Act 5 Scene 3

Scene 3

[Enter in conquest, with Drum and Colors, Edmund;
Lear and Cordelia as prisoners; Soldiers, Captain.]

 Some officers take them away. Good guard
 Until their greater pleasures first be known
 That are to censure them.

CORDELIA , [to Lear]   We are not the first
[5]  Who with best meaning have incurred the worst.
 For thee, oppressèd king, I am cast down.
 Myself could else outfrown false Fortune’s frown.
 Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?

 No, no, no, no. Come, let’s away to prison.
[10]  We two alone will sing like birds i’ th’ 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 laugh
 At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
[15]  Talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too—
 Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out—
 And take upon ’s the mystery of things,
 As if we were God’s spies. And we’ll wear out,
 In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
[20]  That ebb and flow by th’ moon.

EDMUND   Take them away.

 Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,

 The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught
[25]  He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven
 And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.
 The good years shall devour them, flesh and fell,
 Ere they shall make us weep. We’ll see ’em starved
[30]  Come.
[Lear and Cordelia exit, with Soldiers.]

EDMUND  Come hither, captain. Hark.
[Handing him a paper.]
 Take thou this note. Go follow them to prison.
 One step I have advanced thee. If thou dost
 As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
[35]  To noble fortunes. Know thou this: that men
 Are as the time is; to be tender-minded
 Does not become a sword. Thy great employment
 Will not bear question. Either say thou ’lt do ’t,
 Or thrive by other means.

[40]CAPTAIN   I’ll do ’t, my lord.

 About it, and write “happy” when th’ hast done.
 Mark, I say, instantly, and carry it so
 As I have set it down.

 I cannot draw a cart, nor eat dried oats.
[45]  If it be man’s work, I’ll do ’t. [Captain exits.]

[Flourish. Enter Albany, Goneril, Regan, Soldiers and a

ALBANY , [to Edmund] 
 Sir, you have showed today your valiant strain,
 And Fortune led you well. You have the captives
 Who were the opposites of this day’s strife.
 I do require them of you, so to use them
[50]  As we shall find their merits and our safety
 May equally determine.

EDMUND  Sir, I thought it fit
 To send the old and miserable king
 To some retention and appointed guard,
[55]  Whose age had charms in it, whose title more,
 To pluck the common bosom on his side
 And turn our impressed lances in our eyes,
 Which do command them. With him I sent the
[60]  My reason all the same, and they are ready
 Tomorrow, or at further space, t’ appear
 Where you shall hold your session. At this time
 We sweat and bleed. The friend hath lost his friend,
 And the best quarrels in the heat are cursed
[65]  By those that feel their sharpness.
 The question of Cordelia and her father
 Requires a fitter place.

ALBANY   Sir, by your patience,
 I hold you but a subject of this war,
[70]  Not as a brother.

REGAN   That’s as we list to grace him.
 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,
[75]  The which immediacy may well stand up
 And call itself your brother.

GONERIL   Not so hot.
 In his own grace he doth exalt himself
 More than in your addition.

[80]REGAN   In my rights,
 By me invested, he compeers the best.

 That were the most if he should husband you.

 Jesters do oft prove prophets.

GONERIL   Holla, holla!
[85]  That eye that told you so looked but asquint.

 Lady, I am not well, else I should answer
 From a full-flowing stomach.  [To Edmund.]
 Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony.
[90]  Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine.
 Witness the world that I create thee here
 My lord and master.

GONERIL   Mean you to enjoy him?

 The let-alone lies not in your goodwill.

 Nor in thine, lord.

ALBANY   Half-blooded fellow, yes.

REGAN , [to Edmund] 
 Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.

 Stay yet, hear reason.—Edmund, I arrest thee
 On capital treason; and, in thine attaint,
[100]  This gilded serpent.—For your claim, fair
 I bar it in the interest of my wife.
 ’Tis she is subcontracted to this lord,
 And I, her husband, contradict your banns.
[105]  If you will marry, make your loves to me.
 My lady is bespoke.

GONERIL   An interlude!

 Thou art armed, Gloucester. Let the trumpet sound.
 If none appear to prove upon thy person
[110]  Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
 There is my pledge. [He throws down a glove.]
 I’ll make it on thy heart,
 Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less
 Than I have here proclaimed thee.

[115]REGAN  Sick, O, sick!

GONERIL , [aside]  If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.

 There’s my exchange. [He throws down a glove.]
 What in the world he is
 That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.
[120]  Call by the trumpet. He that dares approach,
 On him, on you, who not, I will maintain
 My truth and honor firmly.

 A herald, ho!

EDMUND   A herald, ho, a herald!

 Trust to thy single virtue, for thy soldiers,
 All levied in my name, have in my name
 Took their discharge.

REGAN   My sickness grows upon me.

 She is not well. Convey her to my tent.
[Regan is helped to exit.]

[Enter a Herald.]

[130]  Come hither, herald. Let the trumpet sound,
 And read out this. [He hands the Herald a paper.]

CAPTAIN  Sound, trumpet!
[A trumpet sounds.]

HERALD  [reads.] 

 If any man of quality or degree, within the lists of the
 army, will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of
[135]  Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him
 appear by the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in
 his defense.
[First trumpet sounds.]

HERALD  Again! [Second trumpet sounds.]

HERALD  Again! [Third trumpet sounds.]
[Trumpet answers within.]

[Enter Edgar armed.]

[140]ALBANY , [to Herald] 
 Ask him his purposes, why he appears
 Upon this call o’ th’ trumpet.

HERALD   What are you?
 Your name, your quality, and why you answer
 This present summons?

[145]EDGAR   Know my name is lost,
 By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit.
 Yet am I noble as the adversary
 I come to cope.

ALBANY   Which is that adversary?

 What’s he that speaks for Edmund, Earl of

 Himself. What sayest thou to him?

EDGAR   Draw thy sword,
 That if my speech offend a noble heart,
[155]  Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
[He draws his sword.]
 Behold, it is my privilege, the privilege of mine
 My oath, and my profession. I protest,
 Maugre thy strength, place, youth, and eminence,
[160]  Despite thy victor-sword and fire-new fortune,
 Thy valor, and thy heart, thou art a traitor,
 False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
 Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince,
 And from th’ extremest upward of thy head
[165]  To the descent and dust below thy foot,
 A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou “no,”
 This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
 To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
 Thou liest.

[170]EDMUND   In wisdom I should ask thy name,
 But since thy outside looks so fair and warlike,

 And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
 What safe and nicely I might well delay
 By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn.
[175]  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 bruise,
 This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
 Where they shall rest forever. Trumpets, speak!
[He draws his sword. Alarums. Fights.]
[Edmund falls, wounded.]

[180]ALBANY , [to Edgar] 
 Save him, save him!

GONERIL   This is practice, Gloucester.
 By th’ law of war, thou wast not bound to answer
 An unknown opposite. Thou art not vanquished,
 But cozened and beguiled.

[185]ALBANY   Shut your mouth, dame,
 Or with this paper shall I stopple it.—Hold, sir.—
 Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil.
 No tearing, lady. I perceive you know it.

 Say if I do; the laws are mine, not thine.
[190]  Who can arraign me for ’t?

ALBANY   Most monstrous! O!
 Know’st thou this paper?

GONERIL   Ask me not what I know.
[She exits.]

 Go after her, she’s desperate. Govern her.
[A Soldier exits.]

[195]EDMUND , [to Edgar] 
 What you have charged me with, that have I done,
 And more, much more. The time will bring it out.
 ’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
 That hast this fortune on me? If thou ’rt noble,
 I do forgive thee.

[200]EDGAR   Let’s exchange charity.
 I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;
 If more, the more th’ hast wronged me.
 My name is Edgar and thy father’s son.
 The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
[205]  Make instruments to plague us.
 The dark and vicious place where thee he got
 Cost him his eyes.

EDMUND   Th’ hast spoken right. ’Tis true.
 The wheel is come full circle; I am here.

[210]ALBANY , [to Edgar] 
 Methought thy very gait did prophesy
 A royal nobleness. I must embrace thee.

 Let sorrow split my heart if ever I
 Did hate thee or thy father!

EDGAR  Worthy prince, I know ’t.

[215]ALBANY  Where have you hid yourself?
 How have you known the miseries of your father?

 By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale,
 And when ’tis told, O, that my heart would burst!
 The bloody proclamation to escape
[220]  That followed me so near—O, our lives’ sweetness,
 That we the pain of death would hourly die
 Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
 Into a madman’s rags, t’ assume a semblance
 That very dogs disdained, and in this habit
[225]  Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
 Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,
 Led him, begged for him, saved him from despair.
 Never—O fault!—revealed myself unto him
 Until some half hour past, when I was armed.
 Not sure, though hoping of this good success,
 I asked his blessing, and from first to last
 Told him our pilgrimage. But his flawed heart
 (Alack, too weak the conflict to support)

 ’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
[235]  Burst smilingly.

EDMUND   This speech of yours hath moved me,
 And shall perchance do good. But speak you on.
 You look as you had something more to say.

 If there be more, more woeful, hold it in,
[240]  For I am almost ready to dissolve,
 Hearing of this.

EDGAR   This would have seemed a period
 To such as love not sorrow; but another,
 To amplify too much, would make much more
[245]  And top extremity. Whilst I
 Was big in clamor, came there in a man
 Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
 Shunned my abhorred society; but then, finding
 Who ’twas that so endured, with his strong arms
[250]  He fastened on my neck and bellowed out
 As he’d burst heaven, threw him on my father,
 Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
 That ever ear received, which, in recounting,
 His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
[255]  Began to crack. Twice then the trumpets sounded,
 And there I left him tranced.

ALBANY   But who was this?

 Kent, sir, the banished Kent, who in disguise
 Followed his enemy king and did him service
[260]  Improper for a slave.

[Enter a Gentleman with a bloody knife.]

 Help, help, O, help!

EDGAR   What kind of help?

ALBANY , [to Gentleman]   Speak, man!

EDGAR  What means this bloody knife?

 ’Tis hot, it smokes! It came even from the heart
 Of—O, she’s dead!

ALBANY  Who dead? Speak, man.

 Your lady, sir, your lady. And her sister
 By her is poisoned. She confesses it.

 I was contracted to them both. All three
 Now marry in an instant.

EDGAR   Here comes Kent.

[Enter Kent.]

ALBANY , [to the Gentleman] 
 Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead.
[Gentleman exits.]
 This judgment of the heavens, that makes us
[275]  tremble,
 Touches us not with pity. O, is this he?
  [To Kent.] The time will not allow the compliment
 Which very manners urges.

KENT   I am come
[280]  To bid my king and master aye goodnight.
 Is he not here?

ALBANY   Great thing of us forgot!
 Speak, Edmund, where’s the King? And where’s
[Goneril and Regan’s bodies brought out.]
[285]  Seest thou this object, Kent?

KENT  Alack, why thus?

EDMUND  Yet Edmund was beloved.
 The one the other poisoned for my sake,
 And after slew herself.

[290]ALBANY  Even so.—Cover their faces.

 I pant for life. Some good I mean to do

 Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send—
 Be brief in it—to th’ castle, for my writ
 Is on the life of Lear, and on Cordelia.
[295]  Nay, send in time.

ALBANY   Run, run, O, run!

 To who, my lord?  [To Edmund.] Who has the office?
 Thy token of reprieve.

 Well thought on. Take my sword. Give it the

EDGAR , [to a Soldier]  Haste thee for thy life.
[The Soldier exits with Edmund’s sword.]

EDMUND , [to Albany] 
 He hath commission from thy wife and me
 To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
[305]  To lay the blame upon her own despair,
 That she fordid herself.

 The gods defend her!—Bear him hence awhile.
[Edmund is carried off.]

[Enter Lear with Cordelia in his arms,
followed by a Gentleman.]

 Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
 Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
[310]  That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone
 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,
[315]  Why, then she lives.

KENT   Is this the promised end?

 Or image of that horror?

ALBANY   Fall and cease.

 This feather stirs. She lives. If it be so,
[320]  It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
 That ever I have felt.

KENT   O, my good master—

 Prithee, away.

EDGAR   ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.

 A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
 I might have saved her. Now she’s gone forever.—
 Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha!
 What is ’t thou sayst?—Her voice was ever soft,
 Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
[330]  I killed the slave that was a-hanging thee.

 ’Tis true, my lords, he did.

LEAR   Did I not, fellow?
 I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
 I would have made him skip. I am old now,
[335]  And these same crosses spoil me.  [To Kent.] Who
 are you?
 Mine eyes are not o’ th’ best. I’ll tell you straight.

 If Fortune brag of two she loved and hated,
 One of them we behold.

 This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?

KENT   The same,
 Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?

 He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that.
 He’ll strike and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.

 No, my good lord, I am the very man—

LEAR  I’ll see that straight.

 That from your first of difference and decay
 Have followed your sad steps.

LEAR   You are welcome
[350]  hither.

 Nor no man else. All’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.
 Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
 And desperately are dead.

LEAR   Ay, so I think.

 He knows not what he says, and vain is it
 That we present us to him.

EDGAR   Very bootless.

[Enter a Messenger.]

MESSENGER  Edmund is dead, my lord.

ALBANY  That’s but a trifle here.—
[360]  You lords and noble friends, know our intent:
 What comfort to this great decay may come
 Shall be applied. For us, we will resign,
 During the life of this old Majesty,
 To him our absolute power; you to your rights,
[365]  With boot and such addition as your Honors
 Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
 The wages of their virtue, and all foes
 The cup of their deservings. O, see, see!

 And my poor fool is hanged. No, no, no life?
[370]  Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
 And thou no breath at all? Thou ’lt come no more,
 Never, never, never, never, never.—
 Pray you undo this button. Thank you, sir.
 Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
[375]  Look there, look there! [He dies.]

EDGAR   He faints.  [To Lear.] My lord,
 my lord!

 Break, heart, I prithee, break!

EDGAR   Look up, my lord.

 Vex not his ghost. O, let him pass! He hates him
 That would upon the rack of this tough world
 Stretch him out longer.

EDGAR   He is gone indeed.

 The wonder is he hath endured so long.
[385]  He but usurped his life.

 Bear them from hence. Our present business
 Is general woe.  [To Edgar and Kent.] Friends of my
 soul, you twain
 Rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain.

 I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
 My master calls me. I must not say no.

 The weight of this sad time we must obey,
 Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
 The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
 Shall never see so much nor live so long.
[They exit with a dead march.]

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