The Complete Text With Definitions of Difficult
Words and Explanations of Difficult Passages
Michael J. Cummings, Editor
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King Lear Study Guide
The following version of King Lear is based on
the text in the authoritative 1914 Oxford Edition of
Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig. The text numbers
the lines, including those with stage directions such as
"Enter" and "Exit." Annotations (notes and definitions)
appear in boldfaced type within the text.
King Lear: King of England
and the main character, or protagonist. He is a
headstrong old man who is blind to his weaknesses and
misjudges his three daughters, believing that the two
evil daughters have his best interests at heart and that
his good and selfless daughter opposes him. He undergoes
great suffering that opens his eyes and ennobles his
character. Whether there was a historical Lear is
Goneril, Regan: Selfish, greedy
daughters of Lear who pretend to love him when he
announces that he will gives them shares of his kingdom.
Later, they treat him cruelly.
Cordelia: Loyal and unselfish
daughter of Lear. He disowns her after confusing her
honesty with insolence. She continues to love her father
in spite of his rejection of her.
Duke of Burgundy: Suitor of
Cordelia. He decides to reject her after Lear disowns
King of France: Suitor of
Cordelia. He marries her even though Lear has disowned
Duke of Cornwall: Regan's
husband, who is just as cruel as she is.
Duke of Albany: Goneril's
husband. He turns against her when he realizes that she
is an evil schemer.
Earl of Kent: True and honest
friend of Lear who remains loyal even after the king
banishes him. To continue serving the king, he wears a
disguise and calls himself “Caius.”
Earl of Gloucester: Old man who
suffers from many of the same faults as Lear. Like Lear,
he is old and self-important; like Lear, he misjudges
his children and undergoes suffering that makes him a
better man. However, Gloucester is less forceful and
demanding than Lear and more given to compromise. Such
qualities make him a foil of Lear.
Edgar: Gloucester's loyal son
and heir. He resembles Cordelia in his loyalty to hid
Edmund: Gloucester's evil
bastard son. He resembles Goneril and Regan in his
disloyalty to his father.
Fool: Jester loyal to Lear and
Cordelia. The fool is a walking paradox—that is, he is
the wisest character in play in that he is the only
character who understands the motivations of Lear, his
daughters, and other characters. He acts as a kind of
mirror, reflecting Lear’s faults and weaknesses.
Old Man: Tenant of Gloucester.
Doctor: Physician who attends
Lear after the old king arrives at Dover.
Oswald: Villainous steward of
Captain: Employee of Edmund.
Gentleman: Attendant of
First Servant, Second Servant, Third
Servant: Servants of the Duke of Cornwall.
La Far: Marshal of France. He has no speaking
Minor Characters: Knights of
Lear's train, captains, messengers, soldiers, and
Text of the Play
1, Scene 1
Act 1, Scene 2
Act 1, Scene 3
Act 1, Scene 4
Act 1, Scene 5
Act 2, Scene 1
Act 2, Scene 2
Act 2, Scene 3
Act 2, Scene 4
Act 3, Scene 1
Act 3, Scene 2
Act 3, Scene 3
Act 3, Scene 4
Act 3, Scene 5
Act 3, Scene 6
Act 3, Scene 7
Act 4, Scene 1
Act 4, Scene 2
Act 4, Scene 3
Act 4, Scene 4
Act 4, Scene 5
Act 4, Scene 6
Act 4, Scene 7
Act 5, Scene 1
Act 5, Scene 2
Act 5, Scene 3
Act 1, Scene 1
A room of State in KING
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER,
KENT: I thought the king had more affected [favored] the Duke of Albany than
GLOUCESTER: It did always seem so to us; but now, in the
division of the
kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most; for
equalities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make
now . . . moiety: But now you
can't tell which duke he favors, for he divided the kingdom so
equally that a close examination (curiosity, line 4) cannot reveal who received
the bigger share (moiety).]
KENT: Is not this your son, my lord?
GLOUCESTER: His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I
have so often
blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.
[I reared him but have often blushed to acknowledge him. Now I am
hardened to (or used to) doing
so. (Brazed, or brazen, means hardened like brass.)]
KENT: I cannot conceive you. [I don't
know what you mean]
GLOUCESTER: Sir, this young fellow’s mother could; whereupon
round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she
husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
. . . fault: Sir, this young
fellow's mother could conceive him. She became pregnant and had a
for her cradle before she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell
KENT: I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being
issue . . . proper: The child having turned out to be a proper
GLOUCESTER: But I
have a son, sir, by order of law [but I also have a legitimate
son], some year
this, who yet is no dearer [no more special] in my account: though this
somewhat saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was
mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson
be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman,
EDMUND: No, my lord.
GLOUCESTER: [He is] My Lord of Kent: remember
him hereafter as my honourable friend.
EDMUND: My services to your lordship.
KENT: I must love you, and sue [take
steps] to know
EDMUND: Sir, I shall study deserving [study
what it takes to deserve your attention].
GLOUCESTER: He hath been out [away] nine yers, and away he
shall again. The king is coming.
Sennet. Enter LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN,
CORDELIA, and attendants.
Sounding of trumpets]
LEAR: Attend the Lords of France and Burgundy,
GLOUCESTER: I shall, my liege. [Exeunt GLOUCESTER and
The characters specified leave the stage.]
LEAR: Meantime we
shall express our darker [serious] purpose.
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast [decided;
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburden’d crawl toward death. Our son of
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughters’ several dowers [bequests; inheritances], that future
May be prevented now. The princes, France and
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,
Long in our court have made their amorous
And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,—
. . . state: Since I will give up my rule, my lands, and my cares
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge . Goneril,
we . . . challenge: That I may give the largest share to the
daughter with the greatest merit]
Our eldest-born, speak first.
GONERIL: Sir, I love you more than words can wield the
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valu’d, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty,
As much as child e’er lov’d, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
CORDELIA: [Aside.] What shall Cordelia do? Love, and
Stage direction indicating that a character is speaking only to
(or herself) or is whispering or speaking softly to another
so that others cannot hear what is being said.]
the other characters cannot hear what Cordelia is saying.]
LEAR: Of all these bounds [boundaries], even from this line to
With shadowy forests and with champains [open
lands; open country] rich’d,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s issue [children]
Be this perpetual. What says our second
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
REGAN: I am made of that self metal as my
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short: that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense
And find I am alone felicitate [made happy]
In your dear highness’ love.
CORDELIA: [Aside.] Then, poor Cordelia!
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s
More richer than my tongue.
love's . . . tongue: My love for my father cannot be expressed in
LEAR: To thee and thine, hereditary ever,
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although our last, not least; to whose young
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
Interested. Here, the word can be interpreted to mean bound up with or attached to.]
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
CORDELIA: Nothing, my lord.
LEAR: Nothing will come of nothing: speak
CORDELIA: Unhappy that I am, I cannot
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond [obligation; duty as a daughter] nor more nor
LEAR: How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a
Lest you may mar your fortunes.
CORDELIA: Good my lord [my good lord],
You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands [why do my sisters have
They love you all? Haply [perhaps], when I shall
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all [entirely].
LEAR: But goes thy heart with this? [Is this
how you really feel?]
CORDELIA: Ay, good my lord.
LEAR: So young, and so untender?
CORDELIA: So young, my lord, and true.
LEAR: Let it be so; thy truth then be thy dower:
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate [in Greek mythology, an underworld
goddess who was the protector of witches] and the
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity [kinship] and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
One of the nomadic people of Scythia, an ancient land north of the
Or he that makes his generation messes [food]
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbour’d, pitied, and reliev’d,
As thou my sometime daughter.
KENT: Good my liege,— [My good lord—]
LEAR: Peace [be silent], Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I lov’d her most, and thought to set my rest [retirement]
On her kind nursery [care]. Hence [go away], and avoid my
So be my grave my peace [I will know peace only in the
grave], as here
Her father’s heart from her! Call France [king of
Who stirs? [Isn't anyone going to do my bidding? Why are
you standing there?] 115
Call Burgundy. Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters’ dowers digest the third;
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you [Cornwall and Albany] jointly with my
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects
That troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly
With reservation of a hundred knights,
By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode
Make with you by due turn. Only we shall retain
. . . due turn: Accompanied
by a hundred nights, I will reside with you on a monthly basis—one
month with Cornwall and Regan, the other month with Albany and
The name and all th’ addition [respect and privileges] to a
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part between you.
. . . you: Share this small crown between you.]
KENT: Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honour’d as my king,
Lov’d as my father, as my master follow’d,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,—
LEAR: The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
bow . . . shaft: You are annoying
me so much that my anger is like the arrow in a drawn bow. I'll
it if you don't leave my presence.]
KENT: Let it fall rather, though the fork
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour’s
When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state;
And, in thy best consideration, check
This hideous rashness: answer my life my
it fall. . . rashness: Go ahead
and shoot, even though the arrow will
pierce my heart. It is my duty to be annoying when you do insane
things. Do you think I am afraid to speak up, that I will flatter
doing everything you command? I am bound by honor to protest your
actions when they are foolish? Take time to consider what you are
doing. It is rash.]
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
are . . . hollowness: Cordelia's abrupt, quiet manner does not
mean she has no heart.]
LEAR: Kent, on thy
life, no more.
KENT: My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose
Thy safety being the motive.
LEAR: Out of my sight!
KENT: See better, Lear; and let me still
The true blank of thine eye.
blank: target; bull's-eye. Kent is telling Lear to focus his
attention on him, for Kent is giving the king good advice.]
LEAR: Now, by Apollo,—
[Apollo: In Greek and Roman mythology, the god of prophecy, music,
poetry, medicine, and the sun.]
KENT: Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
LEAR: O vassal!
miscreant! [Laying his hand on his sword.
A subordinate; a slave.]
ALBANY AND CORNWALL: Dear sir, forbear.
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift;
Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,
I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
. . . dost evil: Go ahead and kill me, the man who is trying to
cure you of your mad behavior. Give the physician's fee to the
that possesses you. Oh, please take back your bequests. If you
don't, I'll condemn you as an evil man.]
LEAR: Hear me, recreant!
Disloyal person; coward.]
On thine allegiance, hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our
Which we durst [past of dare] never yet,—and, with strain’d pride
To come betwixt [between] our sentence and our
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,—
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days we do allot thee for provision
To shield thee from diseases of the world;
And, on the sixth, to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following
Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter [in Roman
mythology, the king of the gods]
This shall not be revok’d.
thou . . . revok'd: Because you
are trying to make me cancel
my promised bequests—and I have never gone back on my word—and
bear your prideful interference, I have decided to banish you from
kingdom. You have five days to gather provisions to sustain you.
sixth day, you will leave. If you are ever discovered on any of my
lands, you will be put to death. Leave me! This sentence will
KENT: Fare thee well, king; sith [since] thus thou wilt
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
[To CORDELIA.] The gods to their dear shelter take thee,
That justly think’st, and hast most rightly
[To REGAN and GONERIL.] And your large speeches may your
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes! bids you all adieu [good-bye in French];
He’ll shape his old course in a country new.
Flourish. Re-enter GLOUCESTER, with FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and
GLOUCESTER: Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble
LEAR: My Lord of Burgundy,
We first address toward you, who with this king
Hath rivall’d for our daughter [Cordelia]. What, in the
Will you require in present dower [dowry] with her,
Or cease your quest of love?
BURGUNDY: Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offer’d,
Nor will you tender less.
LEAR: Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us we did hold her so,
But now her price is fall’n. [Lear will not offer a
there she stands:
If aught [anything] within that little-seeming
Or all of it, with our displeasure piec’d,
And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,
She’s there, and she is yours.
BURGUNDY: I know no answer.
LEAR: Will you, with those infirmities she
Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
Dower’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our
Take her, or leave her?
BURGUNDY: Pardon me, royal sir;
Election makes not up on such conditions.
. . . conditions: I cannot choose her under such conditions.]
LEAR: Then leave
her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.—[To FRANCE.] For you, great
I would not from your love make such a stray
To match you where I hate [to offer you my hateful daughter]; therefore, beseech
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is asham’d
Almost to acknowledge hers.
FRANCE: This is most
That she, who even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
The best, the dearest, should in this trice [moment] of time
Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle
So many folds of favour. Sure, her offence
Must be of such unnatural degree
That monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d [previously
Fall into taint; which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Could never plant in me.
believe . . . plant in me: I cannot believe that she is so
CORDELIA: I yet beseech your majesty—
If for I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not; since what I well
I’ll do ’t before I speak—that you make known
for I . . . before I speak:
Because I don't like to preface my action with words meant to
my listeners, I simply go ahead and act before I speak.]
It is no vicious blot nor other foulness,
No unchaste action, or dishonour’d step,
That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favour,
is no . . . favour: I have not done anything vicious, foul, or
unchaste that has caused you to look down on me.]
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
That I am glad I have not, though not to have it
Hath lost me in your liking.
even . . . liking: Although I
lack the things that would enhance my circumstances—an eye for
and a smooth-talking tongue—I am glad that I don't have them even
though their absence has lowered me in your esteem.]
LEAR: Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleas’d me
FRANCE: Is it but this? a tardiness in
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
it but . . . to do: Is that all
that this is about: a tendency in her nature to speak plainly
telling the whole story behind her feelings?]
What say you to the lady? Love is not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry. [She herself is great prize. There
is no need for a dowry].
BURGUNDY: Royal Lear,
Give but that portion which yourself propos’d,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.
LEAR: Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.
BURGUNDY: I am sorry, then, you [Cordelia] have so lost a
That you must lose a husband.
CORDELIA: Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,
I shall not be his wife.
FRANCE: Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being
Most choice, forsaken; and most lov’d, despis’d!
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:
Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
Gods, gods! ’tis strange that from their cold’st
My love should kindle to inflam’d respect.
. . . respect: By the gods, it
is strange that Cordelia's rejection by Lear and Burgundy has
in me love and respect for her.]
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France:
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy
Shall buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
. . . find: You lose her in England, but a better life awaits you
LEAR: Thou hast her, France; let her be thine, for
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again, therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison [blessing].
Come, noble Burgundy. [Flourish. Exeunt LEAR,
CORNWALL, ALBANY, GLOUCESTER, and attendants.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
FRANCE: Bid farewell to your sisters.
CORDELIA: The jewels of our father, with wash’d
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are [I know
you for what you are, devious and greedy];
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are nam’d. Use well our
To your professed bosoms I commit him:
But yet, alas! stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.
I . . . place: If I still stood
in his good graces, I would take it upon myself to give him the
care in his old age.]
So farewell to you both.
REGAN: Prescribe not us our duties.
. . . duties: Don't tell us how to care for him.]
GONERIL: Let your
Be to content your lord, who hath receiv’d you
At fortune’s alms; you have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
your . . . wanted: You should
focus on making your lord, the king of France, content. He has
you in as a charity case. Because you have not obeyed your father,
don't deserve to receive anything from him.]
CORDELIA: Time shall unfold what plighted cunning
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.
will reveal the deceit you hide in your heart. Whoever covers
faults will eventually meet with shame.]
Well may you prosper!
FRANCE: Come, my fair
Cordelia. [Exit FRANCE and CORDELIA.
GONERIL: Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most
nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence [leave;
REGAN: That’s most certain, and with you; next month with
GONERIL: You see how full of changes his age is; the
observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always
our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her
appears too grossly [appears obvious; appears plain to
REGAN: ’Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but
slenderly known himself.
he . . . himself: Yet he has never really known himself.]
GONERIL: The best and soundest of his time hath been but
then, must we look to receive from his age, not alone the
of long-engraffed condition, but, therewithal the unruly
that infirm and choleric years bring with them.
best . . . with them: When he was
at his best in his younger days, he was nevertheless rash.
age has only worsened his faults. So now we must deal with a
unpredictable old man.]
REGAN: Such unconstant starts [tantrums] are we like to have from
him as this of Kent’s banishment.
GONERIL: There is further compliment of leave-taking between
France and him. Pray you, let us sit together: if our father carry
authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender
his will but offend us.
is further . . . offend us:
There is to be a sendoff ceremony for the French king when he
departs. Let's sit down and discuss what has come to pass. If our
father continues to use his kingly authority even though he has
from the throne, he will make trouble for us.]
REGAN: We shall further think on ’t.
GONERIL: We must do something, and i’ the heat.
must . . . heat: We must do something before our hot emotions
Everyone leaves the stage.]
1, Scene 2
A hall in the EARL OF
Enter EDMUND, with a letter.
EDMUND: Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
Nature . . . madam's issue:
Nature, you are my goddess; you are the law that governs me, not
law made by men. Why should I be looked down upon by the law of
which deprives me of my rights just because I was born twelve or
fourteen months after my brother, Edgar? Why do they call me a
Why do they say I am base when I have a mind and body that are the
equal of any man born within wedlock?]
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who in the lusty stealth of nature take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,
in . . . wake: Because we
illegitimate children were conceived in a moment of lustful
have more fire and ferocity in us than those dandies who were
in a dull, tired marriage bed when the husband and wife were
Legitimate Edgar [Edmund's brother, who was born in
wedlock and is therefore the legal heir of his father's property], I must have your
Our father’s love is to [is as much to] the bastard
As to the legitimate. Fine word, ‘legitimate!’
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate:—I grow, I prosper;
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
GLOUCESTER: Kent banished thus! And France [the
ruler of France]
in choler [anger] parted!
And the king gone to-night! subscrib’d [signed
Confin’d to exhibition [confined to being a figurehead
king]! All this
Upon the gad [whim; moment; foolish action]! Edmund, how now! what
EDMUND: So please your lordship, none. [Putting up the
GLOUCESTER: Why so earnestly seek you to put up that
EDMUND: I know no news, my lord.
GLOUCESTER: What paper were you reading?
EDMUND: Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER: No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of
into your pocket? the quality of nothing hath not such need to
itself. Let’s see; come; if it be nothing, I shall not need
EDMUND: I beseech you, sir, pardon me; it is a letter from
brother that I have not all o’er-read, and for so much as I have
perused, I find it not fit for your
GLOUCESTER: Give me the letter, sir.
EDMUND: I shall offend, either to detain [retain] or give it. The
contents, as in part I understand them, are to
GLOUCESTER: Let’s see, let’s see.
EDMUND: I hope, for my brother’s justification, he wrote
but as an essay or taste of my virtue.
[reads from the letter] This
policy and reverence of age makes the world
bitter to the best of our times; keeps our fortunes from us till
oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and fond
the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways, not as it hath power,
it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I may speak more. If our
father would sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his
for ever, and live the beloved of your brother, Edgar.
[Meaning: It is not a good policy
revere the elderly so much. Such a policy keeps our inheritance
until we ourselves are old and cannot enjoy it. To tell the
truth, I am
beginning to feel like a slave under the oppression of the
oppress us because we let them. Come to me to discuss this
our father died, you would get half his estate and enjoy my
‘Sleep till I waked him, you should enjoy half his revenue.’—My
Edgar! Had he a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it
When came this to you? Who brought it?
EDMUND: It was not brought me, my lord; there’s the cunning
of it; I found it thrown in at the casement [window] of my
closet [room; private chamber].
GLOUCESTER: You know the character [handwriting] to be your
EDMUND: If the matter were good, my lord, I durst [past of
dare] swear it
were his; but, in respect of that, I would fain [likely] think it were
GLOUCESTER: It is his.
EDMUND: It is his hand, my lord; but I hope his heart is not
in the contents.
GLOUCESTER: Hath he never heretofore sounded you in this
EDMUND: Never, my lord: but I have often heard him maintain
it to be fit that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declined, the
father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his
GLOUCESTER: O villain, villain! His very opinion in the
Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! worse than
brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him; I’ll apprehend him. Abominable
Where is he?
EDMUND: I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you
to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive
him better testimony of his intent, you shall run a certain
where, if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his
would make a great gap in your own honour, and shake in pieces the
heart of his obedience. I dare pawn down my life for him, that he
writ this to feel [test] my affection to your
honour, and to no other pretence
GLOUCESTER: Think you so?
EDMUND: If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where
you shall hear us confer of this, and by an auricular [auditory] assurance have
your satisfaction; and that without any further delay than this
GLOUCESTER: He cannot be such a monster—
EDMUND: Nor is not, sure. [I'm sure he is not.]
GLOUCESTER: —to his father, that so tenderly and entirely
him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him [talk
about me with him], I pray
you: frame the business after your own wisdom. I would unstate
to be in a due resolution.
. . . resolution: Forfeit my status and property to find out
what's going on]
EDMUND: I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business
as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal.
GLOUCESTER: These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and
yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects.
late . . . effects: The recent
eclipses are a bad omen for us. True, men of learning offer
to fear them. Nevertheless, unwelcome events always follow them.
were eclipses of the sun and moon in the fall of 1605, at about
time that Shakespeare was preparing King Lear.)]
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in
countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked
son and father. This villain of mine [Edgar] comes under the prediction;
there’s son against father: the king falls from bias of nature [behaves
father against child. We have seen the best of our time:
hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us
to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee
nothing: do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent
his offence, honesty! ’Tis strange! [Exit.
EDMUND: This is the excellent foppery [foolishness;
the world, that,
when we are sick in fortune,—often the surfeit [excess] of our own behaviour,—we
make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as
were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves,
thieves, and treachers [pronounced TRETCH erz: deceivers;
cheaters; one given to treachery] by spherical predominance [by the
influence of heavenly bodies], drunkards, liars, and
adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and
that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable
whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a
star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon’s tail
[star or constellation], and
my nativity was under ursa major [star constellation; Great Bear in English]; so that it follows I am
lecherous. 'Sfoot! [by the foot of Christ!] I should have been
that I am had the maidenliest
star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
[I would be the way I am regardless of the position or
movement of the stars.] Edgar—
and pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy [like the
ending of a comedy with a predictable outcome]: my cue is
villanous [villainous] melancholy [I will now take on a mood of
villainous melancholy], with a sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam [madman
from a London asylum]. O, these eclipses
do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi. [Edmund
apparently sings music notes.]
EDGAR: How now, brother Edmund! What serious contemplation
are you in?
EDMUND: I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this
other day, what should follow these eclipses.
EDGAR: Do you busy yourself with that?
EDMUND: I promise you the effects he writes of succeed
unhappily; as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent;
dearth [food shortage; lack or need of something else], dissolutions of ancient
amities [friendships]; divisions in state; menaces
and maledictions [curses] against king and nobles;
needless diffidences [diffidence: (1) distrust; (2)
timidity; lack of self-confidence; hesitancy],
banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial [having
to do with marriage] breaches, and I
know not what.
EDGAR: How long have you been a sectary astronomical [member
of a sect of astrologers]?
EDMUND: Come, come; when saw you my father
EDGAR: The night gone by.
EDMUND: Spake you with him?
EDGAR: Ay, two hours together.
EDMUND: Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure
him by word or countenance?
EDGAR: None at all.
EDMUND: Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him;
and at my entreaty forbear his presence till some little time hath
qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant so
in him that with the mischief of your person it would scarcely
. . . allay: Try to think how
you may have offended him. He's angry with you. So stay away from
until he cools off. Right now, he is so angry that even if he
you or injured you, he would still be angry.]
EDGAR: Some villain hath done me wrong.
EDMUND: That’s my fear. I pray you have a continent
[restrained] forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower, and,
as I say,
retire with me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you
hear my lord speak. Pray you, go; there’s my key. If you do stir
abroad, go armed.
EDGAR: Armed, brother!
EDMUND: Brother, I advise you to the best; go armed; I am no
honest man if there be any good meaning toward you; I have told
what I have seen and heard; but faintly, nothing like the image
horror of it; pray you, away.
EDGAR: Shall I hear from you anon [soon]?
EDMUND: I do serve you in this business. [Exit
A credulous [gullible; too quick to believe someone] father, and a brother
Whose nature is so far from doing harms
That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
My practices ride easy! I see the business.
Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit [scheming]:
All with me ’s [me is] meet [suitable;
that I can fashion fit. [Exit.
1, Scene 3
A room in the DUKE OF
Enter GONERIL and OSWALD, her steward.
GONERIL: Did my father strike my gentleman [servant;
chiding [reprimanding; scolding] of his fool [court
OSWALD: Ay, madam.
GONERIL: By day and night he wrongs me; every
He flashes into one gross crime or other,
That sets us all at odds: I’ll not endure it:
His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids
On every trifle. When he returns from hunting
I will not speak with him; say I am sick:
If you come slack of former services,
you . . . services: If you are slack in serving him]
You shall do well; the fault of it I’ll answer.
OSWALD: He’s coming, madam; I hear him. [Horns within.
within: Horns offstage]
GONERIL: Put on what weary negligence you
You and your fellows; I’d have it come to
If he distaste it, let him [go] to my
Whose mind and mine, I know, in that are one,
Not to be over-rul’d. Idle old man,
That still would manage those authorities
That he hath given away! Now, by my life,
Old fools are babes again, and must be us’d [handled]
With checks as flatteries, when they are seen abus’d.
on . . .
abus'd: I want you and
the other servants to neglect him to the point that he complains
Then I'll send him to my sister, who thinks the way I do on this
that he should not be allowed to overrule us. He's an idle old man
wants to hold on to the authority that he gave away to us.
Because old fools become like children, they want to be flattered
pampered. But, like children, they must also be scolded and
Remember what I have said.
OSWALD: Well, madam.
GONERIL: And let his knights have colder [unfriendly] looks among
What grows of it [what comes of it], no matter; advise your
I would breed from hence occasions, and I shall,
That I may speak: I’ll write straight to my
To hold my very course. Prepare for dinner.
would breed . . . course: I want
your behavior to provoke him. When he complains, I'll tell him a
or two about his own intolerable behavior. I'll write to my sister
warn her to act toward him as I do now.]
Everyone leaves the stage.]
1, Scene 4
A hall in the DUKE OF
Enter KENT, disguised.
KENT: If but as well I other accents
That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I raz’d my likeness. Now, banish’d Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lov’st,
Shall find thee full of labours.
but . . . labours: If I can disguise my voice, my efforts to help
the king will succeed—especially considering that I have already
disguised my appearance. Perhaps the result of my dissembling will
be that I will eventually regain the king's favor.]
Horns within. Enter LEAR, knights, and
LEAR: Let me not stay [wait] a jot for dinner. Go, get
it ready. [Exit an attendant.] How now! what art
KENT: A man, sir.
LEAR: What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with
KENT: I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve him
truly that will put me in trust [that will trust me]; to love him that is
converse with him that is wise, and says little; to fear judgment;
fight when I cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
LEAR: What art thou?
KENT: A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the
LEAR: If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a
king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
LEAR: Whom wouldst thou serve?
LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I
would fain call master. [But you have the look of an
LEAR: What’s that?
LEAR: What services canst thou do?
KENT: I can keep honest counsel [secrets], ride, run, mar a curious
tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message bluntly; that
ordinary men are fit for, I am qualified in, and the best of me is
LEAR: How old art thou?
KENT: Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing [to love
a woman just because she sings well], nor
so old to dote on her for any thing; I have years on my back[,]
LEAR: Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no
worse after dinner I will not part from thee yet. Dinner, ho!
Where’s my knave? my fool? Go you and call my fool hither.
You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?
OSWALD: So please you,— [Exit.
LEAR: What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll
[blockhead; moron] back. [Exit a knight.] Where’s my fool,
ho? I think the
world’s asleep. How now! where’s that mongrel?
KNIGHT: He says, my lord, your daughter is not
LEAR: Why came not the slave back to me when I called
KNIGHT: Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would
LEAR: He would not!
KNIGHT: My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my
judgment, your highness is not entertained with that ceremonious
affection as you were wont; there’s a great abatement of kindness
appears as well in the general dependants as in the duke himself
and your daughter.
highness . . . daughter: Your
highness does not receive the same lavish affection that you were
to; there's a great lessening of kindness toward you by everyone.]
LEAR: Ha! sayest thou so?
KNIGHT: I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be
mistaken; for my duty cannot be silent when I think your highness
LEAR: Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception [you
remind me of what I have already noticed]: I
have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I have rather
as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretence and purpose
unkindness: I will look further into ’t. But where’s my fool? I
not seen him this two days.
KNIGHT: Since my young lady’s [Cordelia's] going into
France, sir, the fool hath much pined him away [the fool
has become depressed].
LEAR: No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you and
tell my daughter I would speak with her. [Exit an
Go you, call hither my fool. [Exit an
O! you sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I,
OSWALD: My lady’s [Regan's] father.
LEAR: ‘My lady’s father!’ my lord’s knave: you whoreson dog!
you slave! you cur!
OSWALD: I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your
LEAR: Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
OSWALD: I’ll not be struck, my lord.
KENT: Nor tripped neither, you base football player.
[Tripping up his heels.
football player: Football (soccer) players were considered common
LEAR: I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I’ll love
KENT: Come, sir, arise, away! I’ll teach you differences [a thing
away, away! If you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry;
away! Go to; have you wisdom? so. [Pushes OSWALD
you will . . . wisdom: If you will
stand up and confront me again with your stupid presence, stay and
suffer the consequences. Otherwise, get going. Are you smart
leave when you're not wanted?]
LEAR: Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there’s
earnest of [money for] thy service. [Gives KENT
FOOL: Let me hire him too: here’s my coxcomb [jester's
[Offers KENT his cap.
LEAR: How now, my pretty knave! how dost
FOOL: Sirrah, you were best take my
KENT: Why, fool?
FOOL: Why? for taking one’s part that’s out of favour.
Nay, an [if]
thou canst not smile as the wind sits, thou’lt catch cold
shortly: there, take my coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two
daughters, and did the third a blessing against his will: if thou
follow him thou must needs wear my coxcomb. How now, nuncle [uncle,
referring to Lear]! Would I
had two coxcombs and two daughters!
LEAR: Why, my boy?
FOOL: If I gave them [the daughters] all my living [all my
money and property, as Lear did to Goneril and Regan], I’d keep my coxcombs
myself. There’s mine; beg another of thy
LEAR: Take heed, sirrah; the whip.
FOOL: Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out
when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and
. . . stink: When I tell the
truth, you, punish me as if I were your dog, Lady. Meanwhile, Lady
to stand by the fireplace and stink.]
LEAR: A pestilent gall to me! [You rub
me the wrong way!]
FOOL: [To KENT] Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech [poem].
FOOL: Mark it, nuncle:—
more than thou showest,
KENT: This is nothing, fool.
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest [own],
Ride more than thou goest [walk],
Learn more than thou
Set less than thou throwest [in
a game of dice, bet less than you can afford to lose]
Leave thy drink and thy whore,
And keep in-a-door [indoors],
And thou shalt have more [more
Than two tens to a
FOOL: Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer, you
gave me nothing for ’t. Can you make no use of nothing,
. . . nothing for 't: Then the poem resembles what an unpaid
lawyer says. You gave me nothing for reciting it.]
LEAR: Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of
FOOL: [To KENT.] Prithee, tell him, so much the rent
of his land comes to: he will not believe a
. . . comes to: I pray thee, tell him that the rent of his land
comes to nothing.]
LEAR: A bitter fool!
FOOL: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a
bitter fool and a sweet fool?
LEAR: No, lad; teach me.
lord that counsell’d thee
LEAR: Dost thou call me fool, boy?
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by
Do thou for him stand [you
stand in for him]:
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear;
The one in motley here [in my
colorful jester clothes, I am the sweet fool],
The other found
out there [you are the bitter
FOOL: All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou
wast born with.
KENT: This is not altogether fool, my lord. [What he
says is not entirely foolish, my lord.]
FOOL: No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if I
had a monopoly out, they would have part on ’t, and ladies too:
will not let me have all fool to myself; they’ll be snatching.
give me an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.
faith . . . snatching: No, in
truth, lords and great men act the part of fools too. If I tried
have a monopoly on being a fool, they wouldn't allow me. They will
let me have foolishness all to myself. Instead, they snatch some
LEAR: What two crowns shall they be?
FOOL: Why, after I have cut the egg i’ the middle and eat
up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. [Why,
after I cut the egg in the middle and eat the whites, two golden
crowns remain—the yolk cut in half.] When thou clovest thy crown
the middle, and gavest away both parts, thou borest thine ass on
back o’er the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown when
gavest thy golden one away. [When
you cut your kingdom in half and gave away both parts, you were
foolhardy as the man who carries his donkey instead of riding it.] If I speak like myself in
this, let him be
whipped that first finds it so. [If I'm speaking the
truth—which is my job as a jester—whip the man who thinks I'm a
Fools had ne’er less grace in a year [fools have had a hard time practicing their trade];
LEAR: When were you wont to be so full of songs,
For wise men are grown foppish [for
wise men are becoming foolish],
And know not how their wits to wear [and don't how to use their intelligence],
Their manners are so apish [because
they go around imitating people like me].
FOOL: I have used it,
nuncle, ever since thou madest thy
daughters thy mothers [caregivers]; for when thou gavest them
the rod and puttest
down thine own breeches, 104
they for sudden joy did weep,
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to
lie: I would fain learn to lie.
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep [should play a child's game],
And go the fools among [and walk
among the fools].
LEAR: An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you
FOOL: I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are:
they’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped
lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had
any kind o’ thing than a fool; and yet I would not be thee,
thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides, and left nothing i’ the
here comes one o’ the parings [daughters].
LEAR: How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet [sour
look; grimace; frown] on?
Methinks you are too much of late i’ the frown.
FOOL: Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to
care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure [a zero
unaccompanied by a number before or after it, such as 20 or 0.6.
In other words, Lear is nothing]. I am better
than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing. [To
GONERIL.] Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face
me, though you say nothing.
That’s a shealed [shelled; having the husk or pod
peascod. [Pointing to LEAR.
GONERIL: Not only, sir, this your all-licens’d [free to
say or do anything] fool,
But other of your insolent retinue [attendants]
Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be-endured riots. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto
To have found a safe redress; but now grow
By what yourself too late have spoke and done,
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not ’scape censure,
nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
had though . . . proceeding: I
thought that when I informed you of their behavior, you would
it. But, no, what you say and do indicates that you tolerate their
behavior and even encourage it by your lack of action. True,
them might make them angry with you. Nevertheless, you should do
duty just the same.]
FOOL: For you trow [know], nuncle,
hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it had its head bit off
by it young.
hedge- . . . young: The hedge-sparrow fed the baby cuckoo so
when the cuckoo grew larger, it bit off the sparrow's head.]
So out went the candle, and we were left darkling [in the
LEAR: Are you our daughter?
GONERIL: I would you would make use of your good
Where of I know you are fraught [filled with;]; and put
These dispositions which of late transform you
From what you rightly are.
FOOL: May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?
Whoop, Jug! I love thee.
[May . . . horse: Even a dumb ass
knows when the cart pulls the horse. In other words, the
natural order is reversed: Goneril is trying to boss her
LEAR: Does any here know me? This is not
[Whoop . . . thee: Nonsensical
words, which the fool utters from time to time.]
Does Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied. Ha! waking? ’tis not so.
any . . . not so: Does anyone
here know who I am? I cannot be Lear. Lear doesn't walk or speak
way. Where is Lear's insight? Either his mind is slipping or his
judgment cannot function. Am I awake? I don't think so.]
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
FOOL: Lear’s shadow.
LEAR: I would learn that; for, by the marks of
sovereignty, knowledge and reason, I should be false persuaded I
would learn . . . daughters: I would like to find out who I am. By
all that I see and know, I don't even have daughters.]
FOOL: Which they will make an obedient
. . . father: Daughters would make you obey them.]
LEAR: Your name, fair gentlewoman?
GONERIL: This admiration, sir, is much o’ the
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright:
admiration . . . aright: Calling
me a fair gentlewoman is just one of your new pranks. But I do ask
to understand my intentions:]
As you are old and reverend, [you] should be
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;
Men so disorder’d, so debosh’d [debauched—that is, morally
corrupted], and bold,
That this our court, infected with their
Shows [looks] like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Epicureanism, a devotion to pleasures of the senses]
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a grac’d palace. The shame itself doth
For instant remedy; be then desir’d
By her that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity
And the remainder, that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
Which know themselves and you.
then . . . and you: Be then open
to making changes, such as dismissing some of your rowdy knights.
all right with me if you keep such older men as may fit in (besort, line 161)
with your advancing age.]
LEAR: Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together.
Degenerate bastard! I’ll not trouble thee:
Yet have I left a daughter.
GONERIL: You strike my people, and your disorder’d
Make servants of their betters.
LEAR: Woe, that too late repents;
[To ALBANY.] O! sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses. [Lear
speaks the last sentence to servants.]
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show’st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster.
ALBANY: Pray, sir, be patient.
LEAR: [To GONERIL.] Detested kite! thou liest:
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in
Which, like an engine, wrench’d my frame of
From the fix’d place, drew from my heart all
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in, [Striking his
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
train . . . judgment out: My knights
are of the highest quality. They know well their duty and behave
manner that preserves their good name. O, that small fault in
How ugly it appeared in her. It drew all the love from my heart,
embittered me, and
changed me into a different man. Why did I let folly into my mind
to replace good judgment?]
ALBANY: My lord, I am guiltless, as I am
Of what hath mov’d [upset] you.
LEAR: It may be so, my
Hear, Nature, hear! dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature [Goneril] fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase [reproduction],
And from her derogate [degraded] body never
A babe to honour her! If she must teem [become
pregnant; give birth],
Create her child of spleen [ill temper], that it may
And be a thwart disnatur’d [perverse; unnatural] torment to
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent [falling; trickling] tears fret [dig;
in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!
ALBANY: Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes
GONERIL: Never afflict yourself to know the
But let his disposition have that scope [room;
That dotage [old age] gives it.
LEAR: What! fifty of my followers at a
Within a fortnight?
. . . fortnight: What! Have fifty of my knights been dismissed in
ALBANY: What’s the matter, sir?
LEAR: I’ll tell thee. [To GONERIL.] Life and
death! I am asham’d
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce [automatically;
Should make thee worth them [should make me cry for a
worthless daughter like you]. Blasts [wind blasts] and fogs upon
Th’ untented [untreated] woundings of a father’s curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, is it come to this?
fond . . . to this: If my eyes cry for you again, I'll pluck them
out and cast them into my pool of tears to temper clay.]
Let it be so: I have another daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She’ll flay [scratch] thy wolvish visage [face]. Thou shalt
That I’ll resume the shape [demeanor; personality] which thou dost
I have cast off for ever; thou shalt, I warrant thee.
[Exeunt LEAR, KENT, and attendants.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
GONERIL: Do you mark that?
ALBANY: I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you.—
GONERIL: Pray you, content. [All
right, don't say anything.] What, Oswald, ho! [Oswald, come in here.]
[To the Fool.] You, sir, more knave than fool, after [follow] your
FOOL: Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear! tarry, and take the fool
when one has caught
GONERIL: This man hath had good counsel. A hundred
And such a daughter,
Should sure to the slaughter [should
sure be slaughtered],
If my cap would buy a halter [rope
to tie up a person; hangman's rope];
So the fool follows after. [Exit.
’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights; yes, that on every
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!
man . . . Oswald, I say: My
father has received good advice (spoken sarcastically). We're
to tolerate a hundred knights around here so that they will back
whenever we refuse to yield to his foolish fancies and complaints.
Oswald! I said come in here.]
ALBANY: Well, you may fear too far. [You may
GONERIL: Safer than trust too far. [It's
better to overreact than to "over-trust" him.]
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart.
me . . . taken: I would rather take away the harms I fear than let
them stay and control me.]
What he hath utter’d I have writ [written in a letter to] my
If she sustain him and his hundred knights,
When I have show’d the unfitness,— [showed
How now, Oswald!
What! have you writ that letter to my sister?
OSWALD: Ay, madam.
GONERIL: Take you some company, and away to
Inform her full [completely] of my particular
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact [explain] it more. Get you
And hasten your return. [Exit OSWALD.] No, no, my
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask’d for want of wisdom
Than prais’d for harmful mildness.
milky . . . mildness: My
husband, I do not condemn you for your gentleness with my father.
do seem to lack the wisdom to cope with him.]
ALBANY: How far your eyes may pierce I cannot
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.
far . . . what's well: How deep
your own wisdom is I cannot tell. All I can say is that when we
improve a situation we somtimes make it worse. It's human nature.]
GONERIL: Nay, then—
ALBANY: Well, well; the event.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
. . . event: Well, let's wait to see how things turn out.]
1, Scene 5
Court before the Duke of
Enter LEAR, KENT in disguise, and Fool.
LEAR: Go you before to Gloucester with these letters.
daughter no further with any thing you know than comes from her
out of the letter. [After my daughter reads what I
have to say, don't answer any questions she may have.] If your diligence be not
speedy I shall be there before you.
KENT: I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your
FOOL: If a man’s brains were in ’s [in his] heels, were ’t [were it] not in danger of kibes [inflammation
and/or ulceration caused by exposure to cold and moisture]?
LEAR: Ay, boy.
FOOL: Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall not go
. . . slip-shod: Then, I pray, be happy. Because you don't have
any brains, you won't need slippers to protect them.]
LEAR: Ha, ha, ha!
FOOL: Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; for
though she’s as like this as a crab is like an apple, yet I can
what I can tell.
. . . tell: You shall see that
your other daughter, Regan, will treat you kindly. True, she is
crabby as her crabapple sister. But I know what I know.]
LEAR: What canst tell, boy?
FOOL: She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab.
canst tell why one’s nose stands i’ the middle on ’s
will . . . crab: She will taste just as sour as Goneril.]
FOOL: Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose, that
what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.
LEAR: I did her wrong,—
FOOL: Canst tell how an oyster makes his
FOOL: Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house
FOOL: Why, to put his head in; not to give it away to his
daughters, and leave his horns without a case.
to . . . case: Because his house
is on his back, he will always have a home. He will never have to
it away to his daughters and leave himself homeless in the open
LEAR: I will forget my nature. So kind a father! [I will
forget my nature as such a kind father.] Be my horses
FOOL: Thy asses are gone about ’em. [Your
attendants have gone to get them.] The reason why the seven stars are no more than
seven is a pretty reason.
stars: The seven stars in the constellation Pleiades]
LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good
LEAR: To take it again perforce! Monster ingratitude!
take . . . ingratitude: I should consider taking back my kingdom
by force! The monstrous ingratitude of children!]
FOOL: If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten
for being old before thy time.
LEAR: How’s that?
FOOL: Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been
LEAR: O! let me not be mad, not mad, sweet
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!
How now! Are the horses ready?
GENTLEMAN: Ready, my lord.
LEAR: Come, boy.
FOOL: She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my
Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.
that's . . . shorter: A
maiden who laughs because I am going with the king will not be a
very long unless penises be cut shorter.]
Everyone leaves the stage.]
2, Scene 1
A court within the
castle of the EARL OF GLOUCESTER.
Enter EDMUND and CURAN, meeting.
EDMUND: Save thee [a greeting], Curan.
Cur. And you, sir. I have been with your father [Gloucester], and given him notice that
the Duke of Cornwall and Regan his duchess will be here with him
EDMUND: How comes that?
Cur. Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad? I
the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments [just
EDMUND: Not I: pray you, what are they?
Cur. Have you heard of no likely wars toward [being
’twixt [between] the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
EDMUND: Not a word.
Cur. You may do [may hear about them] then, in time. Fare you
well, sir. [Exit.
EDMUND: The duke be here to-night! The better! best!
better . . . best: That's good news.]
This weaves itself perforce into my business.
My father hath set guard to take [has arranged to arrest] my
And I have one thing, of a queasy question,
Which I must act. Briefness and fortune, work!
I . . . work: And I have one thing, a bit daunting, to do. Luck
and quick work will help me succeed.]
Brother, a word; descend: brother, I say!
. . . say: Hey, brother, come to the court. I want to speak with
My father watches: O sir! fly [leave] this
Intelligence is given [it's known] where you are
You have now the good advantage of the night.
Have you not spoken ’gainst the Duke of Cornwall?
He’s coming hither [here], now, i’ the night, i’ the
And Regan with him; have you nothing said
Upon his party ’gainst the Duke of Albany?
you . . . yourself: Did you
happen to say anything that might upset the Duke of Cornwall? What
about the Duke of Albany? Think.]
EDGAR: I am sure on ’t, not a word.
EDMUND: I hear my father coming; pardon
In cunning I must draw my sword upon you;
Draw; seem to defend yourself; now ’quit [acquit—that
Yield;—come before my father. Light, ho! here!
Fly, brother. Torches! torches! So, farewell. [Exit
Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion [Wounds his
Of my more fierce endeavour: I have seen
Do more than this in sport. Father! father!
Stop, stop! No help?
Enter GLOUCESTER, and servants with torches.
GLOUCESTER: Now, Edmund, where’s the
EDMUND: Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword
Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon
To stand auspicious mistress [partner].
GLOUCESTER: But where is he?
EDMUND: Look, sir, I bleed.
GLOUCESTER: Where is the villain, Edmund?
EDMUND: Fled this way, sir. When by no means he
GLOUCESTER: Pursue him, ho! Go after. [Exeunt some
servants.] ‘By no means’ what?
The characters specified leave the stage.]
EDMUND: Persuade me to the murder of your
But that I told him, the revenging gods
’Gainst parricides [murders of fathers by their
all their thunders bend;
Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond
The child was bound to the father; sir, in fine,
Seeing how loathly opposite I stood
To his unnatural purpose, in fell [deadly] motion,
With his prepared sword he charges home
My unprovided body, lanc’d mine arm:
But when he saw my best alarum’d [summoned; brought into play] spirits
Bold in the quarrel’s right, rous’d to the
Or whether gasted [frightened] by the noise I
Full suddenly he fled.
GLOUCESTER: Let him fly far:
Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;
And found—dispatch. The
noble duke my master,
him . . . dispatch: He'd better run far. If he remains in this
land, he'll be caught and executed.]
My worthy arch and patron [the Duke of Cornwall], comes
By his authority I will proclaim it,
That he which finds him shall deserve our
Bringing the murderous coward to the stake;
He that conceals him, death.
EDMUND: When I dissuaded him from his
And found him pight [determined] to do it, with curst
I threaten’d to discover him: he replied,
‘Thou unpossessing bastard! dost thou think,
destined to have no inheritance (because he is illegitimate)]
If I would stand against thee, would the reposal
Of any trust, virtue, or worth, in thee
Make thy words faith’d? No: what I should deny,—
As this I would; ay, though
thou didst produce
My very character,—I’d turn it all
To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice:
would . . . practice: If I stand
against you, would anyone repose (put) any faith in you or your
No, because I would deny everything, even if you produced evidence
bearing my own handwriting (character,
line 75). I'd say it was you who plotted the murder.]
And thou must make a dullard of the world,
If they not thought the profits of my death
Were very pregnant and potential spurs
To make thee seek it.’
thou . . . seek: And you must
believe the world is stupid if you think people wouldn't know that
stand to profit from my death. If I were killed, they would point
finger at you.]
GLOUCESTER: Strong and fasten’d [complete;
Would he deny [that he wrote] his letter? I never got him. [Tucket
within: Trumpet blowing offstage]
Hark! the duke’s trumpets. I know not why he
All ports I’ll bar; the villain shall not
The duke must grant me that: besides, his
I will send far and near, that all the kingdom
May have due note of him; and of my land,
Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means
To make thee capable [qualified to be my heir].
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, and attendants.
CORNWALL: How now, my noble friend! since I came
Which I can call but now,—I have heard strange
REGAN: If it be true, all vengeance comes too
Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my
GLOUCESTER: O! madam, my old heart is crack’d, it’s
REGAN: What! did my father’s godson seek your
He whom my father nam’d? your Edgar?
GLOUCESTER: O! lady, lady, shame would have it
REGAN: Was he not companion with the riotous
That tend upon my father?
GLOUCESTER: I know not, madam; ’tis too bad, too
EDMUND: Yes, madam, he was of that
REGAN: No marvel then though he were ill
’Tis they have put him on the old man’s [Gloucester's] death,
To have the expense and waste of his revenues.
I have this present evening from my sister
Been well-inform’d of them, and with such
That if they come to sojourn at my house,
I’ll not be there.
CORNWALL: Nor I, assure
Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father
A child-like office [great courtesy and loyalty].
EDMUND: ’Twas my duty, sir.
GLOUCESTER: He did bewray his practice and
[bewray . . . practice: Expose Edgar's plot. Bewray means betray as a synonym for reveal, as in this sentence: The criminal
did not betray his guilt.]
This hurt [cut; wound] you see, striving to apprehend
CORNWALL: Is he pursu’d?
GLOUCESTER: Ay, my good lord.
CORNWALL: If he be taken he shall never
Be fear’d of doing harm; make your own purpose,
How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,
your . . . you please. In your plan for apprehending him, you may
use my power and authority to back you up.]
Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant
So much commend itself, you shall be ours [you
shall work for me]:
Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;
You we first seize on.
EDMUND: I shall serve
Truly, however else.
shall . . . else: I shall serve you, sir, in any way you wish.]
GLOUCESTER: For him I thank your Grace.
CORNWALL: You know not why we came to visit
REGAN: Thus out of season, threading dark-ey’d
Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some prize,
Wherein we must have use of your advice.
out . . . advice: The reason we came to
visit you out of season, finding our way through the darkness, is
get your advice on some important matters.]
Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home; the several messengers
From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,
Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow
Your needful counsel to our businesses,
Which craves the instant use.
father. . . home: My father and my sister have both written
letters to me about problems between them. Rather than answer the
letters from home, I came here to get your advice on what to
please give it to us. We crave it immediately.]
GLOUCESTER: I serve you, madam.
Your Graces are right welcome. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
2, Scene 2
Enter KENT and OSWALD, severally.
OSWALD: Good dawning to thee, friend: art of this
OSWALD: Where may we set our horses?
KENT: I’ the mire. [In the mud]
OSWALD: Prithee, if thou lovest me, tell me. [Be so
kind as to tell me where the stables are.]
KENT: I love thee not.
OSWALD: Why, then I care not for thee.
does not recognize Kent. They had had a previous confrontation
KENT: If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold [a dog
pound], I would
make thee care for me.
OSWALD: Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee
KENT: Fellow, I know thee.
OSWALD: What dost thou know me for?
KENT: A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats [lower-class
man who eats the meat scraps left by others]; a base, proud,
shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy,
worsted-stocking knave; [three-suited
. . . knave: Lowly man of the servant class who has a small
limited financial assets (a hundred pounds), and wears common
stockings instead of silk ones]; a lily-liver’d, action-taking knave [cowardly
man who sues an enemy in court rather than fighting him]; a
whoreson, glass-gazing , superserviceable, finical rogue [whoreson
. . .rogue: Son of a whore who admires his image in a mirror, bows
and scrapes to his master, and is finicky];
one-trunk-inheriting slave [person who inherited so little
from his father that it can fit in one trunk]; one that wouldst be a bawd
in way of good
service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar,
coward, pandar [one who arranges illicit sexual
and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch [female
dog of mixed breed]: one whom I
will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least
thy addition [description].
OSWALD: Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail
on one that is neither known of thee nor knows
KENT: What a brazen-faced varlet [villain] art thou, to deny thou
knowest me! Is it two days since I tripped up thy heels and beat
before the king? Draw, you rogue; for, though it be night, yet the
shines: I’ll make a sop [a milquetoast; cowering weakling] o’ the moonshine of
you. [Drawing his
sword.] Draw, you whoreson, cullionly [despicable], barber-monger [one who
frequently goes to a barber to prettify himself],
OSWALD: Away! I have nothing to do with
KENT: Draw, you rascal; you come with letters against the
king, and take vanity the puppet’s [take his
part against the royalty of her
father. Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado your shanks: draw,
rascal; come your ways.
Score or cut open a piece of meat]
OSWALD: Help, ho! murder! help!
KENT: Strike, you slave; stand, rogue, stand; you neat
[dainty; fastidious] slave, strike. [Beating him.
OSWALD: Help, oh! murder! murder!
Enter EDMUND with his rapier [two-edged thrusting sword] drawn.
EDMUND: How now! What’s the matter? [Parting
KENT: With you, goodman boy, if you please:
I’ll flesh ye; come on, young master.
you . . . master: I'll fight with you, little man, if you please.
Come on, I'll show you a thing or two.]
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and servants.
GLOUCESTER: Weapons! arms! What’s the matter
CORNWALL: Keep peace, upon your lives:
He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?
REGAN: The messengers from our sister and the
CORNWALL: What is your difference? speak.
OSWALD: I am scarce in breath, my lord.
KENT: No marvel, you have so bestirred your valour. You
cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee: a tailor made
marvel . . . thee: It's no wonder
that you're so excited. You're such a coward that nature takes no
credit for your existence. I think a tailor made you, judging from
CORNWALL: Thou art a strange fellow; a tailor make a
KENT: Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone-cutter or a painter could
not have made him so ill [poorly], though they had been but
two hours o’ [in] the
CORNWALL: Speak yet, how grew your
OSWALD: This ancient [old] ruffian, sir, whose life I
have spar’d at suit of his grey beard,—
suit . . . beard: because of his advancing age]
KENT: Thou whoreson zed [the letter z, at the end of the
unnecessary letter! My lord,
if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted [unrefined;
low and coarse]
mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes [outhouse] with him. Spare my grey
wagtail [strutting bird that wags its tail feathers]?
CORNWALL: Peace, sirrah!
You beastly knave, know you no reverence?
KENT: Yes, sir; but anger hath a privilege [a right
to speak out].
CORNWALL: Why art thou angry?
KENT: That such a slave as this should wear a
Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain
Which are too intrinse t’ unloose; smooth [justify;
That in the natures of their lords rebel;
bite . . . rebel: Often cut the holy cords of marriage by helping
to provide their masters opportunities for adultery]
Bring oil to fire, snow
to their colder moods;
Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks
With every gale and vary of their masters,
Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.
oil . . . following: People
like him pour oil on their masters' fire,
excuse their masters' bad moods, say no or yes when it pleases
their masters, and go along with every whim of their masters.
Knowing nothing about what their masters are thinking, good or
they follow their masters anyway, like dogs.]
A plague upon your epileptic visage!
Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?
you smiling in derision at my words, as if I were a fool?]
Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,
plain: Salisbury Plain, in the county of Wiltshire in southern
I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot [home of
King Arthur in Arthurian legends].
CORNWALL: What! art thou mad, old fellow?
GLOUCESTER: How fell you out? say that. [Tell me
what started this quarrel between you and Oswald.]
KENT: No contraries hold more antipathy
Than I and such a knave.
contraries . . . knave: No enemies hold more hatred for each other
than do I and that knave Oswald.]
CORNWALL: Why dost thou call him knave? What is his
KENT: His countenance likes me not. [His face
doesn't like me.]
CORNWALL: No more, perchance, does mine, nor his, nor
KENT: Sir, ’tis my occupation to be plain:
I have seen better faces in my time
Than stands on any shoulder that I see
Before me at this instant.
CORNWALL: This is some fellow,
Who, having been prais’d for bluntness, doth
A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb
Quite from his nature: he cannot flatter, he,
An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth:
An they will take it, so; if not, he’s plain.
is . . . he's plain: Although
this fellow has been praised for being straightforward and blunt,
going too far with his rough demeanor and distortion of facts. He
flatter anyone, since he's honest and plain. He must speak the
These [this] kind of knaves I know, which in this
Harbour more craft and more corrupter ends
Than twenty silly-ducking observants,
That stretch their duties nicely.
kind of . . . nicely: This type
of person exhibits honesty and plainness on the surface. But
he's sly and crafty, far more so than twenty flatterers who tell
what you want to hear.]
KENT: Sir, in good sooth [truth], in sincere verity [truth],
Under the allowance of your grand aspect,
Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire
On flickering Phoebus’ front,—
the . . . front: Like the fire of Phoebus Apollo (the sun god in
Greek mythology), as he drives
his golden chariot across the sky]
CORNWALL: What mean’st by this?
KENT: To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so
much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer: he that beguiled you in a
accent was a plain knave; which for my part I will not be, though
should win your displeasure to entreat me to ’t.
go out . . . to 't: By
referring to Phoebus, from Greek mythology, I was trying not to
so plainly, which you don't like (lines 68-70). I must say that I
not a flatterer who praises with fancy words. He who spoke to you
plain accent was a plain knave. But I won't be a knave even if you
ask me to be one.]
CORNWALL: What was the offence you gave
OSWALD: I never gave him any:
It pleas’d the king his master very late
To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;
When he, conjunct, and flattering his
Tripp’d me behind; being down, insulted, rail’d,
And put upon him such a deal of man,
That worthied him, got praises of the king
For him attempting who was self-subdu’d;
And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit,
Drew on me here again.
pleas'd . . . here again: When the
king recently struck me after a misunderstanding between us, this
fellow tripped me from behind to please the king. Then he insulted
and railed at me so fiercely that the king praised him even though
had subdued myself and did not retaliate. And, in reliving this
episode, this fellow drew his sword on me.]
KENT: None of these rogues and cowards
But Ajax is their fool.
. . . fool: Kent sums up by
saying that the "rogues and cowards" around him would make fools
brave men, such as Ajax, a hero in the Trojan War in ancient
Cornwall, as a leader of men, thinks Kent is saying that people
making a fool out of him.]
CORNWALL: Fetch forth the stocks!
You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend
We’ll teach you.
KENT: Sir, I am too old to learn,
Call not your stocks for me; I serve the king,
On whose employment I was sent to you;
You shall do small respect, show too bold malice
Against the grace and person of my master,
Stocking his messenger.
CORNWALL: Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life and
There shall he sit till noon.
REGAN: Till noon! Till night, my lord; and all night
KENT: Why, madam, if I were your father’s
You should not use me so.
REGAN: Sir, being his
knave, I will.
CORNWALL: This is a fellow of the self-same
Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away [out] the stocks. [Stocks
GLOUCESTER: Let me beseech your Grace not to do
His fault is much, and the good king his master
Will check him for ’t: your purpos’d low
Is such as basest and contemned’st [scorned;
For pilferings [minor thefts] and most common
Are punish’d with: the king must take it ill,
That he, so slightly valu’d in his messenger,
Should have him thus restrain’d.
king must . . . restrain'd: The king will be angry that you are
treating his messenger with so little respect.]
CORNWALL: I’ll answer that. [I'm not
afraid to answer for this punishment.]
REGAN: My sister may receive it much more
To have her gentleman [Oswald] abus’d,
For following her affairs [for doing her bidding; for running
Put in his legs. [KENT is put in the
Come, my good lord, away. [Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER and
. . . Kent: Everyone leaves the stage except Gloucester and Kent.]
GLOUCESTER: I am sorry for thee, friend; ’tis the duke’s
Whose disposition, all the world well knows,
Will not be rubb’d nor stopp’d: I’ll entreat [ask for
Slowed down. Rub
is a term used is the game of lawn bowls (bowling). A rubbed ball
one that swerves or slows down after it rolls across a patch of
KENT: Pray, do not, sir. I have watch’d and travell’d
Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I’ll
A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels:
Give you good morrow!
. . . morrow: Please don't, sir.
I have been awake for a long time, and I have endured hard travel.
Thus, I welcome the opportunity to sleep while I'm in the stocks.
I'm not sleeping, I'll spend my time whistling. A man's good luck
destined to run out. I bid you good day!]
GLOUCESTER: The duke’s to blame in this; ’twill be ill
KENT: Good king, that must approve the common
Thou out of heaven’s benediction com’st
To the warm sun.
king . . . sun: Good King Lear,
you're showing us the truth in the old proverb that there comes a
in every man's life when he will emerge from the cool comfort of
heavens into the heat of a hot sun.]
takes out a letter to read.]
Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,
That by thy comfortable beams I may
Peruse this letter. Nothing almost sees miracles
But misery: I know ’tis from Cordelia,
. . . Cordelia: Sun,
approach the earth so that your bright beams will enable me to
this letter. No one but the miserable can claim to see miracles. I
this letter is from Cordelia.]
Who hath most fortunately been inform’d
Of my obscured course; and shall find time
From this enormous state, seeking to give
Losses their remedies. All weary and
Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold
This shameful lodging.
Fortune, good night, smile once more; turn thy wheel! [He
hath . . . wheel: Cordelia has
been informed that I have disguised myself to serve the king. She
she will find time to remedy the enormous problems growing out of
Lear's recent actions. I hope my weary eyes will take advantage of
opportunity for me to sleep so that they don't have to see me
imprisoned in these stocks.]
2, Scene 3
A part of the heath.
EDGAR: I heard myself proclaim’d; [I heard
my name shouted]
And by the happy [found by chance; lucky] hollow of a
Escap’d the hunt. No port is free; no place,
That guard, and most unusual vigilance,
Does not attend my taking. While I may ’scape
I will preserve myself; and am bethought
To take the basest and most poorest shape
That ever penury, in contempt of man,
Brought near to beast; my face I’ll grime with
port . . . beast: Every place I go
is under surveillance by vigilant pursuers who want to apprehend
But as long as I can keep running, I may preserve myself. I think
disguise myself as a beggar so poor and lowly that he isn't much
than a beast.]
Blanket my loins [wear a loincloth], elf [tangle] all my hair in
And with presented nakedness outface [stand up
The winds and persecutions of the sky.
The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars, who with roaring voices,
Strike in their numb’d and mortified bare arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary;
country . . . rosemary: Beggars
from Bethlehem Hospital, the lunatic asylum in London, roam this
country. They have roaring voices and they stick pins, nails, and
sharp objects into their bare arms. So, in my disguise, I will fit
right in with them.]
And with this horrible object, from low farms,
Poor pelting villages, sheep-cotes, and mills,
Sometime with lunatic bans, sometime with
Enforce their charity. Poor Turlygood! poor Tom!
That’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am. [Exit.
[And with this . . . nothing am: With their frightful appearance
voices, they intimidate farmers, villagers, shepherds, and others
giving them alms. These people have pity on poor Turlygood [a name
Edgar made up]
and poor Tom.
2, Scene 4
castle. KENT in the stocks.
Enter LEAR, fool, and
LEAR: ’Tis strange that they should so depart from
And not send back my messenger.
['This strange . . . remove: It's strange that Regan and Cornwall
should leave their home without sending back my messenger.]
GENTLEMAN: As I
The night before there was no purpose in them
Of this remove.
. . . remove: As I found out, there was no apparent reason for
them to leave home.]
KENT: Hail to thee, noble master!
Mak’st thou this shame [being in stocks] thy
KENT: No, my lord.
FOOL: Ha, ha! he wears
cruel garters [the part of the stocks clamping in his feet].
Horses are tied by the head, dogs and bears by the neck, monkeys
loins, and men by the legs: when a man is over-lusty at legs, then
wears wooden nether-stocks.
a man . . . nether-stocks: When
a man tends to wander with mischief in mind, he must be outfitted
wooden stockings—that is, he must be put in the stocks.]
LEAR: What’s he that hath so much thy place
To set thee here?
he . . . here: Who mistook your intentions so much that he put you
KENT: It is both he and she,
Your son and daughter.
LEAR: No, I say.
KENT: I say, yea.
LEAR: No, no; they would not.
KENT: Yes, they have.
LEAR: By Jupiter [the Roman name for Zeus, the king
of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology], I swear,
KENT: By Juno [the Roman name for Hera, the queen
of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology], I swear,
LEAR: They durst not [would not dare] do ’t;
They could not, would not do ’t; ’tis worse than
To do upon respect such violent outrage [to
disrespect a king's messenger so outrageously].
Resolve me, with all modest haste, which way
Thou mightst deserve, or they impose, this
Coming from us.
me . . . from us: Explain to me
quickly what you did to deserve this humiliation or, if you did
offensive, what motivated them to impose it on you.]
KENT: My lord, when at their home
I did commend your highness’ letters to them,
Ere I was risen from the place that show’d
My duty kneeling, there came a reeking post,
Stew’d in his haste, half breathless, panting
From Goneril his mistress salutations;
Deliver’d letters, spite of
Which presently they read: on whose contents
They summon’d up their meiny, straight took horse;
came . . . horse: A
messenger came, stinking of sweat and nearly out of breath, who
conveyed greetings and best wishes from Goneril to Regan and
This messenger gave them letters, which they read before I
response from the letters I delivered. Then they summoned
and mounted their horses.]
Commanded me to follow, and attend
The leisure of their answer; gave me cold looks:
And meeting here the other messenger,
Whose welcome, I perceiv’d, had poison’d mine,—
Being the very fellow which of late
Display’d so saucily against your highness,—
Having more man than wit about me,—drew:
He rais’d the house with loud and coward cries.
. . cries: Regan and Cornwall commanded me to follow them and
their answer to the letters I delivered. They were cold toward me.
After we arrived here, I ran into their steward, Oswald, the very
fellow who recently insulted you (see 1.4.47-560). Remembering his
treatment of you, I drew my sword on him and—coward that he
Your son and daughter found this trespass [my
The shame which here it suffers [the shame which I suffer
locked in these stocks].
Winter’s not gone yet,
if the wild geese fly that
way. [There's plenty of winter left—that is, there's
still plenty of trouble ahead.]
Fathers that wear rags
But for all this thou shalt have as many dolours [sorrows
or heartaches] for thy daughters as thou
canst tell in a year.
Do make their children blind,
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant
Ne’er turns the key to the poor.
[Fathers . . . poor: When a father wears rags, his children pay
heed. But when he bears money bags, they lavish attention on
that thoroughgoing whore, never opens doors for the poor.]
LEAR: O! how this mother swells up toward my heart;
how . . . heart: O! how I am like a woman overcome with emotions]
Hysterica passio! down, thou climbing sorrow!
Thy element’s below. Where is this daughter?
passio . . . below: Lear
alludes to an affliction of women in which
hysteria, or wild and uncontrollable emotions, arise from the
referred to in the phrase "thy element's below." Shakespeare's
is simply to point out that Lear is upset, like a woman with
passio. It is interesting to note that woman was another name for hysterica passion.]
KENT: [Your daughter is] With the earl, sir: here
LEAR: Follow me not; stay here.
GENTLEMAN: Made you no more offence than what you speak
How chance the king comes with so small a
thou hadst been set i’ the stocks for that question, thou hadst
well deserved it.
KENT: Why, fool?
We’ll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee
there’s no labouring i’ the winter. [We'll
teach you what ants know: that there's no sense looking for
food in winter, when there are no picnics or other outings.]
All that follow their noses are led
by their eyes but blind men; and there’s not a nose among twenty
can smell him that’s stinking. [Even blind men can smell the
Lear's headstrong behavior and problems with his daughters. Let go
hold when a great wheel runs
down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following it; but the
one that goes up the hill, let him draw thee after. [Don't
hold on to a wheel running downhill, lest it break your neck. But
follow a wheel going uphill.] When a wise man
gives thee better counsel, give me mine again [give
back my counsel]:
I would have none but
knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
sir . . . the storm: The man who
serves you only to fatten his purse and who pretends to be loyal
will abandon you when it rains, leaving you to fend for yourself.]
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that
The fool no knave, perdy.
knave . . . perdy: The knave who runs away turns into a fool. But
a fool like me is no knave, by God. (Perdy derives from the French phrase par dieu, meaning by God.)]
KENT: Where learn’d you this, fool?
FOOL: Not i’ the stocks, fool.
Re-enter LEAR, with GLOUCESTER.
LEAR: Deny to speak with me! They are sick! they are
They have travell’d hard to-night! Mere fetches,
The images of revolt and flying off.
Fetch me a better answer.
to . . . answer: How dare they
deny to speak with me! They say they are sick and weary from
I don't believe a word of it. They are rebelling against me and
off the handle. Go get me a better answer from them.]
GLOUCESTER: My dear lord,
You know the fiery quality of the duke;
How unremovable and fix’d he is
In his own course.
LEAR: Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!
Fiery! what quality? [reference to line 85] Why, Gloucester,
I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his
GLOUCESTER: Well, my good lord, I have inform’d them
LEAR: Inform’d them! Dost thou understand me,
GLOUCESTER: Ay, my good lord.
LEAR: The king would speak with Cornwall; the dear
Would with his daughter speak, commands her
Are they inform’d of this? My breath and blood!
Fiery! the fiery duke! Tell the hot duke that—
No, but not yet; may be he is not well:
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Whereto our health is bound; we are not
When nature, being oppress’d, commands the mind
To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear;
And am fall’n out with my more headier will,
To take the indispos’d and sickly fit
For the sound man. Death on my state! [Looking on
Should he sit here? This act
That this remotion of the duke and her
Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
but . . . servant forth: No, wait
minute. Maybe he really is not well. Illness makes us neglect our
duties. We are not ourselves when nature makes the mind suffer
body. I'll wait rather than giving in to my suspicion that these
apparently indisposed and sickly people are really healthy. Curse
kingly power and kingdom! Why should my servant (the disguised
Kent) have to sit here? This act of
humiliation against him convinces me of their hostility toward me.
Gloucester, I want them to release my servant.]
Go, tell the duke and’s wife I’d speak with
Now, presently: bid them come forth and hear me,
Or at their chamber-door I’ll beat the drum
Till it cry sleep to death.
GLOUCESTER: I would have all well betwixt [between] you.
LEAR: O, me! my heart, my rising heart! but, down! [O, my
heart is beating so hard I feel it in my throat. Down, heart!]
FOOL: Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney [lower-class
resident of East London] did to the eels
when she put ’em i’ the paste [for pies] alive; she knapped ’em o’ the coxcombs
[struck them on the head] with a stick, and cried, ‘Down, wantons, down!’
’Twas her brother that,
in pure kindness to his horse, buttered his hay.
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GLOUCESTER, and servants.
LEAR: Good morrow to you both.
CORNWALL: Hail to your Grace! [KENT is set at
REGAN: I am glad to see your highness.
LEAR: Regan, I think you are; I know what
I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be
I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,
Sepulchring an adult’ress.—[To KENT.] O! are you
I think . . . you free: Regan,
I think you are glad to see me. Here's why. If you weren't glad,
sever my association with your dead mother. You see, she was an
adultress. O, Kent, I see that you're free.]
Some other time for
that. Beloved Regan,
Thy sister’s naught [a worthless woman; a
good-for-nothing]: O Regan! she hath tied
Sharp-tooth’d unkindness, like a vulture, here: [Points to
I can scarce speak to thee; thou’lt not believe
With how deprav’d a quality—O Regan!
REGAN: I pray you, sir, take patience. I have
You less know how to value her desert
Than she to scant her duty.
pray . . . duty: Please be patient,
sir. I don't believe she neglected her duty to you. Rather, I
don't know how to appreciate her good qualities.]
LEAR: Say, how is that? [What do
REGAN: I cannot think my sister in the
Would fail her obligation: if, sir, perchance
She have restrain’d the riots of your followers,
’Tis on such ground, and to such wholesome end,
As clears her from all blame.
sir . . . blame: If, sir,
perchance she restrained the riotous behavior of your followers,
to bring calm and peace. You can't blame her for doing that.]
LEAR: My curses on her!
REGAN: O, sir! you are old;
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of her confine: you should be rul’d and led
By some discretion that discerns your state
Better than you yourself. Therefore I pray you
in . . . you yourself: You are
trying to extend your abilities beyond the limits that your
age has imposed. You should be cared for by someone who better
perceives the state of your mental and physical health.]
That to our sister you do make return;
Say, you have wrong’d her, sir.
LEAR: Ask her forgiveness?
Do you but mark how this becomes the house [reflects on my royal
Dear daughter, I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary [inconvenient; burdensome;
my knees I beg [Kneeling.
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment [clothing], bed, and
REGAN: Good sir, no more; these are unsightly tricks [these
pleas are below your dignity]:
Return you to my sister.
LEAR: [Rising.] Never, Regan.
She hath abated me of [has taken from me] half my
Look’d black upon me; struck me with her tongue,
Most serpent-like, upon the very heart.
All the stor’d vengeances of heaven fall
On her ingrateful top [head]! Strike her young
You taking airs, with lameness!
her . . . lameness: May diseases in the air strike her with
CORNWALL: Fie, sir,
fie! [Come now, sir, come now!]
LEAR: You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck’d fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall [fall on her] and blast her pride!
REGAN: O the blest gods! So will you wish on
When the rash mood is on.
will . . . is on: You will wish the same for me when you're in a
LEAR: No, Regan, thou shalt never have my
Thy tender-hefted [gently made] nature shall not
Thee o’er to harshness: her eyes are fierce, but
Do comfort and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
To grudge [begrudge me] my pleasures, to cut off my train [chase
away my knights and attendants],
To bandy hasty words [speak rudely to me], to scant my sizes [lessen
And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt [lock the
Against my coming in: thou better know’st
The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude;
Thy half o’ the kingdom hast thou not forgot,
Wherein I thee endow’d.
REGAN: Good sir, to the purpose [Good
sir, tell me what you're getting at].
LEAR: Who put my man i’ the stocks? [Tucket
within: Sounding of a trumpet offstage.]
CORNWALL: What trumpet’s that?
REGAN: I know ’t, my sister’s; this approves her
. . . letter: Her arrival confirms what she said in her letter.]
That she would soon be here. Is your lady come?
LEAR: This is a slave, whose easy-borrow’d
Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.
. . . follows: This is a slave to the will of Goneril. He takes
pride in serving her.]
Out, varlet [villain], from my
CORNWALL: What means your Grace?
LEAR: Who stock’d my servant? Regan, I have good
Thou didst not know on ’t [know about it]. Who comes here? O
If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
Allow obedience, if yourselves are old,
Make it your cause; send down and take my part!
heavens . . . my part: O heavens,
if you love old men, if you approve of obedience, if you
old, then take up my cause and send down someone to support me.]
[To GONERIL.] Art not asham’d to look upon this
O Regan, wilt thou take her by the hand?
GONERIL: Why not by the hand, sir? How have I
All’s not offence that indiscretion finds
And dotage terms so.
not . . . terms so: Not everything is an offense just because a
foolish old man says so.]
LEAR: O sides! you are
Will you yet hold? How came my man i’ the
sides . . . stocks: O, are the
sides of my body strong enough to hold in my grief at the behavior
this daughter? Who put my man in the stocks?]
CORNWALL: I set him there, sir: but his own
Deserv’d much less advancement.
. . . advancement: Deserved a more severe punishment]
LEAR: You! did you?
REGAN: I pray you, father, being weak, seem
If, till the expiration of your month,
You will return and sojourn with my sister,
Dismissing half your train, come then to me:
I am now from home, and out of that provision
Which shall be needful for your entertainment.
pray . . . entertainment: Please,
father, you're weak and frail. Don't act like a younger and
man. Now then, you were supposed to stay with my sister for a
return with her to her home, dismissing half your knights, then
come and stay with me. I can't host you now, for I am spending
away from home. Moreover, I am out of the provisions you require
maintain your comfort and well-being.]
LEAR: Return to her? and fifty men
No, rather I abjure all roofs [I won't stay with anybody], and
To wage against the enmity o’ the air; [to take
my chances in the open air]
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,
Necessity’s sharp pinch! Return with her!
be . . . with her: To live with
the wolf and owl and face the harshness of poverty and
to return with Goneril!]
Why, the hot-blooded France [King of France], that dowerless took [that
accepted without a dowery]
Our youngest born [Cordelia], I could as well be
To knee his throne, and, squire-like, pension beg
To keep base life afoot. Return with her!
kneel . . . afoot: To kneel before his throne and, like a humble
squire, beg for a pension to keep me alive]
Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
To this detested groom. [Pointing at
be . . . groom: Persuade me
instead to be a slave and packhorse (sumpter, line 220) to this detested fellow
Oswald, who is no more than a stableboy.]
GONERIL: At your choice, sir.
LEAR: I prithee, daughter, do not make me
I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell.
We’ll no more meet, no more see one another;
But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my
Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh,
Which I must needs call mine: thou art a boil,
A plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle [skin
infection that exudes pus],
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it:
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
I'll . . . Jove: But I won't
scold you. Rather, I'll let shame come upon you in its own good
won't ask the gods to strike you with lightning. Nor will I tell
about you to them.]
Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure: [Mend
your ways when you have time.]
I can be patient; I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.
REGAN: Not altogether so:
I look’d not for you yet, nor am provided
For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my
For those that mingle reason with your passion
Must be content to think you old, and so—
But she knows what she does.
altogether . . . she does:
Not really. I was not expecting you to come at this time and have
prepared for your sojourn. What you should do is listen to what
says. We who are trying to be reasonable can only conclude that
distress is due to your advanced age, and so—. Well, Goneril knows
she is doing.]
LEAR: Is this well spoken! [You
can't mean what you're saying.]
REGAN: I dare avouch it, sir: what! fifty
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and
Speak ’gainst so great a number? How, in one
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? ’Tis hard; almost impossible.
dare . . . impossible: I do mean
it. Why do you need more than fifty followers? Or even that many,
considering the cost of hosting them and the uproar they cause.
one house, can so many people obey two commanders, you and
can we expect them to remain peaceful? It's hard—almost
believe that everything will work out.]
GONERIL: Why might not you, my lord, receive
From those that she calls servants, or from
REGAN: Why not, my lord? If then they chanc’d to slack [slight;
We could control them. If you will come to me,—
For now I spy a danger, [I see problems if you come with
too many knights]—I entreat you
To bring but five-and-twenty; to no more
Will I give place or notice.
LEAR: I gave you all—[I gave you everything I have.]
REGAN: And in good time you gave it. [It was
LEAR: Made you my guardians, my depositaries [trustees],
But kept a reservation to be follow’d
With such a number. What! must I come to you
kept . . . number: But made you promise to allow me to keep a
Regan, said you so?
REGAN: And speak ’t again, my lord; no more with me. [I'll
repeat: no more than twenty-five.]
LEAR: Those wicked creatures yet do look
When others are more wicked; not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise. [To GONERIL.] I’ll go
Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
And thou art twice her love.
wicked . . . her love: Wicked
creatures look good when compared with creatures who are even more
wicked. Therefore, not being the most wicked of creatures is a
that deserves some praise. Goneril, I'll go with you. You appear
have twice as much love for me as Regan does.]
GONERIL: Hear me, my lord.
What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
To follow in a house, where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?
need . . . tend you: Why do you need so many followers when I have
a full staff to attend you?]
REGAN: What need one? [Why do you need even one
LEAR: O! reason not the need; our basest
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true
You heavens, give me that patience, patience I
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
Don't speak of need as a reason
for keeping something. Even our lowliest beggars have things they
don't really need. When you don't allow a man to have more than he
needs—but permit him only the barest essentials—his life is no
than an animal's. You are a lady who wears gorgeous clothes. But
need gorgeous clothes to keep you warm? If you want to focus on
well, what I really need is patience. I am a poor old man weighted
by grief and age.]
If it be you that stir these daughters’ hearts
Against their father, fool me not so much
To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,
it be . . . cheeks: If it is the gods who are stirring my
daughters against me, I won't take the abuse without fighting
When I am angry, women's weapons—such as tears— won't defeat me.]
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall—I will do such things,—
What they are yet I know not,—but they shall be
The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep;
No, I’ll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. O fool! I shall go mad. [Exeunt LEAR,
GLOUCESTER, KENT, and fool.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
CORNWALL: Let us
withdraw [go into the house]; ’twill be a storm.
[Storm heard at a distance.
REGAN: This house is little: the old man and his
Cannot be well bestow’d.
GONERIL: ’Tis his own blame; hath put himself from
And must needs taste his folly.
his . . . folly: It's his own
fault that he has put himself in this predicament. Now he has to
the consequences of his folly.]
REGAN: For his particular, I’ll receive him
But not one follower.
his . . . follower: In this case, I'll gladly take him—without a
GONERIL: So am I purpos’d. [I am willing to do the
Where is my Lord of Gloucester?
CORNWALL: Follow’d the old man forth. He is return’d. [He
followed Lear for a while, then returned.]
GLOUCESTER: The king is in high rage.
CORNWALL: Whither [where] is he
GLOUCESTER: He calls to horse; but will I know not
calls . . . whither: He called for his horse, but I don't know
where he's going.]
CORNWALL: ’Tis best to give him way; he leads himself. [Let him
go. The only advice he takes is his own.]
GONERIL: My lord, entreat him by no means to
lord . . . stay: Gloucester, don't try to convince him to return.]
the night comes on, and the bleak winds
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There’s scarce a bush.
REGAN: O! sir, to wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors;
He is attended with a desperate train,
And what they may incense him to, being apt
To have his ear abus’d, wisdom bids fear.
is attended . . . fear: He is
accompanied by desperate men. What they may influence him to
keep in mind that he is apt to take bad advice—makes me fearful of
what will happen next.]
CORNWALL: Shut up your doors, my lord; ’tis a wild
My Regan counsels well: come out o’ the storm
Everyone leaves the stage.]
3, Scene 1
A storm, with thunder and lightning. Enter KENT and a gentleman,
KENT: Who’s here, beside [besides] foul
GENTLEMAN: One minded like the weather, most
. . . unquietly: One whose state of mind is stormy, like the
KENT: I know you.
Where’s the king?
GENTLEMAN: Contending with the fretful
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters ’bove the main [above
That things might change or cease; tears his white
Which the impetuous blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of;
his . . . nothing of: Tears out his white hairs, which the wind—in
blind rage—catch and blow away]
Strives in his little world of man to out-scorn
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.
. . . rain: Tries to beat back the wind and rain]
This night, wherein the
cub-drawn bear would couch,
[cub-drawn bear: Mother bear whose
cubs have sucked her dry of milk]
The lion and the
belly-pinched [hungry] wolf
[couch: Take shelter]
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.
. . . take all: Without a hat he runs and welcomes the end of the
KENT: But who is with him?
GENTLEMAN: None but the fool, who labours to
His heart-struck injuries.
. . . injuries: Who tries to ease Lear's emotional pain by telling
KENT: Sir, I do know you;
And dare, upon the warrant of my note,
Commend a dear thing to you. There is division,
Although as yet the face of it be cover’d
With mutual cunning, ’twixt Albany and Cornwall;
I . . . Cornwall: Sir, I think I
know you and trust you. Therefore, I want to confide in you. There
division between Albany and Cornwall, although they have tried to
it up through clever machination.]
Who have—as who have not, that their great stars
Thron’d and set high—servants, who seem no less,
Which are to France the spies and speculations
Intelligent of our state; what hath been seen,
have . . . state: Who have servants spying for France]
Either in snuffs [arguments] and packings [plots] of the
in . . . dukes: Either in the arguments between the dukes or their
plots against each other]
Or the hard rein which both of them have borne
Against the old kind king; or something deeper,
Whereof perchance these are but furnishings;
deeper . . . furnishings: Something deeper, suggested by these
But, true it is, from
France there comes a power
Into this scatter’d kingdom; who already,
Wise in our negligence, have secret feet,
In Some of our best ports, and are at point
To show their open banner. Now to you:
true . . . to you: Whatever the
case, I can tell you that the French have scattered men in ports
country in preparation for war. Now to you:]
If on my credit you dare build so far
To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
Some that will thank you, making just report
Of how unnatural and bemadding sorrow
The king hath cause to plain.
I am a gentleman of blood and breeding,
And from some knowledge and assurance offer
This office to you.
on my . . . office to you: If you
believe me, go to Dover to tell the people that the king suffers
pain and sorrow and has good reason to complain about who is
his tribulation. I come from a noble family and well know what I
doing when I offer this mission to you.]
GENTLEMAN: I will talk further with you.
KENT: No, do not.
For confirmation that I am much more
Than my out-wall [than what I appear to be], open this purse, and
What it contains. If you shall see Cordelia,—
As doubt not but you shall,—show her this ring,
And she will tell you who your fellow is
That yet you do not know. Fie on this storm!
she . . . know: And she will tell you who I am]
I will go seek the king.
GENTLEMAN: Give me your hand. Have you no more to
KENT: Few words, but, to effect, more than all
That, when we have found the king,—in which your
That way, I’ll this,—he that first lights on him
Holla the other. [Exeunt severally.
when . . . the other: That when
we have found the king—you going one way, I going the other—the
first sees the king will summon the other]
Everyone leaves the stage.]
3, Scene 2
Another part of the
heath. Storm still.
Enter LEAR and fool.
LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage!
You cataracts [waterfalls] and hurricanoes [water
spouts or hurricanes], spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks [rooster
figures topping weathervanes on steeples]!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
fires: Fires that
burn something with the speed of thought. It is also possible—but
probably not likely—that this phrase refers to fires that burn a
person at the stake for expressing heretical or otherwise
Vaunt-couriers [forerunners] to oak-cleaving
thunderbolts [lightning bolts that split oak trees],
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking
Strike flat the thick rotundity [roundness] o’ the
Crack nature’s moulds [molds that shape humans], all germens [seeds
that sprout into humans] spill at once
That make ingrateful man!
FOOL: O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better
this rain-water out o’ door. Good nuncle, in, and ask thy
blessing; here’s a night pities neither wise man nor
holy water (noun): Flattering words that produce no result]
LEAR: Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! spout,
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
. . . daughters: Rain, wind, thunder, and fire—you are not like my
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children,
You owe me no subscription [homage; submission; pledge of
Your horrible pleasure; here I stand, your
A poor, infirm, weak, and despis’d old man.
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join’d
Your high-engender’d battles ’gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! ’tis foul.
yet . . . foul: Nevertheless, I think you have joined with my two
evil daughters to ruin me. O, it is foul.]
that has a house to put his head in has a good head-piece [mind; brain].
The cod-piece that will house
[cod-piece: Codpiece, a pouch
with a flap at the crotch of tight pants worn by males. Inside
the pouch is the penis.]
Before the head has any,
The head and he shall louse;
So beggars marry many.
The man that makes his toe
What he his heart should make,
Shall of a corn cry woe,
And turn his sleep to wake.
For there was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a
[The cod-piece . . . glass: The
that houses his penis (engages in sexual relations) before he
house to live in will become poor and attract lice. As a beggar,
will marry (attract) many lice. The man who pampers his toe but
neglects his heart—that is, pampers his two evil daughters but
neglects the good one in his heart—will develop a painful corn
suffer insomnia. Your daughters look at you as they would at a
and make faces that arouse your emotions.]
LEAR: No, I will be the pattern of all
I will say nothing.
KENT: Who’s there?
FOOL: Marry, here’s grace and a cod-piece; that’s a wise
man and a fool.
. . . fool: By the Virgin Mary, this fellow is a wise man and a
KENT: Alas! sir, are you here? things that love
Love not such nights as these; the wrathful
Gallow [terrify] the very wanderers of the dark,
And make them keep their caves. Since I was man
Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard; man’s nature cannot
The affliction nor the fear.
nature . . . fear: Man's nature is not made to endure such fear
LEAR: Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother [commotion; disturbance] o’er our
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou
That hast within thee undivulged crimes,
Unwhipp’d of justice; hide thee, thou bloody
Thou perjur’d, and thou simular [pretender; one who
That art incestuous; caitiff [villain], to pieces
. . . pieces shake: Tremble,
you who committed three undivulged and unpunished crimes: murder,
perjury, and incest. Villain, I hope you shake into pieces.]
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practis’d on man’s life [wronged people; ruined
Rive your concealing continents, and cry
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn’d against than sinning.
. . . sinning: Hidden guilts,
break out of your concealment and beg mercy from the dreadful gods
storm down their wrath. As for me, I have sinned less than those
have sinned against me.]
KENT: Alack [alas]!
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel [hut;
Some friendship [protection] will it lend you ’gainst
Repose you there while I to this hard house,—
More harder than the stone whereof ’tis rais’d,—
Which even but now, demanding after you,
Denied me to come in, return and force
Their scanted courtesy.
. . . rais'd: Take shelter in
that hovel while I go to the
house where Goneril and Reagan are staying. Earlier, they refused
admit me. They are hardheaded, harder even than the stone of which
house is made. Nevertheless, I will try to force them to open the
LEAR: My wits begin to turn [I am
going out of my mind].
Come on, my boy [fool]. How dost, my boy? Art
I am cold myself. Where is this straw [straw
hut; hovel], my
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious. Come, your hovel.
Poor fool and knave, I have
one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.
art . . . yet for thee: When you are in
need, vile things like hovels become precious. Come, take me to
hovel. You poor fool, I feel sorry for you.]
that has a little tiny wit,
dimwit must make-do with what fortune brings him even if the rain
falls every day.]
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
Though the rain it raineth every day.
LEAR: True, my good boy. Come, bring us to this hovel.
[Exeunt LEAR and KENT.
[Exeunt: The characters specified leave the stage.]
FOOL: This is a brave night to cool [satisfy
the hot passions of] a courtezan.
Courtesan, a prostitute or mistress who usually serves men of
royalty or nobility.]
I’ll speak a prophecy ere [before] I go:
priests are more in
word than matter; [when priests
sin while preaching against sin]
When brewers mar [dilute]
their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors’ tutors [young noblemen were very particular about the appearance
of their apparel];
No heretics burn’d, but wenches’ suitors;
[No heretics . . . suitors: When
heretics burn at the stake, but lusty suitors of wayward young
suffer the burning pain of syphilis]
When every case in law is right [just;
No squire in debt, nor no
When slanders do not live in tongues;
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
[Nor . . . throngs: Nor
pickpockets and other thieves prey on crowds]
When usurers tell their gold i’ the field;
[When usurers . . . field: When
moneylenders who charge interest count their profit before the
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of
Come to great confusion [turbulence;
Then comes the time, who lives to see ’t,
That going shall be us’d with feet [that feet will be the only means of travel, as in the
time of cave men.]
This prophecy Merlin [fabled
magician of the legendary King Arthur] shall make; for I
live before his time. [Exit.
Comment: According to Arthurian legend, Merlin composed verses
predicting the end of the world. The fool imitates Merlin's
In the last line, Shakespeare (speaking through the fool) calls
attention to a deliberate anachronism: that Lear and the fool
many years before the birth of Merlin. The fool's prophecy is in
keeping with the theme of the terrifying and destructive force of
3, Scene 3
A room in GLOUCESTER’S
Enter GLOUCESTER and EDMUND.
GLOUCESTER: Alack, alack! Edmund, I like not this unnatural
dealing. [Alas, alas, Edmund. I don't like the frightful
result of my dealings with Cornwall and Regan.] When I desired their leave
that I might pity him [Lear],
they took from me the use of mine own house; charged me, on pain
their perpetual displeasure, neither to speak of him, entreat for
nor any way sustain him.
EDMUND: Most savage, and unnatural!
GLOUCESTER: Go to; say you nothing [Please
let me speak without interruption].
There is division between the dukes, and a worse matter than that.
have received a letter this night; ’tis dangerous to be spoken; I
locked the letter in my closet. These injuries the king now bears
be revenged home; there’s part of a power [an army] already footed [already
landed in England]; we must incline to [support] the king. I will seek him
and privily relieve [assist] him; go you and maintain
talk with the duke, that my charity be not of him perceived [go talk
with Cornwall to divert attention from my effort to help King
Lear]. If he
ask for me, [say that] I am ill and gone to bed. If I die for it, as no less
is threatened me, the king, my old master, must be relieved. [I don't
care if they carry out their threat to kill me; I must help the
king.] There is
some strange thing toward [in store; about to happen], Edmund; pray you, be
is now alone on the stage talking to himself.]
EDMUND: This courtesy, forbid thee, shall the
Instantly know; and of that letter too:
This seems a fair deserving, and must draw me
That which my father loses; no less than all:
The younger rises when the old doth fall.
courtesy . . . doth fall: What
you have told me I shall report to the Duke. I'll tell him, too,
the letter locked in the closet.You deserve such disloyalty, and I
deserve what you lose. Younger men like me rise when old men like
3, Scene 4
The heath. Before
Enter LEAR, KENT, and fool.
KENT: Here is the place, my lord; good my lord,
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature [our bodies] to endure. [Storm
LEAR: Let me alone.
KENT: Good my lord, enter here.
LEAR: Wilt break my heart?
KENT: I’d rather break mine own. Good my lord,
LEAR: Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious
Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’dst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,
Thou’dst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s
The body’s delicate; the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
think'st . . . ingratitude: You
think it's terrible that this
storm drenches us. But where there is a greater peril, the lesser
is hardly noticed. You would run from a bear. But if you escape
jumping into a roaring sea, you would stand your ground and face
bear. When you have no worries on your mind, you focus your mind
on any unpleasant sensations your body experiences. Right now
I have a storm in my mind that commands all of my attention. That
rains on me the igratitude of my daughters!]
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home:
it . . . home: They are like the mouth that bites the hand feeding
it. But I will punish them.]
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave
O! that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
that way . . . of that: O! If I
concentrate on the ingratitude of Goneril and Regan, I will go
Let me stop thinking about it. No more of that.]
KENT: Good, my lord, enter here.
LEAR: Prithee, go in thyself; seek thine own
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.
tempest . . . go in: This storm prevents me from thinking about
things that disturb me. Nevertheless, I'll go in.]
[To the Fool.] In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,— [You
homeless poor people,—]
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep. [Fool goes
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O! I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
physic . . . more just: You who
are rich and powerful should remedy your indifference to poor.
time to expose yourself to what wretches feel so that you may
how important it is to share your wealth (superflux, line 40)
with them. In doing so, you will show that the world and the
care about them. (These lines—39-41—mark a turning point for Lear
that he shifts attention from his own suffering to the suffering
those around him.)]
EDGAR: [Within.] Fathom and half, fathom and half!
Poor Tom! [The Fool runs out from the hovel.
and half: A fathom was a measure to gauge sea depths. Since a
fathom was equal to six feet, a fathom
was equal to nine feet. Edgar—Gloucester's faithful son, who is
disguised as "Poor Tom"—is grossly exaggerating the depth of the
in the hut to express his discomfort.]
FOOL: Come not in here, nuncle; here’s a
Help me! help me!
KENT: Give me thy hand. Who’s there?
FOOL: A spirit, a spirit: he says his name’s poor
KENT: What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the
Enter EDGAR disguised as a madman.
EDGAR: Away! the foul fiend [Satan] follows
Through the sharp hawthorn blow the winds.
Hum! go to thy cold bed and warm thee.
LEAR: Didst thou give all [all your possessions] to thy two
And art thou come to this?
EDGAR: Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend
hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and
o’er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and
halters in his pew; set ratsbane by his porridge; made him proud
heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inched bridges,
course his own shadow for a traitor.
gives . . . traitor: Who gives
anything to me, whom the devil has pursued through fire, rivers,
whirlpools and over bogs and quicksand? The devil has put knives
my pillow, nooses in my church pew, poison next to my porridge.
has made me chase my shadow while riding on horseback across
bridges. His purpose in all of this was to provide opportunities
to kill myself.]
Bless thy five wits! Tom’s a-cold.
O! do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, starblasting,
taking! Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes. There
could I have him now, and there, and there again, and there.
wits: G. B. Harrison identified the five wits as "common wit,
imagination, fantasy, estimation, and memory" (Shakespeare: the Complete Works. New
York: Harcourt, 1952 (page 1163).]
LEAR: What! have his daughters brought him to this pass [madness]?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all [all your
FOOL: Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all
. . . shamed: No, he reserved a blanket with which to hide his
nakedness and save onlookers from embarrassment.]
LEAR: Now all the plagues that in the pendulous
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy
. . . daughters: Now I hope that all the plagues suffered by
evildoers will settle on your daughters.]
KENT: He hath no daughters, sir.
LEAR: Death, traitor! [That's poppycock, you
nothing could have subdu’d nature [a man]
To such a lowness, but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
Judicious punishment! ’twas this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.
[Judicious punishment: It is just for
disloyal daughters to suffer plagues.]
EDGAR: Pillicock [obsolete word for penis] sat on Pillicock-hill [hill:
female sex organ]:
[pelican: Bird of prey. Lear is
saying his daughters prey on him.]
Halloo, halloo, loo, loo!
FOOL: This cold night will turn us all to fools and
EDGAR: Take heed o’ the foul fiend [devil]. Obey thy parents; keep
thy word justly; swear not; commit not with man’s sworn spouse [don't
thy sweet heart on proud array [suppress your desire to wear
LEAR: What hast thou been [what was your occupation]?
EDGAR: A servingman, proud in heart and mind; that curled my
hair, wore gloves in my cap, served the lust of my mistress’s
and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I
words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven; one that slept
the contriving of lust, and waked to do it.
servingman . . . do it: I was a
proud servant who curled his hair, wore the gloves of his mistress
his hat, and satisfied her lust. I made promises, then broke them.
dreamed of having sex and woke up to have it.]
Wine loved I deeply, dice
dearly, and in woman out-paramoured the Turk [and in
lust outdid the Turkish ruler with a harem]: false of heart, light of
ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in
dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor
rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman [don't
allow a woman to know what is in your heart]: keep thy foot out of
brothels, thy hand out of plackets [petticoats], thy pen from lenders’ [moneylenders'] books, and
defy the foul fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows the cold
says, "suum, mun ha no nonny" [suum . . . nonny: nonsense
words spoken by the wind].
Dolphin [imaginary horse] my boy, my boy; sessa [corruption
of the French word cessez,
meaning stop] ! let him trot
by. [Storm still.
LEAR: Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer
with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. [You'd be
better off dead than to speak to the stormy skies.] Is man no more
than this? [Is a human so low a wretch as this man?] Consider him well. Thou
owest the worm no silk, the beast no
hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume [In
your nakedness, you don't owe the creatures of nature anything for
clothes they provide—not the silkworm; not cattle, goats, or other
animals that provide skin to make leather; not sheep that provide
for garments; not the civet (catlike mammal that secretes a
fluid used to make perfume)]. Ha! here’s three on ’s are
sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; [Ha! We
three (Lear, Kent, the fool) are cultured, noble, and wealthy
compared to you. You are poverty and ignorance]; unaccommodated [unsophisticated;
man is no more
but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you
lendings [clothes made from animal parts; clothes that
animals "lent" to humans]! Come; unbutton here. [Tearing off his
FOOL: Prithee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naughty night
to swim in. Now a little fire in a wide field were like an old
heart; a small spark, all the rest on ’s body cold [a small
spark in a cold body]. Look! here comes a
Enter GLOUCESTER with a torch
EDGAR: This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet [scatterbrain;
silly person; irresponsible person]: he begins at
curfew [dusk; nightfall], and walks till the first cock [till the
he gives the web and the pin,
squints the eye [he gives you eyes diseases (the web and the pin) that
make you squint],
and makes the harelip [makes you develop a harelip]; mildews [ruins;
rots] the white
hurts the poor creature of earth.
footed thrice the 'old;
KENT: How fares your Grace?
[Saint Swithold three times
crossed the wold (hilly open land)]
He met the night-mare [night
spirit riding a horse; witch riding a horse], and her
nine-fold [nine children];
Bid her alight [asked her to
And her troth plight [and
promised good will],
And aroint [begone; leave; go]
thee, witch, aroint thee!
LEAR: What’s he? [Lear points to Gloucester.]
KENT: Who’s there? What is ’t you seek?
GLOUCESTER: What are you there? Your
EDGAR: Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog; the toad, the
tadpole, the wall-newt [salamander], and the water; that in the
fury of his heart,
when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets [salads]; swallows the old
rat and the ditch-dog [dead dog found in a ditch]; drinks, the green mantle [scum] of the standing pool;
who is whipped from tithing to tithing [from one
place to another], and stock-punished [put in stocks], and
imprisoned; who hath had [who in more prosperous days had] three suits to his back,
six shirts to his
body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
mice and rats and such small deer
Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin! [name of
a demon] peace,
Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.
GLOUCESTER: What! hath your Grace no better
EDGAR: The prince of darkness is a
Modo he’s call’d, and Mahu.
GLOUCESTER: Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so
That it doth hate what gets [begets] it.
EDGAR: Poor Tom’s a-cold.
GLOUCESTER: Go in [my house] with me. My duty cannot
To obey in all your daughters’ hard commands:
Though their injunction [will; desire] be to bar my
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventur’d to come seek you out
And bring you where both fire and food is ready.
LEAR: First let me talk with this
What is the cause of thunder?
KENT: Good my lord, take his offer; go into the
LEAR: I’ll talk a word with this same learned
Resident of the ancient Greek city of Thebes. Here, Theban refers to Edgar as if
he were a Greek philosopher.]
What is your study?
EDGAR: How to prevent the fiend [thwart
the devil], and
to kill vermin.
LEAR: Let me ask you one word in private.
KENT: Importune him once more to go, my lord;
His wits begin to unsettle.
. . . unsettle: Ask him
once more to go with you to your house, my lord. He's beginning to
mad. Kent is speaking to Gloucester only.]
GLOUCESTER: Canst thou blame him? [Storm
His daughters seek his death. Ah! that good
He said it would be thus, poor banish’d man!
. . . man: Ah! Kent, you poor banished man, you said it would be
Thou sayst the king
grows mad; I’ll tell thee, friend,
I am almost mad myself. I had a son [Edgar,
disguised as Poor Tom],
Now outlaw’d from my blood; he sought my life [he
wanted to murder me],
But lately, very late; I lov’d him, friend,
No father his son dearer; true to tell thee, [Storm
The grief hath craz’d my wits. [The grief that he caused me
has made me a little mad.] What a night’s this!
I do beseech your Grace,—
LEAR: O! cry you mercy, sir. [Just be
quiet a moment.]
Noble philosopher, your company.
EDGAR: Tom’s a-cold.
GLOUCESTER: In, fellow, there, into the hovel: keep thee
LEAR: Come, let’s in all.
KENT: This way, my lord.
LEAR: With him;
I will keep still with my philosopher.
him . . . philosopher: I'll enter the hovel and keep company with
my philosopher, Poor Tom.]
KENT: Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the
. . . fellow: It's all right, Gloucester. Soothe the king. And let
him go inside with Poor Tom.]
GLOUCESTER: Take him you on. [All
right, Poor Tom can be with us.]
KENT: Sirrah [Edgar], come on; go along with
LEAR: Come, good Athenian.
GLOUCESTER: No words, no words: hush.
EDGAR: Child Rowland to the dark tower
Rowland: Roland as a youth.
Roland was a heroic knight in French literature who defended
against hostile forces. Although he was a real person (believed to
died in 778), he was romanticized and turned into a legend in
His word was still, Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
3, Scene 5
A room in GLOUCESTER’S
Enter CORNWALL and
CORNWALL: I will have my revenge ere [before] I depart his house.
EDMUND: How, my lord, I may be censured, that nature thus
to loyalty, something fears me to think of.
. . . think of: My lord, I fear
to think of how I will be censured (criticized or condemned) for
permitting my natural loyalty to my father to be overcome by
CORNWALL: I now perceive it was not altogether your
brother’s evil disposition made him seek his death;
but a provoking merit, set a-work by a reproveable badness in
now . . . in himself: I now
perceive that your brother, Edgar, had some justification for
your father's death. For your father has enough badness in him to
provoke attempts on his life.]
EDMUND: How malicious is my fortune, that I must repent to
This is the letter he spoke of, which approves him an intelligent
to the advantages of France. O heavens! that this treason were
not I the detector!
malicious . . . detector: How
unfortunate it is for me that my conscience compels me to expose
father. This is the letter he spoke of. It proves that he is a spy
France. O heavens! I wish I had not been the one to detect his
CORNWALL: Go with me to the duchess.
EDMUND: If the matter of this paper be certain, you have
mighty business in hand.
CORNWALL: True, or false, it hath made thee Earl of
out where thy father is, that he may be ready for our
apprehension. [Go tell your father that we plan to arrest
EDMUND: [Aside.] If I find him comforting the king, it
stuff his suspicion more fully. I will persever in my course of
loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my
find . . . my blood: If I find
my father doing service to the king, he will appear all the more
guilty. (Edmund spoke this thought under his breath so that
could not hear him. However, he speaks the rest of the line to
Cornwall.) I will persevere in my loyalty to you even though doing
will require me to act against my father.]
CORNWALL: I will lay trust upon thee; and thou shalt find a
dearer father in my love. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
3, Scene 6
A chamber in a farmhouse
adjoining the castle.
Enter GLOUCESTER, LEAR,
KENT, fool, and EDGAR.
GLOUCESTER: Here [this shelter] is better than the open
air; take it thankfully. I will piece out the comfort with what
addition I can [I will get things that will make
you more comfortable]: I will not be long from you.
KENT: All the power of his wits has given way to his
[Lear's mind has descended into madness, manifested here
The gods reward your kindness! [Exit
EDGAR: Frateretto calls me, and tells me Nero is an angler
lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul
. . . fiend: A devil named
Frateretto tells me that the evil Roman emperor Nero (birth, AD
death, AD 68) is fishing in hell's lake of darkness. Pray,
fool, and beware of the foul fiends of hell.]
FOOL: Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a
gentleman or a yeoman [farmer who works his own land;
servant of a member of nobility or royalty; attendant]!
LEAR: A king, a king!
FOOL: No; he’s a yeoman that has a gentleman to his son; for
a mad yeoman that sees his son a gentleman before
. . before him: No, he's a
yeoman with a gentleman as a son. Only a madman would allow his
become a gentleman before he, the father, did.]
LEAR: To have a
thousand with red burning spits
Come hizzing [hissing] in upon ’em,—
to have a thousand devils with burning spits come hissing in upon
my disloyal daughters]
EDGAR: The foul fiend bites my back.
FOOL: He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a
health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.
mad . . . oath: If a man trusts
that a wolf is tame, a horse is healthy, a young man's love is
or that a whore means what she says, he's mad.]
LEAR: It shall be done; I will arraign them straight.
shall . . . straight: I'll put my daughters on trial right now,
even though they are absent.]
[To EDGAR.] Come, sit thou here, most learned justicer [judge];
[To the Fool.] Thou, sapient [wise] sir, sit here. Now, you she
foxes: Lear compares his daughters to female foxes.]
EDGAR: Look, where he stands and glares! wantest thou eyes
at trial, madam?
. . . madam: Look, can't you see
where the devil stands and glares? Don't you want to see what's
happening at your trial?]
o’er the bourn [creek; brook;
stream], Bessy, to me,—
boat hath a leak [she's in her
EDGAR: The foul fiend haunts poor Tom in the voice of a
nightingale. Hopdance [name of a devil] cries in Tom’s belly for
two white herring. Croak
not, black angel; I have no food for thee.
And she must not speak
Why she dares not come over
KENT: How do you, sir? Stand you not so amaz’d [Don't
stand there like a statue]:
Will you lie down and rest upon the cushions?
LEAR: I’ll see their trial first. Bring in their
[To EDGAR.] Thou robed man of justice, take thy
[To the Fool.] And thou, his yoke-fellow of equity [colleague
of the courts; law partner],
Bench [sit] by his side. [To KENT.] You are o’ the
commission [you are also commissioned as a judge],
Sit you too.
EDGAR: Let us deal justly.
Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd? [Jolly
shepherd, are you asleep or awake? (The shepherd apparently is
neglecting his duty to observe and guard the sheep.)]
Thy sheep be in the corn [Your sheep are in the cornfield];
And for one blast of thy minikin [small; dainty] mouth [horn],
Thy sheep shall take no harm.
Purr! the cat is grey.
LEAR: Arraign her first; ’tis Goneril. I here take my oath
before this honourable assembly, she kicked the poor king her
FOOL: Come hither, mistress. Is your name
LEAR: She cannot deny it.
FOOL: Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool [wooden
LEAR: And here’s another [Regan], whose warp’d looks
What store her heart is made on [whose monstrous looks
proclaim the evil in her heart]. Stop her there!
Arms, arms, sword, fire! Corruption in the place [There's
disorder in the court]!
False justicer, why hast thou let her ’scape [escape]?
EDGAR: Bless thy five wits!
KENT: O pity! Sir, where is the patience
That you so oft have boasted to retain?
EDGAR: [Aside.] My tears begin to take his part so
They’ll mar my counterfeiting.
to himself so that no others can hear, Edgar says the tears he is
crying for Lear might wash away his disguise.]
LEAR: The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweet-heart, see, they bark at
EDGAR: Tom will throw his head at them. [Tom will
scare them away.]
Avaunt [begone; go away],
Be thy mouth or black or white,
Tooth that poisons if it bite;
[Tooth . . . bite: With teeth
that wound if they bite]
Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel
Hound or spaniel, brach [female
hound] or lym [dog on a
leash; dog used to chase down wild boar]
Or bobtail tike [dog with a
shortened tail] or trundle-tail [dog with a curled-up tail]
Tom will make them weep and wail:
For, with throwing thus my head,
Dogs leap the hatch, and all
[For . . . are fled: For, simply
by nodding his head at the dogs, he will make them jump up and
LEAR: Then let them anatomize [cut
see what breeds about
her heart. Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard
hearts? [To EDGAR.] You, sir, I entertain you for one
hundred; only I do not like the fashion of your garments: you will
they are Persian attire; but let them be changed.
Do de, de, de. Sessa
! Come, march to wakes
and fairs and market-towns. Poor Tom, thy horn is
[horn: Vessel beggars used to
store drinks donated to them.]
sir, I entertain . . . changed:
You sir can be one of my one hundred knights. But I don't like
clothes. You will say that they are fancy. But change them
KENT: Now, good my lord, lie here and rest
LEAR: Make no noise, make no noise; draw the [bed] curtains: so,
so, so. We’ll go to supper i’ the morning: so, so,
FOOL: And I’ll go to bed at noon.
GLOUCESTER: Come hither, friend: where is the king my
KENT: Here, sir; but trouble him not, his wits are
GLOUCESTER: Good friend, I prithee, take him in thy
I have o’erheard a plot of death upon him.
There is a litter ready; lay him in ’t,
And drive toward Dover, friend, where thou shalt
Both welcome and protection. Take up thy master:
If thou shouldst dally half an hour, his life,
With thine, and all that offer to defend him,
Stand in assured loss. Take up, take up;
And follow me, that will to some provision
Give thee quick conduct.
KENT: Oppress’d nature sleeps [The
abused king sleeps]:
This rest might yet have balm’d [soothed] thy broken sinews [stressed
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.— [Which . . . cure: But if you can't
continue sleeping now, you will probably continue to suffer
the fool.] Come, help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.
GLOUCESTER: Come, come,
away. [Exeunt KENT, GLOUCESTER, and the fool, bearing away
[Exeunt: The characters specified leave the stage.]
EDGAR: When we our betters see bearing our
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers
most i’ the mind ,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind;
we . . . behind: When we see our
betters enduring the same suffering that afflicts us, we think
our own miseries. But the person who suffers alone experiences the
greatest mental suffering as he recalls happy times.]
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king bow;
then . . . king bow: But a man
forgets about his suffering if he knows that others are suffering
the same way that he is. Misery loves company. Having company
pain, especially when the company is the king.]
He childed as I father’d! Tom, away!
childed . . . father'd: Lear
suffered because of what his children did. I suffer because of
father mistakenly thinks of me.]
Mark the high noises, and thyself bewray
When false opinion, whose wrong thought defiles
In thy just proof repeals and reconciles thee.
What will hap more to-night, safe ’scape the
Lurk, lurk. [Exit.
. . . king (A passage in which Edgar as Poor Tom speaks to
for the noises made by people chasing you. Reveal your true
only when you can disprove false charges against you. Whatever
happens tonight, I hope the king escapes safely.]
3, Scene 7
A room in GLOUCESTER’S
Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, GONERIL, EDMUND, and servants.
CORNWALL: Post speedily to my lord your husband [Albany];
show him this letter: the army of France is landed. Seek out the
traitor Gloucester. [Exeunt some of the
The characters specified leave the stage.]
REGAN: Hang him instantly.
GONERIL: Pluck out his eyes.
CORNWALL: Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our
sister [sister-in-law] company: the revenges we are bound to take upon your
traitorous father are not fit for your beholding. Advise the duke
where you are going, to a most festinate [speedy] preparation [for war]:
we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent
betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister: farewell, my Lord of Gloucester
[good-bye, Edmund, Lord of Gloucester].
How now? Where’s the king?
OSWALD: My Lord of Gloucester hath convey’d him
Some five or six and thirty of his knights,
Hot questrists [followers] after him, met him at
Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,
Are gone with him toward Dover, where they boast
To have well-armed friends.
CORNWALL: Get horses for
GONERIL: Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.
CORNWALL: Edmund, farewell. [Exeunt GONERIL, EDMUND,
The characters specified leave the stage.]
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him [shackle him; bind his hands] like a thief, bring him
before us. [Exeunt other servants.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
Though well we may not pass upon his life [may not
sentence him to death]
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame but not control. Who’s there? The
our . . . control: But I'll use my power to gain revenge in some
way. Men may blame me, but they won't control me.]
Re-enter servants, with GLOUCESTER.
REGAN: Ingrateful fox! ’tis he.
CORNWALL: Bind fast his corky [dry and
GLOUCESTER: What mean your Graces? Good my friends,
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends
CORNWALL: Bind him, I say. [Servants bind
REGAN: Hard, hard [Bind him tightly]. O filthy
GLOUCESTER: Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m
CORNWALL: To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt
find— [REGAN plucks his beard.
GLOUCESTER: By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly
To pluck me by the beard.
REGAN: So white, and such a traitor!
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my
Will quicken [come to life], and accuse thee: I am your
With robbers’ hands my hospitable favours
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?
CORNWALL: Come, sir, what letters had you late from
REGAN: Be simple-answer’d, for we know the
CORNWALL: And what confederacy [relationship;
have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?
REGAN: To whose hands have you sent the lunatic
GLOUCESTER: I have a letter guessingly set
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one oppos’d.
have . . . oppos'd: I received a
letter that speculated on the events involving England and France.
it came from a neutral observer, one who is not opposed to you.]
REGAN: And false.
CORNWALL: Where hast thou sent the king?
GLOUCESTER: To Dover.
REGAN: Wherefore [why] to Dover? Wast thou not
charg’d at peril [Weren't you ordered at peril to] —
CORNWALL: Wherefore to Dover? Let him answer
GLOUCESTER: I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the
course. [I am tied up and have no choice but to put up with
REGAN: Wherefore to Dover?
GLOUCESTER: Because I would not see thy cruel
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
. . . fangs: Because I did
not want to see you, Regan, pluck out his eyes. Nor did I want to
Goneril sink her boar-like teeth into his flesh.]
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endur’d, would have buoy’d
And quench’d the stelled fires;
sea . . . fires: During the
hellish storm he endured bareheaded in the black night, the sea
have pitied him and risen up to extinguish the fire of stars
dim rays on his plight.]
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to
. . . rain: Yet the poor old man cried tears that helped the
heavens to rain.]
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that dern [terrible] time [of the
Thou shouldst have said, ‘Good porter, turn the
All cruels else subscrib’d [in spite of the cruelty you
unleash upon others]: but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.
I shall . . . children: But I shall see the day when vengeance
takes its toll on Goneril and Regan.]
CORNWALL: See ’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.
GLOUCESTER: He that will think to live till he be
Give me some help! O cruel! O ye gods! [GLOUCESTER’S eye put
One side will mock another; the other too. [One eye will mock the
other, so gouge out his other eye.]
CORNWALL: If you see vengeance.—
FIRST SERVANT: Hold your hand, my lord:
I have serv’d you ever since I was a child,
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.
REGAN: How now, you dog! [How dare
you, you dog!]
FIRST SERVANT: If you did wear a beard upon your
I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?
you . . . mean: If you had a beard, I'd pull it. What do you mean
by treating Gloucester this way?]
CORNWALL: My villain! [Draws. [Calling
the servant a villain, Cornwall draws his sword.]
FIRST SERVANT: Nay then, come on, and take the chance of
anger. [Draws. They fight. CORNWALL is
REGAN: Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus!
[Takes a sword and runs at him behind.
FIRST SERVANT: O! I am slain. My lord, you have one eye
To see some mischief on him. O! [Dies.
CORNWALL: Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly! [Cornwall
puts out his other eye.]
Where is thy lustre now?
GLOUCESTER: All dark and comfortless. Where’s my son
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature
To quit this horrid act.
REGAN: Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call’st on him that hates thee; it was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us,
Who is too good to pity thee.
GLOUCESTER: O my follies! Then Edgar was
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!
REGAN: Go thrust him out at gates, and let him
His way to Dover. [Exit one with GLOUCESTER.] How is
’t, my lord? How look you?
CORNWALL: I have receiv’d a hurt. Follow me,
Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave [the dead
Upon the dunghill [pit on a livestock farm for the
storage of manure]. Regan, I bleed apace:
Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm. [Exit CORNWALL
led by REGAN.
SECOND SERVANT: I’ll never care what wickedness I
If this man come to good.
never . . . good: If Cornwall gets off scot free, I'll feel free
to commit any kind of wickedness.]
THIRD SERVANT: If she
And, in the end, meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.
she . . . monsters: If she lives
to an old age and dies of natural causes, then all women will turn
monsters if they want to extend their lifespan.]
SECOND SERVANT: Let’s follow the old earl [Gloucester], and get the Bedlam [get the
madman called Poor Tom]
To lead him where he would: his roguish madness
Allows itself to any thing.
THIRD SERVANT: Go thou; I’ll fetch some flax [plant
with healing properties], and whites of eggs,
To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him! [Exeunt
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 1
EDGAR: Yet better thus, and known to be
Than still contemn’d and flatter’d. To be worst,
The lowest and most dejected thing of fortune,
Stands still in esperance, lives not in fear:
better . . . fear: It's better
that people scorn me openly than scorn me behind my back while
flattering me in their presence. I may be the worst, the lowest,
the most dejected person in the world, but I still have hope
(esperance, line 6) and
do not live in fear.]
The lamentable change is from the best;
The worst returns to laughter. Welcome, then,
lamentable . . . laughter: The
worst kind of change is to go from being held in highest esteem to
being held in lowest esteem—or from being the happiest mortal to
unhappiest. But when you reach your lowest ebb, laughter buoys
Thou unsubstantial air that I embrace:
The wretch that thou hast blown unto the worst
Owes nothing to thy blasts. But who comes here?
wretch . . . blasts: I no longer
fear the stormy air that has blown me down to my present state,
am as low as I can go.]
Enter GLOUCESTER, led by an old man.
My father, poorly led? World, world, O world!
But that thy strange mutations make us hate
Life would not yield to age.
that . . . age: If life did not afflict us with infirmities
as the years pass, we would live on with fire and zest.]
OLD MAN: O my good lord!
I have been your tenant [tenant farmer, who rents land], and your father’s
These fourscore [eighty] years.
GLOUCESTER: Away, get thee away; good friend, be
Thy comforts [your kindness] can do me no good at all;
Thee they may hurt.
OLD MAN: You cannot see your way.
GLOUCESTER: I have no way, and therefore want no
I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen,
Our means secure us, and our mere defects
Prove our commodities. Ah! dear son Edgar.
oft . . . commodities:
Frequently it has been observed that having all our
and unmarred—makes us feel safe. However, it has also been
that having physical defects, such as my blindness, can awaken new
powers in us.]
The food of thy abused father’s wrath;
Might I but live to see thee in my touch,
I’d say I had eyes again.
food . . . again: I regret my
false accusations against my son Edgar. If I could live long
see him in the touch of my hands, I would say I have eyes again.]
OLD MAN: How now!
EDGAR: [Aside.] O gods! Who is ’t can say, ‘I am at
I am worse than e’er I was.
OLD MAN: ’Tis poor mad Tom.
EDGAR: [Aside.] And worse I may be yet; the worst is
So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’
worse . . . 'This is the worst':
So long as we have the wits to recognize our dire plight, which
worse than ever before, things could actually be worse.]
OLD MAN: Fellow, where goest?
GLOUCESTER: Is it a beggar-man?
OLD MAN: Madman and beggar too.
GLOUCESTER: He has some reason, else he could not
I’ the last night’s storm I such a fellow saw,
Which made me think a man a worm: my son
Came then into my mind; and yet my mind
Was then scarce friends with him: I have heard more
As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.
flies . . . sport: To the gods, we are like flies that boys swat
EDGAR: [Aside.] How should this be?
Bad is the trade that must play fool to sorrow,
Angering itself and others.—[To GLOUCESTER.] Bless thee,
should . . . master: What's
happening? What should I do? I don't like the idea of pretending
a foolish beggar to a sorrowful man.]
GLOUCESTER: Is that the naked fellow?
OLD MAN: Ay, my
GLOUCESTER: Then, prithee, get thee gone. If, for my
Thou wilt o’ertake us, hence a mile or twain,
I’ the way toward Dover, do it for ancient love;
And bring some covering for this naked soul
Who I’ll entreat to lead me.
prithee . . . lead me: Then run
off and get some proper clothing for this poor wretch, whom I'll
lead me to Dover.You can meet up with us a mile or two from here.]
OLD MAN: Alack [alas], sir! he is
GLOUCESTER: ’Tis the times’ plague, when madmen lead the
Do as I bid thee, or rather do thy pleasure;
Above the rest, be gone.
the . . . gone: It's typical of
the times we live in—that madmen lead the blind. Now do what I
Or, if you wish, go off and do what pleases you. In either case,
OLD MAN: I’ll bring him the best ’parel [apparel] that I
Come on ’t what will [whatever happens, good or ill].
GLOUCESTER: Sirrah, naked fellow,—
EDGAR: Poor Tom’s a-cold. [Aside.] I cannot daub
GLOUCESTER: Come hither, fellow.
EDGAR: [Aside.] And yet I must. Bless thy sweet eyes,
GLOUCESTER: Know’st thou the way to Dover?
EDGAR: Both stile and gate, horse-way and foot-path [I know
every landmark, road, and footpath]. Poor
Tom hath been scared out of his good wits: bless thee, good man’s
from the foul fiend [Satan]! Five fiends [devils] have been in [have
Tom at once; of
lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididance, prince of dumbness; Mahu, of
Modo, of murder; and Flibbertigibbet, of mopping and mowing [mocking;
possesses chambermaids and waiting-women. So, bless thee,
GLOUCESTER: Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens’
Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched
Makes thee the happier: heavens, deal so still!
take . . . so still: Here, take
the money in this purse, you who have been humbled beyond measure
the heavens. You are happier because I am wretched. I hope the
continue to deal out justice in that way.]
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man,
That slaves your ordinance, that will not see
Because he doth not feel, feel your power
So distribution should undo excess,
And each man have enough. Dost thou know Dover?
the . . . enough: Let the man who
has an overabundance of wealth and who lusts after women—a man who
treats your directions or commands with disdain and who does not
the suffering around him because he does not feel it—experience
pain of corrective measures so that he may share his wealth with
EDGAR: Ay, master.
GLOUCESTER: There is a cliff, whose high and bending
Looks fearfully in the confined deep;
Bring me but to the very brim [edge] of it,
And I’ll repair the misery thou dost bear [I'll
With something rich about me; from that place
I shall no leading need.
EDGAR: Give me thy arm:
Poor Tom shall lead thee. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 2
Before the DUKE OF
Enter GONERIL and EDMUND.
GONERIL: Welcome, my lord; I marvel our mild
Not met us on the way. [Enter OSWALD.] Now, where’s
OSWALD: Madam, within; but never man so
I told him of the [French] army that was
He smil’d at it: I told him you were coming;
His answer was, ‘The worse’ [she'll make things worse]. Of
And of the loyal service of his son,
When I inform’d him, then he call’d me sot,
And told me I had turn’d the wrong side out:
What most he should dislike seems pleasant to
What like, offensive.
Gloucester's . . . offensive: After I informed him of Gloucester's
treachery and the loyal service of Edmund, he called me a drunkard
said I had things all wrong. What he should scorn seems pleasant
to him. What he should like offends him.]
GONERIL: [To EDMUND.] Then, shall you go no
It is the cowish terror of his spirit
That dares not undertake; he’ll not feel wrongs
Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the
May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother;
shall . . . brother: Then stop
here, Edmund. Don't go in. My husband is a coward who refuses to
undertake risk. He thinks no one can condemn him for something
he didn't do. On our way here, we talked about things we could do
that would be to our credit. What I want you to do now, Edmund,
is to go back to my brother-in-law, Cornwall.]
Hasten his musters and conduct his powers:
I must change arms at home, and give the distaff
Into my husband’s [Albany's] hands. This trusty
Shall pass between us; ere long you are like to
If you dare venture in your own behalf,
A mistress’s command. Wear this; spare speech; [Giving a
Decline your head: this kiss, if it durst speak,
Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.
Conceive, and fare thee well.
. . . thee well: Assemble his
soldiers. Meanwhile, I'll change duties at home with my husband.
manage the women's chores, and I'll do the men's. This trusted
(Oswald) will carry messages between us. Before long, if you are
to serve me on your own behalf, you will receive orders from me.
this token as a symbol of our relationship. Don't speak. Instead,
your head for a kiss. If this kiss could speak, it would elevate
spirits into the air. Think about what I say, and farewell.]
EDMUND: Yours in the ranks of death. [I will
serve you even if it means I must sacrifice my life.]
GONERIL: My most dear Gloucester! [Exit EDMUND.
Goneril refers to Edmund
as Gloucester, as if Edmund's father has already died and Edmund
inherited his father's title and property.]
O! the difference of man and man!
To thee a woman’s services are due:
My fool usurps my bed.
the . . . bed: O, the difference
between you, Edmund—a real man—and my husband, Albany. You deserve
love and attention. Right now, a fool occupies my bed.]
here comes my lord. [Exit.
GONERIL: I have been worth the whistle. [I see
that you at long last are paying attention to me.]
ALBANY: O Gonerill
You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
Blows in your face. I fear your disposition:
That nature, which contemns its origin,
Cannot be border’d certain in itself;
She that herself will sliver and disbranch
From her material sap, perforce must wither
And come to deadly use.
nature . . . itself: That person
who rejects his or her family origin cannot be trusted. She who
cut off the branch connecting her to her family tree will, like
branch, wither and die.]
GONERIL: No more; the text is foolish. [Say no
more. Your words are foolish.]
ALBANY: Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem
Filths savour but themselves. [Vile people appreciate only
What have you done?
Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform’d?
. . . perform'd: You and Regan are tigers, not daughters. What
have you done?]
A father, and a gracious aged man,
Whose reverence the head-lugg’d bear would lick,
Most barbarous, most degenerate! have you
father . . . madded: You have
driven mad a father, a gracious old man, whose hand even an ornery
would lick. You are barbarous and degenerate!]
Could my good brother suffer you to do it?
A man, a prince, by him so benefited!
. . . . benefited: Could my
good brother-in-law, Cornwall—who has benefited from the king's
generosity—have allowed you to treat Lear as you have?]
If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
It will come,
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep.
that . . . deep: If the
heavens do not immediately send down their wrath on you, it will
eventually. Humans who prey on other humans are evil; they are
monsters from the ocean depths.]
GONERIL: Milk-liver’d man!
That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honour from thy suffering; that not
Fools do those villains pity who are punish’d
Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy
France spreads his banners in our noiseless
With plumed helm thy slayer begins threats,
Whilst thou, a moral fool, sitt’st still, and
‘Alack! why does he so?’
. . . does he so:
Coward! While you turn the other cheek, you fail to
see the difference between receiving honor and receiving
blows. Only fools pity villains who are punished before they
their crimes. Why aren't you beating your war drum against France?
now, French armies are flying their banners in England. Wearing
helmets, the French soldiers threaten you. Meanwhile, you simply
there and wonder why the French have come to England.]
ALBANY: See thyself, devil!
Proper deformity seems not in the fiend
So horrid as in woman.
. . . woman: Look at yourself, devil! Evil in a woman seems more
horrifying than evil in a demon from hell.]
GONERIL: O vain fool!
ALBANY: Thou changed and self-cover’d thing, for
Be-monster not thy feature. Were ’t my fitness
changed . . . feature: How shameful it is that you have turned
yourself into a beast, making your features monstrous.]
To let these hands obey my blood,
They are apt enough to dislocate and tear
Thy flesh and bones; howe’er thou art a fiend,
A woman’s shape doth shield thee.
GONERIL: Marry, your manhood.—Mew!
. . . Mew: By the Virgin Mary, cast off your useless manhood.]
Enter a messenger.
ALBANY: What news?
MESSENGER: O! my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s
Slain by his servant, going to put out
The other eye of Gloucester.
ALBANY: Gloucester’s eyes!
MESSENGER: A servant that he bred, thrill’d with
remorse [filled with sympathy for Gloucester],
Oppos’d against the act, bending his sword
To his great master [Cornwall]; who, thereat
Flew on him, and amongst them fell’d him dead;
. . . dead: Attacked and killed the servant]
But not without that harmful stroke, which since
Hath pluck’d him after.
not . . . after: But not without suffering a harmful stroke from
the servant's sword. Cornwall later died.]
ALBANY: This shows you are above,
You justicers, that these our nether crimes
So speedily can venge! But, O poor Gloucester!
shows . . . venge: His death
shows that the heavens above rain down their just punishment for
crimes we commit in this lower world.]
Lost he his other eye?
MESSENGER: Both, both, my
This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer;
’Tis from your sister.
GONERIL: [Aside.] One way I like this
being widow, and my Gloucester [Edmund] with her,
May all the building in my fancy pluck
Upon my hateful life: another way,
This news is not so tart. [To messenger.] I’ll read
and answer. [Exit.
way . . . tart (Spoken to
herself): In one respect, I like the fact that Cornwall is dead.
don't like the idea that Regan, now a widow, is with Edmund. If
are attracted to each other, I can forget about building a new
with Edmund. In another respect, this news is not so bad.]
ALBANY: Where was his son [Edmund] when they did take his
MESSENGER: Come with my lady hither. [He was
coming here with Regan.]
ALBANY: He is not
MESSENGER: No, my good lord; I met him back
ALBANY: Knows he the wickedness? [Does he
know about the wickedness committed against old Gloucester, his
MESSENGER: Ay, my good lord; ’twas he inform’d against him,
[it was Edmund who informed against his own father,]
And quit [left] the house on purpose that their
Might have the freer course.
ALBANY: Gloucester [old Gloucester], I live
To thank thee for the love thou show’dst the
And to revenge thine eyes. Come hither, friend:
Tell me what more thou knowest. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 3
The French camp, near
Enter KENT and a gentleman.
KENT: Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back know
you the reason?
GENTLEMAN: Something he left imperfect in the state, which
coming forth is thought of; which imports to the kingdom so much
and danger, that his personal return was most required and
. . . necessary: He
remembered unfinished business in France, business so important
had to return to his country.]
KENT: Who hath he left behind him general?
GENTLEMAN: The Marshal of France, Monsieur la
KENT: Did your letters pierce the queen to any demonstration
. . . grief: Did your letters to Queen Cordelia about developments
in England cause her to grieve?]
GENTLEMAN: Ay, sir; she took them, read them in my
And now and then an ample tear trill’d [trickled] down
Her delicate cheek; it seem’d she was a queen
Over her passion; who, most rebel-like,
Sought to be king o’er her.
seem'd . . . o'er her: It seemed she had control over her
emotions, which—like rebels—tried to dominate her.]
KENT: O! then it [the news in the letter] mov’d
GENTLEMAN: Not to a rage; patience and sorrow
Who should express her goodliest. You have seen
Sunshine and rain at once; her smiles and tears
Were like a better way; those happy smilets
a rage . . . smilets: She was not in a rage. Patience vied with
sorrow in her heart over which would reveal
her best intentions. She was like a sunshower, but her smiles and
tears were more beautiful. Those happy little smiles]
That play’d on her ripe lip seem’d not to know
What guests were in her eyes; which parted
As pearls from diamonds dropp’d. In brief,
guests . . . dropp'd: That tears were in her eyes, tears that fell
like pearls from diamonds.]
Sorrow would be a rarity most belov’d,
If all could so become it.
KENT: Made she no verbal question?
GENTLEMAN: Faith, once or twice she heav’d the name of
Pantingly forth, as if it press’d her heart;
Cried, ‘Sisters! sisters! Shame of ladies!
Kent! father! sisters! What, i’ the storm? i’ the
Let pity not be believed!’ ["This news is hard to believe."] There
The holy water from her heavenly eyes,
And clamour-moisten’d, then away she started
Loud cries of sorrow brought on the tears that moistened
To deal with grief alone.
KENT: It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions;
Else one self mate and mate could not beget
Such different issues. You spoke not with her
stars . . . issues: The stars
above—fate—govern what happens on earth. What other way can we
explain how a mother and father produced such different
that are devils and one that is a saint.]
KENT: Was this before the king return’d? [before
the French king returned home to conduct urgent business]
GENTLEMAN: No, since.
KENT: Well, sir, the poor distress’d Lear’s i’ the
Who sometime, in his better tune, remembers
What we are come about, and by no means
Will yield to see his daughter.
. . . daughter: Well, sir, poor
King Lear is in Dover. Sometimes, when he regains his senses, he
remembers why he traveled here. However, he has so far refused to
GENTLEMAN: Why, good sir?
KENT: A sovereign [powerful; overwhelming] shame so elbows [overcomes] him: his own
That stripp’d her from his benediction [favor], turn’d [banished] her
To foreign casualties [uncertain life in foreign lands], gave her dear
To his dog-hearted daughters,—these things sting
His mind so venomously that burning shame
Detains him from Cordelia.
GENTLEMAN: Alack [alas]! poor
KENT: Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers [forces;
GENTLEMAN: ’Tis so, they are afoot.
KENT: Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master
And leave you to attend him. Some dear cause
Will in concealment [in my disguise] wrap me up
When I am known aright [when I reveal my true identity], you shall not
Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you, go
Along with me. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 4
The French camp, near
Enter with drum and colours [flag],
CORDELIA, physician, and soldiers.
CORDELIA: Alack [alas]! ’tis he [Lear]: why, he was met even
As mad as the vex’d sea; singing aloud;
Crown’d with rank fumiter and furrow weeds,
With burdocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
. . . Darnel: Types of weeds]
In our sustaining corn. A century [one
hundred soldiers] send forth;
Search every acre in the high-grown field,
And bring him to our eye. [Exit an
What can man’s wisdom
In the restoring his bereaved sense?
can . . . sense: Is there any man with enough knowledge to restore
He that helps him take all my outward worth.
PHYSICIAN: There is means, madam;
Our foster-nurse of nature is repose [sleep;
The which he lacks; that to provoke in him,
Are many simples operative, whose power
Will close the eye of anguish.
to . . . anguish: There are many herbal preparations available
that will put him to sleep.]
CORDELIA: All bless’d secrets,
All you unpublish’d virtues of the earth,
Spring with my tears! be aidant and remediate
In the good man’s distress! Seek, seek for him,
Lest his ungovern’d rage dissolve the life
That wants the means to lead it.
bless'd . . . lead it: All of you
blessed secrets of the earth—you herbs with virtues not widely
known—let me rain my tears on you to spring you to life. Aid and
my father in his distress. Physician, go get those herbs that will
relieve my father's ungoverned rage before it kills him.]
Enter a messenger.
MESSENGER: News, madam;
The British powers [troops] are marching hitherward [here].
CORDELIA: ’Tis known before [we have
already been informed of approach]; our preparation stands
In expectation of them. O dear father!
It is thy business that I go about; [I am
acting on behalf of your welfare]
Therefore great France
My mourning and important tears hath pitied,
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our ag’d father’s
. . . father's right:
Because of my tears and pity for my father, the great King of
my husband, ordered his armies to England. He does not want to
England; he simply wants to help my poor, aged father.]
Soon may I hear and see him! [Exeunt.
[Exeunt: Everyone leaves the stage.]
Act 4, Scene 5
A room in Gloucester's
Enter REGAN and OSWALD.
REGAN: But are my brother’s powers [brother-in-law's
OSWALD: Ay, madam.
REGAN: Himself [Albany] in person
OSWALD: Madam, with much ado:
Your sister is the better soldier.
REGAN: Lord Edmund spake not with your lord [Albany] at home?
OSWALD: No, madam.
REGAN: What might import [what says] my sister’s letter to
OSWALD: I know not, lady.
REGAN: Faith, he is posted hence on serious
It was great ignorance [stupid], Gloucester’s [old
eyes being out,
To let him live; where he arrives he moves
All hearts against us. Edmund, I think, is gone,
In pity of his [old Gloucester's] misery, to dispatch [end]
His nighted [blind] life; moreover, to descry [reconnoiter;
The strength o’ the enemy.
OSWALD: I must needs [I need to go] after him, madam, with my
REGAN: Our troops set forth to-morrow; stay with
The ways are dangerous.
OSWALD: I may not, madam;
My lady charg’d my duty in this business.
REGAN: Why should she write to Edmund? Might not
Transport her purposes by word? Belike [certainly;
Something—I know not what. I’ll love thee much,
Let me unseal the letter.
OSWALD: Madam, I had rather—
REGAN: I know your lady does not love her
I am sure of that: and at her late being here
She gave strange oeilliades [amorous glances] and most speaking
To noble Edmund. I know you are of her bosom. [I know
your are loyal to her and serve as a confidant.]
OSWALD: I, madam! [You think I am that close to her?]
REGAN: I speak in understanding; you are, I know
Therefore I do advise you, take this note:
My lord is dead; Edmund and I have talk’d,
And more convenient is he for my hand.
Than for your lady’s. You may gather more.
more . . . gather more: It's
better that Edmund marry me than marry Goneril. Think about it,
you'll reach the same conclusion.]
If you do find him, pray you, give him this [give him
this expression (perhaps a note, keepsake, or charm) of my
affection for him]
And when your mistress hears thus much [hears
about my feelings and intentions] from you,
I pray desire her call her wisdom to her:
pray . . . to her: Please ask her to be reasonable.]
So, fare you well.
If you do chance to hear of that blind traitor,
Preferment falls on him that cuts him off [on
anyone who murders him].
OSWALD: Would I could meet him, madam: I would
What party I do follow [where my loyalties lie].
REGAN: Fare thee well. [Exeunt.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 6
The country near Dover.
Enter GLOUCESTER and EDGAR, dressed like a peasant.
GLOUCESTER: When shall I come to the top of that same hill?
[top of the cliff?]
EDGAR: You do climb up it now; look how we
GLOUCESTER: Methinks the ground is even [level].
EDGAR: Horrible steep:
Hark! do you hear the sea?
GLOUCESTER: No, truly.
EDGAR: Why, then your other senses grow
By your eyes' anguish.
GLOUCESTER: So may it be, indeed.
Methinks thy voice is alter’d, and thou speak’st
In better phrase and matter than thou didst.
EDGAR: Y’are much deceiv’d; in nothing am I
But in my garments.
GLOUCESTER: Methinks you’re better spoken.
EDGAR: Come on, sir; here’s the place: stand
And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low [cast
one's eyes upon the sea far below]!
The crows and choughs [crow-like birds] that wing the midway
Show scarce so gross as beetles [look smaller than beetles
half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire [plant with tiny flowers; it
grows along a seacoast], dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice, and yond tall anchoring bark [ship]
Diminish’d to her cock [diminished to a small boat or
cock a buoy [floating object]
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber’d idle pebbles chafes [rages;
causes friction; rubs],
Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
. . . headlong: Lest my brain go haywire, impairing my vision and
causing me to topple headlong off the cliff]
GLOUCESTER: Set me where you stand.
EDGAR: Give me your hand; you are now within a
Of the extreme verge [edge]: for all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.
all . . . upright: If you gave me everything on earth, I would not
move a muscle.]
GLOUCESTER: Let go my hand.
Here, friend, ’s [is] another purse; in it a
Well worth a poor man’s taking: fairies and gods
Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.
EDGAR: Now fare you well, good sir.
GLOUCESTER: With all my heart.
EDGAR: Why I do trifle thus with his
Is done to cure it.
I . . . cure it (spoken to himself): I trifle with this old man
because I want to cure him of his suicidal despair.]
GLOUCESTER: O you mighty
This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off;
world . . . off: I hereby renounce the world and, with what I am
about to do, rid myself of my mental and physical pain.]
If I could bear it longer, and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff [candle wick of life] and loathed part of nature
[wrinkled old body] should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well. [He falls
EDGAR: Gone, sir: farewell.
[Aside.] And yet I know not how conceit may
The treasury of life when life itself
Yields to the theft; had he been where he
By this had thought been past. Alive or dead?
yet . . . dead: Edgar tricked
Gloucester into believing that he was standing on the edge of a
In fact, he was standing on the edge of an embankment a few feet
the ground. However, Edgar now worries that Gloucester's
line 54) made him think he did fall a great distance and suffer
mortal injuries. He wonders whether Gloucester is
alive or dead.]
[To GLOUCESTER.] Ho, you sir! friend! Hear you, sir?
Thus might he pass indeed [maybe he did die]; yet he revives [but he's
alive and recovering].
What are you, sir?
GLOUCESTER: Away and let me die.
EDGAR: Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers,
So many fathom down precipitating,
Thou’dst shiver’d like an egg; but thou dost
Hast heavy substance, bleed’st not, speak’st, art
thou . . . sound: Even if you
had been a spider web, a feather, or simply air, you would have
like an egg after falling such a distance. But you breathe, have a
intact, do not bleed, and speak. You are in sound health.]
Ten masts at each make not the altitude
Which thou hast perpendicularly fell:
masts . . . fell: The length of ten ship masts laid end to end
does not equal the height you fell.]
Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again.
GLOUCESTER: But have I fallen or no?
EDGAR: From the dread summit of this chalky bourn [cliff;
boundary between land and a precipice].
Look up a-height; the shrill-gorg’d lark so far [lark
making a high-pitched sound]
Cannot be seen or heard: do but look up.
GLOUCESTER: Alack [alas]! I have no
Is wretchedness depriv’d that benefit
To end itself by death? ’Twas yet some comfort,
When misery could beguile
the tyrant’s rage,
And frustrate his proud will.
wretchedness . . . death: Is a
wretch like me deprived of the right to kill himself? It was a
to me when I thought I could overcome my misery by ending my
EDGAR: Give me your arm:
Up: so. How is ’t? Feel you your legs? You
GLOUCESTER: Too well, too well.
EDGAR: This is above all strangeness.
Upon the crown o’ the cliff, what thing was that
Which parted from you?
. . . from you: Who was that who walked away from you at the top
of the cliff?]
GLOUCESTER: A poor unfortunate beggar.
EDGAR: As I stood here below methought his
Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
Horns whelk’d and wav’d like the enridged
. . . sea: Had horns resembling those of a sea snail. On the snail
shell were ridges that reminded me of ocean waves.]
It was some fiend [devil]; therefore, thou happy
Think that the clearest gods, who make them
Of men’s impossibilities, have preserv’d thee.
. . . thee: Therefore, it
seems to me that the gods think you have great possibilities and,
that reason, decided to save your life.]
GLOUCESTER: I do remember now; henceforth [from now
Affliction till it do cry out itself
‘Enough, enough,’ and die. That thing you speak
I took it for a man; often ’twould say
‘The fiend, the fiend:’ he led me to that place.
EDGAR: Bear free and patient thoughts. But who comes
Enter LEAR, fantastically dressed with flowers.
The safer sense will ne’er accommodate
His master thus.
safer . . . thus: A sensible man would never dress himself that
LEAR: No, they cannot touch me for coining [making
I am the king himself.
EDGAR: O thou side-piercing sight!
. . sight: Edgar expresses pity
for Lear. It is possible that he is comparing Lear to Christ. On
cross, Christ was pierced in the side with a spear.]
LEAR: Nature’s above art in that respect. There’s your
press-money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper: draw
clothier’s yard. Look, look! a mouse. Peace, peace! This piece of
toasted cheese will do ’t. There’s my gauntlet; I’ll prove it on a
up the brown bills. O! well flown, bird; i’ the clout, i’
the clout: hewgh! Give the word.
. . . give the word: Nature is superior to art in inflicting
injury, including a side-piercing
one. Here, soldier, is your money for being pressed into military
service. Did you notice how that fellow handles a bow? He must be
amateur. Draw the bowstring back a yard, as measured by a maker
seller of clothing. Look, a mouse. But don't get excited. This
toasted cheese will attract and trap him. Now, then, I'm throwing
my gauntlet to announce my willingness to fight a giant. (A
was a glove usually overlaid with metal for protection in battle.
Throwing down a gauntlet was a sign
that one man challenged another man to a fight.) Bring forward
the infantrymen carrying brown bills (halberds, weapons consisting
spear-like shaft topped with an ax and a spike). O! There's a
well-shot arrow. It struck its target. Tell me what the password
EDGAR: Sweet marjoram.
LEAR: Pass. [That's right. You may pass.]
GLOUCESTER: I know that voice.
LEAR: Ha! Goneril, with a white beard! Ha, Regan? They
like a dog, and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere [before] the black
ones were there. [They told me my white hairs
signified wisdom.] To say ‘ay’ and ‘no’ to everything I said! ‘Ay’ and
‘no’ too was no good divinity. [They said yes or no to
everything I said, but those were dishonest answers.] When the rain came to
wet me once and
the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace [cease] at my
bidding, there I found ’em [there I discovered their evil
I smelt ’em out [there I smelled out their
to, they are not
men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie, I
GLOUCESTER: The trick of that voice I do well
Is ’t not the king?
LEAR: Ay, every inch a
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
. . . quakes: When I stare at a subject, he shakes in fear.]
I pardon that man’s life. What was thy cause?
Thou shalt not die: die for adultery! No:
The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation [sexual relations] thrive; for Gloucester’s
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got ’tween the lawful sheets.
. . . sheets: Who were conceived in a lawful marriage bed]
To ’t luxury,
pell-mell! [So go to it, you lustful ones, full speed
ahead.] For I
Behold yound [yonder] simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks [legs] presageth [forecasts;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure’s name;
face . . . name: Lear says the
woman's face pretends to reflect a cold or deadened sexual drive
"between her forks," or legs. Because she wants to appear
shakes a no with her head to sexual pleasure.]
The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to ’t
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above:
fitchew . . . above: But no
animals, such as the polecat (fitchew,
line 125) and the horse, engage in sexual
relations with a greater appetite than that woman does. Below
waist, such women are lustful. Above their waist, they are
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiends’:
There’s hell, there’s
darkness, there is the sulphurous pit,
Burning, scalding, stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!
me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination:
there’s money for thee.
to . . . for thee: But we inherit
virtue only in the upper part of the body, above the waist. Below
waist are deviltry and sin. Down there are hell, darkness, and a
pit. Burning, scalding, stench, consumption of the body are
the horrors of hell. Give me some perfume or love potion, good
druggist, to sweeten my dreams. There's your payment.]
GLOUCESTER: O! let me kiss that hand!
LEAR: Let me wipe it first; it smells of
GLOUCESTER: O ruin’d piece of nature! This great
Shall so [likewise] wear out to nought [nothing; ruin]. Dost thou know
LEAR: I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou
squiny at me? [Do you look at me like a
prostitute who wants to seduce me?] No, do thy worst, blind
Cupid; I’ll not love. Read thou this
challenge [letter]; mark but the penning [handwriting] of it.
GLOUCESTER: Were all the letters suns, I could not
EDGAR: [Aside.] I would not take this from report; it
And my heart breaks at it.
would . . . at it: I would not
believe what I'm seeing if I had not witnessed it myself. But what
seeing is really taking place, and my heart is breaking.]
GLOUCESTER: What! with the case [sockets] of eyes?
LEAR: O, ho! are you there with me? No eyes in your head,
nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your
in a light: yet you see how this world goes. [Lear is
suggesting that Gloucester wants to be paid to read the letter.]
GLOUCESTER: I see it feelingly. [I see it
with my emotions and sense of touch.]
LEAR: What! art mad? A man may see how this world goes
with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond [yonder] justice rails upon yon
simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy,
which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a
bark at a beggar?
how yond . . . beggar: Listen to how a
judge scolds a simple thief. If the judge changes places with the
thief, could you tell them apart? Have you ever seen a farmer's
bark at a beggar?]
GLOUCESTER: Ay, sir.
LEAR: And the creature [beggar] run from the cur [dog]? There thou
mightst behold the great image of authority; a dog’s obey’d in
office [people obey a dog when it asserts its authority].
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
rascal . . . cozener: You
supposed man of the church [beadle,
line 148], stop lashing that whore. You yourself
should be whipped for punishing her for the same offense that you
commit. The greedy moneylender hangs the swindler—that is, one
unprincipled man punishes another unprincipled man.]
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
tatter'd . . . hurtless
breaks: It's easy to see the vices of a poor man through the
in his ragged clothes. What I'm saying is that a poor man lacks
wealth and power to hide his wrongdoing. On the other hand, those
wear robes and furred gowns have the wherewithal to hide their
If you cover sin with gold, justice thinks the sin is virtue.]
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw doth pierce it.
it . . . pierce it: But if you dress sin in ragged clothes, a mere
straw can pierce the clothes.]
None does offend, none, I say none; I’ll able ’em [I'll
attest to that fact]:
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal the accuser’s lips. Get thee glass eyes;
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now,
Pull off my boots; harder, harder; so.
EDGAR: [Aside.] O! matter and impertinency
Reason in madness!
matter . . . madness (speaking to himself): O! His words mix wise
and silly sayings. He has wisdom in his madness!]
LEAR: If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my
I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester:
Thou must be patient; we came crying hither:
Thou know’st the first time that we smell the air [You know
that when we are born]
We waul [wail] and cry. I will preach to thee: mark.
GLOUCESTER: Alack! [alas!] alack the
LEAR: When we are born, we cry that we are
To this great stage of fools [to this earth, which is
nothing but a great stage of fools]. This a good
It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
A troop of horse with felt; I’ll put it in
And when I have stol’n upon these sons-in-law,
Then, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!
a good . . . kill: That's a good
hat. Why not cover horseshoes with felt? I'll put this idea to the
test. And after I mount my horse, I'll clip-clop silently to my
sons-in-law, then kill them!]
Enter gentleman, with attendants.
GENTLEMAN: O! here he is; lay hand upon him [restrain
Your most dear daughter—
LEAR: No rescue? What! a prisoner? I am
The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
You shall have ransom. Let me have surgeons;
I am cut to the brains.
rescue . . . brains: Am I now a prisoner with no hope of rescue? I
always seem to be a fool of ill fortune. Treat me well, and you
a ransom. Now, I need surgeons to repair my damaged brain.]
GENTLEMAN: You shall have any thing.
LEAR: No seconds? All myself? [Is there
no one to support me? Must I stand alone against you?]
Why this would make a man a man of salt,
To use his eyes for garden water-pots,
Ay, and laying autumn’s dust.
this . . . dust: Why, this turn
of events would make a man cry salty tears to water his garden and
down the autumn dust .]
GENTLEMAN: Good sir,—
LEAR: I will die bravely as a bridegroom. What!
will . . . bridegroom: I will die
bravely in the same way that a bridegroom dies to the world when
mates with his bride for the first time.]
I will be jovial: come, come; I am a king,
My masters, know you that?
GENTLEMAN: You are a royal one, and we obey
LEAR: Then there’s life in it. Nay, an you get it, you
shall get it by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa. [Exit.
there's . . . sa: Then my life goes on. If you want me, you'll
have to run after me. Sa, sa, sa, sa.]
GENTLEMAN: A sight most pitiful in the meanest
Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one
Who redeems nature from the general curse
Which twain have brought her to.
sight . . . her to: This sight
would be most pitiful in the lowest of men. But in a king it is
description! You have a daughter (Cordelia) who thwarts the curse
that her two sisters have brought upon the world.]
EDGAR: Hail, gentle sir!
GENTLEMAN: Sir, speed you: what’s your
EDGAR: Do you hear aught [anything], sir, of a battle toward [about to
GENTLEMAN: Most sure and vulgar; every one hears that [hears of
Which can distinguish sound.
EDGAR: But, by your favour,
How near’s the other army?
GENTLEMAN: Near, and on speedy foot; the main descry
Stands on the hourly thought.
main . . . thought: We expect to see the main force of the enemy
army any moment now.]
EDGAR: I thank you, sir: that’s all.
GENTLEMAN: Though that the queen on special cause is
Her army is mov’d on.
that . . . on: The queen is here for a special reason, and her
army is marching on.]
EDGAR: I thank you,
sir. [Exit gentleman.
GLOUCESTER: You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from
Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
To die before you please!
. . . please: You ever-gentle gods, kill me before my spirit
tempts me again to commit suicide!]
EDGAR: Well pray you, father [pray
well, old man].
GLOUCESTER: Now, good sir, what are you?
EDGAR: A most poor man, made tame to [brought
Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand,
I’ll lead you to some biding.
by . . . biding: By experiencing
great sorrow myself, I am full of pity for those who have also
suffered. Give me your hand. I'll lead you to a safe place to bide
The bounty and the benison of heaven
To boot, and boot!
bounty . . . boot: I wish you the greatest bounty and blessing
that heaven can bestow.]
OSWALD: A proclaim’d prize! Most happy!
That eyeless head of thine was first fram’d
To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
Briefly thyself remember: the sword is out
That must destroy thee.
proclaim'd . . . thee: Why, I've
come upon the traitor Gloucester! He's a great prize. If I kill
will raise my fortunes. Gloucester, my sword is out to destroy
GLOUCESTER: Now let thy friendly hand
Put strength enough to ’t. [EDGAR
let . . . to 't: You're a friend,
for you want to give me what I want: death. Put plenty of strength
behind the thrust of your sword. Edgar steps between Gloucester
OSWALD: Wherefore [why], bold
Dar’st thou support a publish’d traitor? Hence;
Lest that infection of his fortune take
Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.
. . . Why, bold peasant,
are you protecting a well-known traitor? You'd better get going
the misfortune that infects him infects you too. Let go of his
EDGAR: Chill not let go, zur, without vurther
. . . 'casion: Edgar, still
disguised as a ragged beggar, speaks in a country dialect, saying
will not let go of Gloucester unless Oswald gives him a reasonable
explanation for his command.]
OSWALD: Let go, slave, or thou diest.
EDGAR: Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor volk pass.
An chud ha’ bin zwaggered out of my life [If I
could be talked to death by your threats], ’twould not ha’ bin zo
as ’tis by a vortnight [I would have died a fortnight (two
Nay, come not near th’ old man; keep out, che
vor ye [I warn you], or ise [I will] try whether your costard [literally,
used here as a synonym for head] or my ballow [walking
stick with a knob on the end; cudgel] be the harder.
Chill be plain with you. [I mean what I say.]
OSWALD: Out, dunghill!
EDGAR: Chill pick your teeth, zur. Come; no matter vor your
foins. [They fight and EDGAR knocks him
. . . foins: I'll knock out
your teeth, sir. Come on. I don't care if you use your sword.
fight, and Edgar strikes a mortal blow that knocks Oswald to the
OSWALD: Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters which thou find’st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloucester; seek him out
Upon the English party: O! untimely death.
EDGAR: I know thee well: a serviceable
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress [Goneril]
As badness would desire.
GLOUCESTER: What! is he dead?
EDGAR: Sit you down, father; rest you.
Let’s see his pockets: these letters that he speaks
May be my friends. He’s dead; I am only sorry
He had no other death's-man [no other man to kill him]. Let us
Leave, gentle wax [the wax seal on the letter]; and, manners, blame us
To know our enemies’ minds, we’d rip their
Their papers, is more lawful.
know . . . lawful: To know what
our enemies are thinking, we would rip their hearts if we had no
way to get information from them. But learning their intentions
letters is more civil.]
reads the letter.
our reciprocal vows be remembered. You have many
opportunities to cut him off; if your will want not, time and
will be fruitfully offered. There is nothing done if he return the
conqueror; then am I the prisoner, and his bed my gaol [jail]; from the
loathed warmth whereof deliver me, and supply the place for your
Your—wife, so I would say—
[Let our . . . say—: Let's make
we keep the promises we made to each other. You will have many
opportunities to kill Albany at the right time and place. But if
returns as a conqueror, I will become a prisoner, and his bed
my jail. Please deliver me from the loathed warmth of that bed
take his place in that same bed.
Your affectionate servant and future wife,
O undistinguish’d space [space without limit] of woman’s
A plot upon her virtuous husband’s life,
And the exchange my brother [and replacing him with
in the sands,
Thee I’ll rake up, the post unsanctified
Of murderous lechers; and in the mature time
With this ungracious paper strike the sight
Of the death-practis’d duke. For him ’tis well
That of thy death and business I can tell.
in the sands . . . can tell: I'll rake sand over the body of
Oswald, the unholy messenger (post
unsanctified, line 263)
who served murderous lechers. When the time is right, I will show
letter to Albany. It's a good thing I found out about the plot
GLOUCESTER: The king is mad: how stiff is my vile
That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling
Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract:
So should my thoughts be sever’d from my griefs,
And woes by wrong imaginations lose
The knowledge of themselves. [Drums afar
king is . . . themselves: The
king has lost his mind. I wish I could go mad too, but my senses
me a sane man who feels his acute sorrows. If I were insane,
my thoughts would not center on my griefs. Griefs do not register
the minds of the mad.]
EDGAR: Give me your hand:
Far off, methinks, I hear the beaten drum.
Come, father, I’ll bestow you with a friend.
Everyone leaves the stage.]
4, Scene 7
tent in the French camp.
Enter CORDELIA, KENT, DOCTOR, and gentleman.
CORDELIA: O thou good Kent! how shall I live and
To match thy goodness? My life will be too
And every measure fail me.
thou . . . fail me: Good Kent, how
can I live and work to be as good as you are? In the end, every
would fail me; my life would be too short to achieve such a lofty
KENT: To be acknowledg’d, madam, is o’erpaid [to be
praised by you, madam, is to be overpaid].
All my reports go with the modest truth,
Nor more nor clipp’d, but so.
my . . . but so: I prefer that all the reports about me tell the
simple truth without exaggeration.]
CORDELIA: Be better suited:
These weeds are memories of those worser hours:
I prithee, put them off.
better . . . off: Change into more
appropriate clothes. These rags you wear as a disguise are a
of earlier troubles. Please remove them.]
KENT: Pardon me, dear madam;
Yet to be known shortens my made intent:
My boon I make it that you know me not
Till time and I think meet.
to . . . meet: I can't remove
these rags just yet. To reveal myself now would give away the plot
against our enemies. But I will take them off when the time
CORDELIA: Then be ’t so, my good lord.—[To the
Doctor.] How does the king?
DOCTOR: Madam, sleeps still.
CORDELIA: O you kind gods,
Cure this great breach in his abused nature [cure
this great madness which afflicts his abused nature!]
The untun’d and jarring senses, O! wind up
Of this child-changed father!
untun'd . . . father: Restore his senses and change him back from
a child to a father.]
DOCTOR: So please your majesty
That we may wake the king? he hath slept long.
CORDELIA: Be govern’d by your knowledge, and
I’ the sway of your own will. Is he array’d [Is he
arrayed in his royal garments]?
Enter LEAR in his chair, carried by servants.
GENTLEMAN: Ay, madam; in the heaviness of
We put fresh garments on him.
DOCTOR: Be by, good madam, when we do awake
I doubt not of his temperance.
doubt . . . temperance: I believe he will remain calm.]
CORDELIA: Very well. [Music.
DOCTOR: Please you, draw near. Louder the music
CORDELIA: O my dear father! Restoration,
Thy medicine on my lips, and let this kiss
Repair those violent harms that my two sisters
Have in thy reverence made!
. . . made: I hope that
kissing you will restore you to health and repair the injuries my
sisters inflicted on you.]
KENT: Kind and dear princess!
CORDELIA: Had you not been their father, these white flakes
Had challeng’d pity of them [would have challenged them
to pity you].
Was this a face
To be expos’d against the warring winds?
To stand against the deep dread-bolted thunder?
In the most terrible and nimble stroke
Of quick cross lightning? to watch—poor perdu! [poor
lost man; poor hopeless man]—
With this thin helm [with thinning hair as your only
protection against the storm]? Mine enemy’s dog,
Though he had bit me, should have stood that
Against my fire. And wast thou fain, poor
To hovel thee with swine and rogues forlorn,
In short and musty straw? Alack, alack!
enemy's . . . alack: I would
have taken in my enemy's dog, even if it had bitten me, and let
by the fireplace. And were you willing, poor father, to shelter
yourself in a straw hut with swine and rogues? Alas, alas!]
’Tis wonder that thy
life and wits at once
Had not concluded all. He wakes; speak to him.
wonder . . . all: It's a wonder that your ordeal didn't result in
the loss of your life.]
DOCTOR: Madam, do you [talk to him]; ’tis
CORDELIA: How does my royal lord? How fares your
LEAR: You do me wrong to take me out o’ the
. . . grave: You do me wrong to bring me back from the dead;]
Thou art a soul in
bliss [heaven]; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead.
CORDELIA: Sir, do you know me?
LEAR: You are a spirit, I know; when did you
Still, still, far wide. [Speaking to the doctor, Cordelia says her
father still has a troubled mind.]
DOCTOR: He’s scarce awake; let him alone
LEAR: Where have I been? Where am I? Fair day-light? [Is it
day or night?]
I am mightily abus’d. [People mistreat me.] I should even die with
To see another [to see another person undergoing
what I am]. I
know not what to say.
I will not swear these are my hands: let’s see;
I feel this pin prick. Would I were assur’d
Of my condition!
CORDELIA: O! look upon me, sir,
And hold your hands in benediction [in a
No, sir, you must not kneel.
LEAR: Pray, do not
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you and know this man [Kent];
Yet I am doubtful: for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is, and all the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.
CORDELIA: And so I am, I am.
LEAR: Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray, weep
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.
you have poison . . . have not: I
deserve no less than to be poisoned by you. I wronged you even
you were innocent, so there is no reason that you should love me.
sisters treated me badly, but you did not. You have every reason
to hate me.]
CORDELIA: No cause, no cause. [I have
no cause to hate you.]
LEAR: Am I in France?
KENT: In your own
LEAR: Do not abuse [deceive] me.
DOCTOR: Be comforted, good madam; the great
You see, is kill’d in him; and yet it is danger
To make him even o’er the time he has lost [to make
him try to understand the time he has lost].
Desire him to go in; trouble him no more
Till further settling [till his mind settles and he
becomes more like his old self].
CORDELIA: Will ’t please your highness
LEAR: You must bear with me.
Pray you now, forget and forgive: I am old and foolish.
[Exeunt LEAR, CORDELIA, doctor, and attendants.
[Exeunt: The characters specified leave the stage.]
GENTLEMAN: Holds it true, sir, that the Duke
Cornwall was so slain?
KENT: Most certain, sir.
GENTLEMAN: Who is conductor of his people [Who is
commanding his troops]?
KENT: As ’tis said, the bastard son of
GENTLEMAN: They say Edgar, his banished son, is with the
of Kent in Germany. [Kent is still in disguise.]
KENT: Report is changeable [questionable]. ’Tis time to look about;
the powers of the kingdom [the English troops] approach
GENTLEMAN: The arbitrement [battle] is like to be bloody. Fare
you well, sir. [Exit.
KENT: My point and period will be throughly
Or well or ill, as this day’s battle’s fought.
point . . . fought: My plans and my own safety will depend, for
better or worse, on the outcome of today's fighting.]
5, Scene 1
The British camp near
Enter, with drum and colours [flag],
EDMUND, REGAN, officers, soldiers, and others.
EDMUND: Know of the duke if his last purpose
Or whether since he is advis’d by aught
To change the course; he’s full of alteration
And self-reproving; bring his constant pleasure. [To an
officer, who goes out.
of . . . pleasure: Find out
whether the Duke of Albany's last decision remains in effect or
he has changed his mind. He tends to vacillate, going back and
whether his decision is right or wrong. After you learn of his
come back and report them to me.]
REGAN: Our sister’s man is certainly miscarried.
sister's . . . miscarried: I
wonder what happened to Oswald, my sister's servant? Some
must have prevented him from being here.]
EDMUND: ’Tis to
be doubted, madam.
. . . madam: I agree. I doubt that he will come.]
REGAN: Now, sweet lord,
You know the goodness I intend upon you:
Tell me, but truly, but then speak the truth,
Do you not love my sister?
EDMUND: In honour’d love. [Yes, in an honorable way.]
REGAN: But have you never found my brother’s
To the forefended place?
have . . . place: But have you never found your way to the
forbidden place, her bed?]
EDMUND: That thought abuses you. [That
thought is not worthy of you; that thought debases you.]
REGAN: I am doubtful that you have been
And bosom’d with her, as far as we call hers.
doubtful . . . hers: I'm just wondering whether you have been
intimate with her.]
EDMUND: No, by mine honour, madam.
REGAN: I never shall endure her: dear my
Be not familiar with her.
EDMUND: Fear me not.
She and the duke her husband [Goneril and her husband have
Enter with drums and colours, ALBANY, GONERIL, and soldiers.
GONERIL: [Aside.] I had rather lose the battle than
Should loosen [come between] him [Edmund] and me.
ALBANY: Our very loving sister, well be-met [welcome].
this I heard, the king is come to his daughter,
With others; whom the rigour of our state
Forc’d to cry out. Where I could not be honest
I never yet was valiant: for this business,
It toucheth us, as France invades our land,
Not bolds the king, with others, whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.
king is . . . oppose: King Lear
has come to his daughter. Other Englishmen have come here as well.
Their purpose is to protest the strictness with which I conduct
affairs of state. But I am simply following common sense and the
dictates of my conscience. I was never valiant—that is,
successful—when I could not be honest and honorable. As for the
business at hand, I strongly oppose the presence of French troops
English soil. I do so not because they support Lear or other
with just grievances against our government.]
EDMUND: Sir, you speak nobly.
REGAN: Why is this reason’d? [Why are
we wasting time talking on this subject?]
GONERIL: Combine together ’gainst the
For these domestic and particular broils
Are not the question here.
. . . here: Let's unite our forces to fight the French. Domestic
quarrels are not an issue here.]
ALBANY: Let’s then
With the ancient of war on our proceeding.
. . . proceeding: Let's then
confer with our ancients (experienced generals and other seasoned
commanders) to determine how to proceed.]
EDMUND: I shall attend [meet with] you presently [in a
at your tent.
REGAN: Sister, you’ll go with us [Regan
REGAN: ’Tis most convenient; pray you, go with
. . . with us: It would be best
if you go with us. (Regan does not want Goneril to be alone, even
few moments, with Edmund.)]
GONERIL: [Aside.] O, ho! I know the riddle [know
[Aloud.] I will go.
Enter EDGAR, disguised.
EDGAR: If e’er [ever] your Grace had speech with
man so poor,
Hear me one word.
ALBANY: I’ll overtake
you. Speak. [Exeunt EDMUND, REGAN, GONERIL, officers,
The characters specified leave the stage.]
overtake . . . Speak: As Edmund, Regan, Goneril, and others leave,
Albany tells them that he will catch up with them.]
EDGAR: Before you fight the battle, ope [open] this
If you have victory, let the trumpet sound
For him that brought it: wretched though I seem,
I can produce a champion that will prove
What is avouched there. [Edgar found the letter on Oswald.
It tells of the plan to murder Albany.] If you
Your business of the world hath so an end,
And machination ceases [and all your plans will be for
Fortune love you!
ALBANY: Stay till I have read the letter.
EDGAR: I was forbid it.
When time shall serve, let but the herald cry,
And I’ll appear again.
ALBANY: Why, fare thee well: I will o’erlook [look
paper. [Exit EDGAR.
EDMUND: The enemy’s in view; draw up your powers [troops].
gives Albany a message.]
Here is the guess of their true strength and
By diligent discovery; but your haste
Is now urg’d on you.
ALBANY: We will greet the time. [I'll be
ready to engage the enemy when the time comes.] [Exit.
EDMUND: To both these sisters have I sworn my
Each jealous [wary; suspicious] of the other, as the
Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take?
Both? one? or neither? Neither can be enjoy’d
If both remain alive: to take the widow [Regan]
Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril;
And hardly shall I carry out my side [and
hardly can I take Goneril],
Her husband being alive. Now then, we’ll use
His countenance for the battle; which being done
Let her who would be rid of him devise
His speedy taking off. As for the mercy
Which he intends to Lear,
and to Cordelia,
The battle done, and they within our power,
Shall never see his pardon; for my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate. [Exit.
then . . . to debate: Now then,
I'll use Albany to win the battle. Afterward, I'll let the sister
most wants to get rid of him devise a plan to kill him. As for the
mercy he intends for Lear and Cordelia—that is, his plan to spare
from harm after the battle—I'll see that they never get a pardon.
defender of the English state, I must stand strong. This is not a
matter for debate.]
5, Scene 2
A field between the two
Alarum within [battle sounds offstage]. Enter, with drum and
colours [flag], LEAR,
their forces; and exeunt. Enter EDGAR and GLOUCESTER.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
EDGAR: Here, father, take the shadow of this
For your good host; pray that the right may
If ever I return to you again,
I’ll bring you comfort.
father . . . thrive: Here, old
man, let the shadow of this tree be your host (that is, let the
of this tree shelter you). Pray that our armies win the battle.]
GLOUCESTER: Grace go with you, sir! [Exit
Alarum; afterwards a retreat. Re-enter EDGAR.
EDGAR: Away, old man! give me thy hand:
King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en [taken].
Give me thy hand; come on.
GLOUCESTER: No further, sir; a man may rot even
EDGAR: What. In ill thoughts again? Men must
Their going hence [away from a place], even as their coming
hither [to a place]: [Meaning: Men cannot choose when to
die any more than they can choose when to be born.]
Ripeness is all [We die when we are ripe for death,
although we don't know ahead of time when we'll be ripe.] Come on.
GLOUCESTER: And that’s true too.
[Exeunt: Everyone leaves the stage.]
5, Scene 3
The British camp, near
Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours [flag], EDMUND; LEAR and
CORDELIA, prisoners; officers, soldiers, &c.
EDMUND: Some officers take them away: good
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure them.
officers . . . censure them: We
need some officers to take them away. Guard them well until we
what their punishment will be.]
CORDELIA: We are not the first
Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.
are . . . worst: We are not the first persons whose best
intentions produced the worst outcome.]
For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false Fortune’s
Shall we not see these daughters and these
thee . . . sisters: I am cast
down for you, my oppressed father. I worry not for myself but for
If only I were involved, I would simply wait until bad luck (Fortune's frown, line 9) turns into good luck.
Shall we not see Goneril and Regan?]
LEAR: No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon ’s [upon us] the mystery of
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sets of great ones
That ebb and flow by the moon.
. . . moon: While great rulers and leaders come and go like the
ebb and flow of the moon]
EDMUND: Take them away.
LEAR: Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught
. . . thee: The gods bless you, Cordelia, for all the sacrifices
you have made. Have I embraced you?]
He that parts us shall bring a brand from
And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
that . . . foxes: Nothing can part
us except a firebrand from heaven that chases us from our den like
hunters chasing foxes.]
The goujeres [venereal disease] shall devour them [anyone
who parts us],
flesh and fell [skin],
they shall make us weep: we’ll see ’em starve
Come. [Exeunt LEAR and CORDELIA, guarded.
The characters specified leave the stage.]
EDMUND: Come hither, captain; hark,
Take thou this note; [Giving a paper.] go follow them
One step I have advanc’d thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes; know thou this, that men
Are as the time is; to be
Does not become a sword; thy great employment
Will not bear question; either say thou’lt do
Or thrive by other means.
step . . . other means: I have
already promoted you. If you carry out my instructions faithfully,
will receive even greater rewards. Know this: that the times we
require you to be stalwart and strong, like a sword, not
Be aware that you may not question the wisdom of your task. Either
yes to it or find other means of livelihood.]
OFFICER: I’ll do ’t, my lord.
EDMUND: About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
Mark,—I say, instantly,
and carry it so
As I have set it down.
. . . it down: Then go about
your task. Be satisfied with your work when you complete the job.
without delay and follow the instructions I have written down.]
OFFICER: I cannot draw a cart nor eat dried
If it be man’s work I will do it. [Exit.
Flourish [Music, usually played by trumpets, heralding
the entrance of royals, nobles, or other important people]. Enter ALBANY,
GONERIL, REGAN, officers, and attendants.
ALBANY: Sir, you have show’d to-day your valiant
And fortune led you well; you have the captives
Who were the opposites of this day’s strife;
have . . . strife: You have taken captives from the opposite
We do require them of you, so to use them
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.
to . . . determine: So that we may treat them according to their
merits without jeopardizing our safety.]
EDMUND: Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention, and appointed guard;
Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
And turn our impress’d lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the queen;
My reason all the same; and
they are ready
To-morrow, or at further space, to appear
Where you shall hold your session. At this time
I thought . . . session: Sir, I
thought it fit to imprison, under guard, the old and miserable
was worried that his supposed wisdom as an old man and his royal
might be enough to lure commoners, including citizens and
his cause. I sent his daughter Cordelia, the Queen of France, with
to prison. They are ready to appear tomorrow or later for a public
We sweat and bleed; the friend hath lost his
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs’d
By those that feel their sharpness;
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.
sweat . . . fitter place: Our men
sweat and bleed from the battle. Friend has lost friend. Our
soldiers curse war even though our cause was just in waging it. We
a better place to decide what to do with Cordelia and Lear.]
ALBANY: Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.
. . . brother: Sir, I regard you as an underling who should not
REGAN: That’s as we list to grace him:
. . . him: It's up to me to decide his status.]
Methinks our pleasure
might have been demanded,
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy may well stand up,
And call itself your brother.
. . . brother: I think you
should have consulted me before you spoke so ill of him. Consider
that he led our troops into battle and carried out my orders. I
he deserves the right to be regarded as your equal.]
GONERIL: Not so hot;
In his own grace he doth exalt himself
More than in your addition.
so . . . addition: You're so
passionate about this matter because you want us to think you
role in his success. The truth is, he exalted himself on his own
merits. He doesn't need your praise, and we don't need to hear how
represented your "place and person" (line 74) on the battlefield.]
REGAN: In my
By me invested, he compeers the best.
my . . . best: I'm the one who
invested him with a battlefield commission. It was in my name that
fought and earned the right to be recognized as one of the best of
GONERIL: That were the most, if he should husband you. [He would
certainly be your tool if he married you.]
REGAN: Jesters do oft prove prophets.
. . . prophets: Your statement, spoken in jest, could actually
foretell what's to come: the marriage of Edmund and me.]
GONERIL: Holla, holla! [Hold up;
not so fast]
That eye that told you so look’d but a-squint.
eye . . . a-squint: That eye that told you so must have distorted
REGAN: Lady, I am not well; else I should
From a full-flowing stomach. General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine;
Witness the world, that I create thee here
My lord and master.
. . . master: Goneril, I'm not
feeling well. If I were, I
would thrash you verbally. Edmund, take my soldiers, prisoners,
inheritance. Do what you want with them—and with me—without any
that limit your power. As the world is my witness, you are now my
GONERIL: Mean you to enjoy him? [Are you
planning to go to bed with him?]
The let-alone lies not in your good will.
[Goneril, it is not within
your rights to approve or disapprove of Regan's or Edmund's
EDMUND: Nor in thine, lord.
fellow, yes. [Yes it is, you bastard.]
REGAN: [To EDMUND.] Let the drum strike, and prove my
title thine. [Let the drum strike to signal a duel for me
between you and a challenger.]
ALBANY: Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest
On capital treason [offense punishable by execution]; and, in thy
This gilded serpent. [Pointing to GONERIL.] For your
claim, fair sister [fair sister-in-law, Regan],
I bar it in the interest of my wife;
’Tis she is sub-contracted ['tis she who is engaged] to this
And I, her husband, contradict your bans [forbid
you to marry Edmund].
If you will marry, make your love to me,
My lady is bespoke [pledged to marry Edmund].
interlude! [Nonsense! They must be putting on
ALBANY: Thou art arm’d, Gloucester [Edmund]; let the trumpet sound
If none appear to prove upon thy person
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge; [Throws down a glove.] I’ll prove
it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
Than I have here proclaim’d thee.
none . . . thee: If no one appears
to testify to your treasonous activities, I will challenge you to
duel. There, I throw down my glove. (Throwing down a glove was a
that one man challenged another man to a fight. The glove—or
as it was called—was often overlaid with metal for protection in
battle. Some gauntlets were made of thick leather or fabric.]
REGAN: Sick! O sick! [O, I think I'm sick.]
[Aside.] If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine. [If
you're not sick,
Goneril says to herself, I'll never again put my trust in deadly
potions. (Goneril apparently has given Regan a poisonous drink).]
EDMUND: There’s my exchange: [Throws down a
glove.] [By throwing down his gauntlet, Edmund accepts
Albany's challenge.] What in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.
in . . . firmly: Whoever calls
me a traitor is a liar. Sound the trumpet. Anyone who dares to
me will face my sword as I defend my honor.]
ALBANY: A herald, ho! [Call
forth a herald to read a proclamation.]
EDMUND: A herald, ho! a
ALBANY: Trust to thy single virtue; for thy
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.
to . . . discharge: You must rely only on yourself. Your soldiers
REGAN: My sickness grows upon me.
ALBANY: She is not well; convey her to my tent. [Exit
Come hither, herald,
Enter a herald.
Let the trumpet sound,—
And read out this.
OFFICER: Sound, trumpet! [A trumpet
HERALD: If any man of quality or degree within the lists of
the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester,
he is a manifold traitor, let him appear at the third sound of the
trumpet. He is bold in his defence.
EDMUND: Sound! [First
HERALD: Again! [Second
HERALD: Again! [Third trumpet.
[Trumpet answers within [offstage].
Enter EDGAR, armed, with a trumpet before him.
ALBANY: Ask him his purposes, why he
Upon this call o’ the trumpet.
HERALD: What are you?
Your name? your quality? and why you answer
This present summons?
EDGAR: Know, my name is lost;
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
. . . canker-bit: Know that Edmund's treason gnawed away and
ruined my good name.]
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope [deal with].
ALBANY: Which is that
EDGAR: What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of
EDMUND: Himself: what sayst thou to him?
EDGAR: Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice; here is mine:
Behold, it is the privilege of mine
My oath, and my profession: I protest,
my speech. . . profession: If I am wrongly
accusing you, draw you sword and let it give you justice. Here is
my sword, which
represents my honor, my good word, and my profession as a knight.]
Maugre [in spite of] thy strength, youth, place [rank], and eminence [renown
as a warrior],
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
. . . traitor: Despite your
battlefield success, your good luck, your courage, and your high
emotions, I declare that you are a traitor.]
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
Conspirant ’gainst [conspiring enemy of] this high illustrious
And, from the extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted [poisonous] traitor. Say thou ‘No,’ [If you
deny these charges]
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
EDMUND: In wisdom I should ask thy name;
But since thy outside looks so fair and
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes [and
since you speak like someone with good breeding],
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn;
safe . . . spurn: What the rules
of knighthood would allow me to do—refuse to fight a man whose
do not know—I disdain and spurn.]
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely
This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!
[Alarums. They fight. EDMUND falls.
do . . . for ever: I toss your
accusations back to you. May your lies stop the beating of your
But what you say against me scarcely bruises me. Nevertheless, my
shall silence your tongue.]
ALBANY: Save him, save him!
GONERIL: This is practice,
By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish’d,
But cozen’d and beguil’d.
is . . . begui'd: This is
a trick, Edmund. By the laws of knighthood, you were not bound to
a man not known to you. You are not conquered, but deceived and
ALBANY: Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it. Hold, sir;
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil:
No tearing, lady; I perceive you know it. [Gives the letter
with . . . you know it: Or with
this letter I'll cover your mouth. You, Edmund—you who are more
than any other man—read of your evil in this letter. And don't
the letter, lady. I realize you know what's in it.]
GONERIL: Say, if
I do, the laws are mine, not thine:
Who can arraign me for ’t? [Exit.
if . . . for 't: What if I do tear it up? You can't arrest me. I'm
the one who rules here.]
Know’st thou this paper?
. . . paper: Most monstrous Edmund, do you recognize this letter?]
EDMUND: Ask me not what I know.
Go after her [Go after Goneril, who has exited (line 184)]: she’s
desperate; govern her. [Exit an officer.
EDMUND: What you have charg’d me with, that have I
And more, much more; the time will bring it out:
’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou [Edgar]
That hast this fortune on me? [who have brought me ill
fortune by defeating me]. If thou’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.
EDGAR: Let’s exchange charity [forgiveness].
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
If more, the more thou hast wrong’d me.
. . . wrong'd me: I have as much nobility in my blood as you do,
Edmund. Maybe more. If I have more, you have wronged me.]
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us:
of . . . plague us: And use our faults to plague us]
The dark and vicious place where thee he got
Cost him his eyes.
adultery he committed that resulted in your birth ultimately cost
him his eyes.]
EDMUND: Thou hast spoken right, ’tis true;
The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
ALBANY: Methought thy very gait did
A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee:
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father.
. . . father: I thought
that the dignified way you carried yourself suggested you were of
blood. I must embrace you. Let sorrow break my heart if I ever
you or your father.]
EDGAR: Worthy prince, I know ’t.
ALBANY: Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?
EDGAR: By nursing them, my lord. List [listen
to] a brief
And, when ’tis told, O! that my heart would burst [and when
I've told the tale, my heart will surely break],
The bloody proclamation to escape
That follow’d me so near,—O! our lives’
That we the pain of death would hourly die
Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags, to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain’d: and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
heir precious stones new lost; became his guide,
Led him, begg’d for him, sav’d him from despair;
bloody proclamation . . .
from despair: I ran off to escape the bloody proclamation that
condemned me to death and to lose the pursuers following me so
because we value the sweetness of life, we are willing to endure
peril every hour rather than face death. To survive this ordeal, I
disguised myself in rags to assume the likeness of a lowly beggar
even dogs despised. In this disguise, I happened upon my father,
had bloody rings around his empty eye sockets. I guided him along
paths, begged for him, and saved him from killing himself out of
Never,—O fault!—reveal’d myself unto him,
Until some half hour past, when I was arm’d;
. . . arm'd: I never revealed
my true identity to him—and that was a fault—until a half-hour
when I was wearing armor.]
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask’d his blessing, and from first to last
Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw’d heart,—
Alack! too weak the conflict to support;
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
sure . . . smilingly: Not sure
whether I was doing the right thing, but hoping for success, I
for his blessing. Then I told him everything that happened to me
the time I was condemned. But his weak heart gave out because he
not withstand either the joy of reuniting with me or the grief of
that had come to pass.]
EDMUND: This speech of yours hath mov’d
And shall perchance do good; but speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.
ALBANY: If there be more, more woeful, hold it
For I am almost ready to dissolve [cry;
Hearing of this.
EDGAR: This would have seem’d a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity.
would . . . extremity:
This would have seemed to be a time to focus on love, not sorrow.
Moreover, another account of sorrow would be going overboard. (But
Edgar recites the account anyway, in the following lines.]
Whilst I was big in clamour came there a man,
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn’d my abhorr’d society; but then, finding
Who ’twas that so endur’d, with his strong arms
He fasten’d on my neck, and bellow’d out
As he’d burst heaven; threw him on my father;
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear receiv’d; which in recounting
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack: twice then the trumpet sounded,
And there I left him tranc’d.
I . . . him tranc'd: While I
was bemoaning my fate, sobbing loudly, a man appeared. Seeing the
I was wearing, he at first shunned me. But then, after finding out
about me, he threw his arms around my neck, cried out, and threw
himself on my father (Gloucester). Then he told a piteous tale
himself and Lear. In telling the tale, he exhibited powerful
heartstrings were beginning to break. After a trumpet sounded
left this man, who was in a trance.]
ALBANY: But who was this?
EDGAR: Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent; who in
Follow’d his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.
did . . . slave: And served the king with more duty and humility
than a slave]
Enter a gentleman, with a bloody knife.
GENTLEMAN: Help, help! O help!
EDGAR: What kind of help?
ALBANY: Speak, man.
EDGAR: What means that bloody knife?
GENTLEMAN: ’Tis hot, it
It came even from the heart of—O! she’s dead.
ALBANY: Who dead? speak, man.
GENTLEMAN: Your lady [Goneril], sir, your lady: and her
By her [Goneril] is poison’d; she confesses it.
EDMUND: I was contracted [engaged] to them both: all three [of us]
Now marry in an instant.
three . . . instant: Death will marry all three of us]
EDGAR: Here comes Kent.
ALBANY: Produce the bodies, be they alive or
This judgment of the heavens, that makes us
Touches us not with pity. [Exit gentleman.
O! is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.
KENT: I am
To bid my king and master aye good-night;
Is he not here?
ALBANY: Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the king? and where’s
Seest thou this object, Kent? [The bodies of GONERIL and
are brought in.
KENT: Alack! why thus?
EDMUND: Yet Edmund was belov’d:
The one the other poison’d for my sake,
And after slew herself.
ALBANY: Even so. Cover their faces.
EDMUND: I pant for life [I am dying]: some good I mean to
Despite of mine own nature [my inclination to do evil]. Quickly
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time.
my . . . in time: For I have written an order to execute Lear and
ALBANY: Run, run! O run!
EDGAR: To whom, my lord? Who has the office?
Thy token of reprieve.
whom have you given the power of execution? Send to this person a
sign proving that you are canceling the death sentence.]
EDMUND: Well thought on: take my sword,
Give it the captain.
ALBANY: Haste thee, for thy life. [Exit
EDMUND: He hath commission from my wife and
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.
[He hath . . . fordid herself: The captain has orders to hang
in her place of confinement, then do whatever is necessary to make
look as if she killed herself.]
ALBANY: The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.
[EDMUND is borne off.
Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms; EDGAR, officer, and
LEAR: Howl, howl, howl, howl! O! you are men of
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vaults should crack. She’s gone for
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
. . . she lives: Howl, you men
of stones. Cry for Cordelia. If I had your tongues and eyes, I
send up a complaint that would make the vault of heaven crack.
dead. But lend me a mirror to double-check whether a breath of
remains in her. If the mirror mists when held to her mouth, it
she still breathes.]
KENT: Is this the
promis’d end? [Is this the end of the world?]
EDGAR: Or image of that horror? [Or an
image of the horror that's to come?]
ALBANY: Fall and cease [Is the whole world to end]?
LEAR: This feather stirs [from her breath]; she lives! if it be
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.
KENT: [Kneeling.] O, my good master!
LEAR: Prithee, away.
EDGAR: ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
LEAR: A plague upon you, murderers, traitors
I might have sav’d her; now, she’s gone for
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is ’t thou sayst? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a hanging thee.
. . hanging thee: I killed your executioner.]
Off. ’Tis true, my lord, he did.
LEAR: Did I not, fellow? [I did, didn't I? How about
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion [short
sword with a broad blade]
I would have made them skip [jump and dance]: I am old
And these same crosses [of old age] spoil me. Who are
Mine eyes are not o’ the best: I’ll tell you
KENT: If fortune brag of two she lov’d and
One of them we behold [I am the unlucky—or
LEAR: This is a dull sight. Are you not
KENT: The same,
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius [the name
Kent used while in disguise]?
LEAR: He’s a good fellow, I can tell you
He’ll strike, and quickly too. He’s dead and
KENT: No, my good lord; I am the very man—
LEAR: I’ll see that straight [I'll
understand, but tell me more].
KENT: That, from your first of difference and
Have follow’d your sad steps.
LEAR: You are welcome hither [here].
KENT: Nor no man else [no one else followed you as
I did]; all’s
cheerless, dark, and deadly:
Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves [have
brought about their own demises],
And desperately are dead.
LEAR: Ay, so I think.
ALBANY: He knows not what he says, and vain it
That we present us to him.
knows . . . to him: I don't think he understands what he is
saying. Therefore, it is useless to try to converse with him.]
EDGAR: Very bootless [useless].
Enter an officer.
Off. 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
. . . come: What comfort we can give the king to relieve his
Shall be applied: for us [me], we [I] will
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power:—[To EDGAR and KENT.] You, to your
rights [all your rights—including properties and titles—will
With boot [gains; advantages; reparations; amends] and such addition as your
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 [my poor Cordelia] is hang’d! No, no, no
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more [You will
not come to me anymore],
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button [please undo this button for me]: thank you,
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there! [Dies. [King
EDGAR: He faints!—my lord, my lord!
KENT: Break, heart; I prithee, break [My heart
EDGAR: Look up, my lord [spoken to Lear in an attempt
to arouse him].
KENT: Vex not his ghost: O! let him pass; he hates
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
EDGAR: He is gone,
KENT: The wonder is he hath endur’d so
He but usurp’d his life [he cheated death for a little
extra time on earth].
ALBANY: Bear them from hence [here]. Our present
Is general woe. [To KENT and EDGAR.] Friends of my
soul, you twain [two]
Rule in this realm, and the gor’d state sustain.
. . . sustain: And make sure our troubled country survives]
KENT: I have a journey, sir, shortly to
My master calls me, I must not say no.
have . . . say no: The end of my life is near. King Lear calls out
for me to join him. I must not say no.]
ALBANY: The weight of this sad time we must
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most [has suffered the most]: we that are
Shall never see so much [so much suffering], nor live so long.
[Exeunt, with a dead march.
Everyone leaves the stage.]