who has been poisoned by Goneril) and Goneril (who has committed suicide). Kent, no longer in disguise, arrives in search of Lear. Edmund confesses that he has ordered the deaths of Lear and of Cordelia. While a messenger rushes to the prison to save them, Lear enters bearing the dead Cordelia. As Albany makes plans to restore Lear to the throne, Lear himself dies.Enter in conquest, with Drum and Colors, Edmund;
Lear and Cordelia as prisoners; Soldiers, Captain.
3251 Some officers take them away. Good guard
3252 Until their greater pleasures first be known
3253 That are to censure them.
CORDELIA, ⌜to Lear⌝ 3254 We are not the first
3255 5 Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
3256 For thee, oppressèd king, I am cast down.
3257 Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown.
3258 Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
3259 No, no, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison.
3260 10 We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ cage.
3261 When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
3262 And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
3263 And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
3264 At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
3265 15 Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too—
3266 Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out—
3267 And take upon ’s the mystery of things,
3268 As if we were God’s spies. And we’ll wear out,
3269 In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
3270 20 That ebb and flow by th’ moon.
EDMUND 3271 Take them away.
3272 Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
3275 25 He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven
3276 And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.
3277 The good years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
3278 Ere they shall make us weep. We’ll see ’em starved
3280 30 Come.
⌜Lear and Cordelia⌝ exit, ⌜with Soldiers.⌝
EDMUND 3281 Come hither, captain. Hark.
⌜Handing him a paper.⌝
3282 Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison.
3283 One step I have advanced thee. If thou dost
3284 As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
3285 35 To noble fortunes. Know thou this: that men
3286 Are as the time is; to be tender-minded
3287 Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
3288 Will not bear question. Either say thou ’lt do ’t,
3289 Or thrive by other means.
CAPTAIN 3290 40 I’ll do ’t, my lord.
3291 About it, and write “happy” when th’ hast done.
3292 Mark, I say, instantly, and carry it so
3293 As I have set it down.
3294 I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats.
3295 45 If it be man’s work, I’ll do ’t.⟩Captain exits.
Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Soldiers ⌜and a
ALBANY, ⌜to Edmund⌝
3296 Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain,
3297 And Fortune led you well. You have the captives
3298 Who were the opposites of this day’s strife.
3299 I do require them of you, so to use them
3300 50 As we shall find their merits and our safety
3301 May equally determine.
3303 To send the old and miserable king
3304 To some retention ⟨and appointed guard,⟩
3305 55 Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
3306 To pluck the common bosom on his side
3307 And turn our impressed lances in our eyes,
3308 Which do command them. With him I sent the
3310 60 My reason all the same, and they are ready
3311 Tomorrow, or at further space, t’ appear
3312 Where you shall hold your session. ⟨At this time
3313 We sweat and bleed. The friend hath lost his friend,
3314 And the best quarrels in the heat are cursed
3315 65 By those that feel their sharpness.
3316 The question of Cordelia and her father
3317 Requires a fitter place.⟩
ALBANY 3318 Sir, by your patience,
3319 I hold you but a subject of this war,
3320 70 Not as a brother.
REGAN 3321 That’s as we list to grace him.
3322 Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded
3323 Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
3324 Bore the commission of my place and person,
3325 75 The which immediacy may well stand up
3326 And call itself your brother.
GONERIL 3327 Not so hot.
3328 In his own grace he doth exalt himself
3329 More than in your addition.
REGAN 3330 80 In my rights,
3331 By me invested, he compeers the best.
3332 That were the most if he should husband you.
3333 Jesters do oft prove prophets.
GONERIL 3334 Holla, holla!
3335 85 That eye that told you so looked but asquint.
3336 Lady, I am not well, else I should answer
3337 From a full-flowing stomach. ⌜To Edmund.⌝
3339 Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
3340 90 [Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.]
3341 Witness the world that I create thee here
3342 My lord and master.
GONERIL 3343 Mean you to enjoy him?
3344 The let-alone lies not in your goodwill.
3345 95 Nor in thine, lord.
ALBANY 3346 Half-blooded fellow, yes.
REGAN, ⌜to Edmund⌝
3347 Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
3348 Stay yet, hear reason.—Edmund, I arrest thee
3349 On capital treason; and, in ⟨thine attaint,⟩
3350 100 This gilded serpent.—For your claim, fair
3352 I bar it in the interest of my wife.
3353 ’Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
3354 And I, her husband, contradict your banns.
3355 105 If you will marry, make your loves to me.
3356 My lady is bespoke.
[GONERIL 3357 An interlude!]
3358 Thou art armed, Gloucester. Let the trumpet sound.
3359 If none appear to prove upon thy person
3360 110 Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
3361 There is my pledge.⌜He throws down a glove.⌝
3362 I’ll make it on thy heart,
3363 Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
3364 Than I have here proclaimed thee.
GONERIL, ⌜aside⌝ 3366 If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.
3367 There’s my exchange.⌜He throws down a glove.⌝
3368 What in the world ⟨he is⟩
3369 That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
3370 120 Call by the trumpet. He that dares approach,
3371 On him, on you, who not, I will maintain
3372 My truth and honor firmly.
3373 A herald, ho!
⟨EDMUND 3374 A herald, ho, a herald!⟩
3375 125 Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers,
3376 All levied in my name, have in my name
3377 Took their discharge.
REGAN 3378 My sickness grows upon me.
3379 She is not well. Convey her to my tent.
⌜Regan is helped to exit.⌝
Enter a Herald.
3380 130 Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound,
3381 And read out this.⌜He hands the Herald a paper.⌝
⟨CAPTAIN 3382 Sound, trumpet!⟩
A trumpet sounds.
3383 If any man of quality or degree, within the lists of the
3384 army, will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of
3385 135 Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him
3386 appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in
3387 his defense.[First trumpet ⌜sounds.⌝
HERALD 3388 Again!Second trumpet ⌜sounds.⌝
HERALD 3389 Again!Third trumpet ⌜sounds.⌝
Trumpet answers within.]
Enter Edgar armed.
3390 140 Ask him his purposes, why he appears
3391 Upon this call o’ th’ trumpet.
HERALD 3392 What are you?
3393 Your name, your quality, and why you answer
3394 This present summons?
EDGAR 3395 145 Know my name is lost,
3396 By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit.
3397 Yet am I noble as the adversary
3398 I come to cope.
ALBANY 3399 Which is that adversary?
3400 150 What’s he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of
3402 Himself. What sayest thou to him?
EDGAR 3403 Draw thy sword,
3404 That if my speech offend a noble heart,
3405 155 Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
⌜He draws his sword.⌝
3406 Behold, it is my privilege, the privilege of mine
3408 My oath, and my profession. I protest,
3409 Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
3410 160 ⟨Despite⟩ thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
3411 Thy valor, and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
3412 False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
3413 Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince,
3414 And from th’ extremest upward of thy head
3415 165 To the descent and dust below thy foot,
3416 A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “no,”
3417 This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
3418 To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
3419 Thou liest.
EDMUND 3420 170 In wisdom I should ask thy name,
3421 But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,
3423 [What safe and nicely I might well delay]
3424 By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
3425 175 Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
3426 With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,
3427 Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
3428 This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
3429 Where they shall rest forever. Trumpets, speak!
⌜He draws his sword.⌝ Alarums. Fights.
⌜Edmund falls, wounded.⌝
ALBANY, ⌜to Edgar⌝
3430 180 Save him, save him!
GONERIL 3431 This is practice, Gloucester.
3432 By th’ law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
3433 An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
3434 But cozened and beguiled.
ALBANY 3435 185 Shut your mouth, dame,
3436 Or with this paper shall I ⟨stopple⟩ it.—Hold, sir.—
3437 Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
3438 No tearing, lady. I perceive you know it.
3439 Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
3440 190 Who can arraign me for ’t?
ALBANY 3441 Most monstrous! O!
3442 Know’st thou this paper?
⟨GONERIL⟩ 3443 Ask me not what I know.
3444 Go after her, she’s desperate. Govern her.
⌜A Soldier exits.⌝
EDMUND, ⌜to Edgar⌝
3445 195 What you have charged me with, that have I done,
3446 And more, much more. The time will bring it out.
3447 ’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
3448 That hast this fortune on me? If thou ’rt noble,
3449 I do forgive thee.
3451 I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
3452 If more, the more th’ hast wronged me.
3453 My name is Edgar and thy father’s son.
3454 The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
3455 205 Make instruments to plague us.
3456 The dark and vicious place where thee he got
3457 Cost him his eyes.
EDMUND 3458 Th’ hast spoken right. ’Tis true.
3459 The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
ALBANY, ⌜to Edgar⌝
3460 210 Methought thy very gait did prophesy
3461 A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.
3462 Let sorrow split my heart if ever I
3463 Did hate thee or thy father!
EDGAR 3464 Worthy prince, I know ’t.
ALBANY 3465 215Where have you hid yourself?
3466 How have you known the miseries of your father?
3467 By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
3468 And when ’tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
3469 The bloody proclamation to escape
3470 220 That followed me so near—O, our lives’ sweetness,
3471 That we the pain of death would hourly die
3472 Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
3473 Into a madman’s rags, t’ assume a semblance
3474 That very dogs disdained, and in this habit
3475 225 Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
3476 Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
3477 Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair.
3478 Never—O fault!—revealed myself unto him
3479 Until some half hour past, when I was armed.
3480 230 Not sure, though hoping of this good success,
3481 I asked his blessing, and from first to last
3482 Told him our pilgrimage. But his flawed heart
3483 (Alack, too weak the conflict to support)
3485 235 Burst smilingly.
EDMUND 3486 This speech of yours hath moved me,
3487 And shall perchance do good. But speak you on.
3488 You look as you had something more to say.
3489 If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
3490 240 For I am almost ready to dissolve,
3491 Hearing of this.
⟨EDGAR 3492 This would have seemed a period
3493 To such as love not sorrow; but another,
3494 To amplify too much, would make much more
3495 245 And top extremity. Whilst I
3496 Was big in clamor, came there in a man
3497 Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
3498 Shunned my abhorred society; but then, finding
3499 Who ’twas that so endured, with his strong arms
3500 250 He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
3501 As he’d burst heaven, threw ⌜him⌝ on my father,
3502 Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
3503 That ever ear received, which, in recounting,
3504 His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
3505 255 Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
3506 And there I left him tranced.
ALBANY 3507 But who was this?
3508 Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise
3509 Followed his enemy king and did him service
3510 260 Improper for a slave.⟩
Enter a Gentleman ⟨with a bloody knife.⟩
3511 Help, help, O, help!
EDGAR 3512 What kind of help?
[ALBANY, ⌜to Gentleman⌝ 3513 Speak, man!]
EDGAR 3514 What means this bloody knife?
3515 265 ’Tis hot, it smokes! It came even from the heart
3516 Of—O, she’s dead!
ALBANY 3517 Who dead? Speak, man.
3518 Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister
3519 By her is poisoned. She confesses it.
3520 270 I was contracted to them both. All three
3521 Now marry in an instant.
[EDGAR 3522 Here comes Kent.
ALBANY, ⌜to the Gentleman⌝
3523 Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
3524 This judgment of the heavens, that makes us
3525 275 tremble,
3526 Touches us not with pity. O, is this he?
3527 ⌜To Kent.⌝ The time will not allow the compliment
3528 Which very manners urges.
KENT 3529 I am come
3530 280 To bid my king and master aye goodnight.
3531 Is he not here?
ALBANY 3532 Great thing of us forgot!
3533 Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s
Goneril and Regan’s bodies brought out.
3535 285 Seest thou this object, Kent?
KENT 3536 Alack, why thus?
EDMUND 3537 Yet Edmund was beloved.
3538 The one the other poisoned for my sake,
3539 And after slew herself.
ALBANY 3540 290Even so.—Cover their faces.
3541 I pant for life. Some good I mean to do
3543 Be brief in it—to th’ castle, for my writ
3544 Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.
3545 295 Nay, send in time.
ALBANY 3546 Run, run, O, run!
3547 To who, my lord? ⌜To Edmund.⌝ Who has the office?
3549 Thy token of reprieve.
3550 300 Well thought on. Take my sword. Give it the
EDGAR, ⌜to a Soldier⌝ 3552 Haste thee for thy life.
⌜The Soldier exits with Edmund’s sword.⌝
EDMUND, ⌜to Albany⌝
3553 He hath commission from thy wife and me
3554 To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
3555 305 To lay the blame upon her own despair,
3556 That she fordid herself.
3557 The gods defend her!—Bear him hence awhile.
⌜Edmund is carried off.⌝
Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms,
⌜followed by a Gentleman.⌝
3558 Howl, howl, howl! O, ⟨you⟩ are men of stones!
3559 Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
3560 310 That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone
3562 I know when one is dead and when one lives.
3563 She’s dead as earth.—Lend me a looking glass.
3564 If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
3565 315 Why, then she lives.
KENT 3566 Is this the promised end?
3567 Or image of that horror?
3569 This feather stirs. She lives. If it be so,
3570 320 It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
3571 That ever I have felt.
KENT 3572 O, my good master—
3573 Prithee, away.
EDGAR 3574 ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
3575 325 A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
3576 I might have saved her. Now she’s gone forever.—
3577 Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
3578 What is ’t thou sayst?—Her voice was ever soft,
3579 Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
3580 330 I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.
3581 ’Tis true, my lords, he did.
LEAR 3582 Did I not, fellow?
3583 I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
3584 I would have made him skip. I am old now,
3585 335 And these same crosses spoil me. ⌜To Kent.⌝ Who
3586 are you?
3587 Mine eyes are not o’ th’ best. I’ll tell you straight.
3588 If Fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
3589 One of them we behold.
3590 340 This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
KENT 3591 The same,
3592 Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?
3593 He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that.
3594 He’ll strike and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.
3595 345 No, my good lord, I am the very man—
3597 That from your first of difference and decay
3598 Have followed your sad steps.
LEAR 3599 ⌜You⌝ are welcome
3600 350 hither.
3601 Nor no man else. All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
3602 Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
3603 And desperately are dead.
LEAR 3604 Ay, so I think.
3605 355 He knows not what he says, and vain is it
3606 That we present us to him.
EDGAR 3607 Very bootless.
Enter a Messenger.
MESSENGER 3608 Edmund is dead, my lord.
ALBANY 3609 That’s but a trifle here.—
3610 360 You lords and noble friends, know our intent:
3611 What comfort to this great decay may come
3612 Shall be applied. For us, we will resign,
3613 During the life of this old Majesty,
3614 To him our absolute power; you to your rights,
3615 365 With boot and such addition as your Honors
3616 Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
3617 The wages of their virtue, and all foes
3618 The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!
3619 And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life?
3620 370 Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
3621 And thou no breath at all? Thou ’lt come no more,
3622 Never, never, never, never, never.—
3623 Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir.
3624 [Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
3625 375 Look there, look there!He dies.]
3627 my lord!
3628 Break, heart, I prithee, break!
EDGAR 3629 Look up, my lord.
3630 380 Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! He hates him
3631 That would upon the rack of this tough world
3632 Stretch him out longer.
EDGAR 3633 He is gone indeed.
3634 The wonder is he hath endured so long.
3635 385 He but usurped his life.
3636 Bear them from hence. Our present business
3637 Is general woe. ⌜To Edgar and Kent.⌝ Friends of my
3638 soul, you twain
3639 Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.
3640 390 I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
3641 My master calls me. I must not say no.
3642 The weight of this sad time we must obey,
3643 Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
3644 The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
3645 395 Shall never see so much nor live so long.
They exit with a dead march.