Act 1 Scene 2

Scene 2

[Enter Edmund, the Bastard.]

 Thou, Nature, art my goddess. To thy law
 My services are bound. Wherefore should I
 Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
 The curiosity of nations to deprive me
[5]  For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
 Lag of a brother? why “bastard”? Wherefore “base,”
 When my dimensions are as well compact,
 My mind as generous and my shape as true
 As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
[10]  With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,”
 Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
 More composition and fierce quality
 Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
[15]  Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
 Got ’tween asleep and wake? Well then,
 Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
 Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
 As to th’ legitimate. Fine word, “legitimate.”
[20]  Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed

 And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
 Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
 Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

[Enter Gloucester.]

 Kent banished thus? And France in choler parted?
[25]  And the King gone tonight, prescribed his power,
 Confined to exhibition? All this done
 Upon the gad?—Edmund, how now? What news?

EDMUND  So please your Lordship, none.  [He puts a
 paper in his pocket.]

GLOUCESTER  Why so earnestly seek you to put up that
[30]  letter?

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
[35]  of it into your pocket? The quality of nothing
 hath not such need to hide itself. Let’s see. Come, if
 it be nothing, I shall not need spectacles.

EDMUND  I beseech you, sir, pardon me. It is a letter
 from my brother that I have not all o’erread; and
[40]  for so much as I have perused, I find it not fit for
 your o’erlooking.

GLOUCESTER  Give me the letter, sir.

EDMUND  I shall offend either to detain or give it. The
 contents, as in part I understand them, are to
[45]  blame.

GLOUCESTER  Let’s see, let’s see.
[Edmund gives him the paper.]

EDMUND  I hope, for my brother’s justification, he
 wrote this but as an essay or taste of my virtue.

GLOUCESTER  [(reads)]  This policy and reverence of age
[50]  makes the world bitter to the best of our times, keeps
 our fortunes from us till our oldness cannot relish

 them. I begin to find an idle and fond bondage in the
 oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not as it hath
 power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I
[55]  may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked
 him, you should enjoy half his revenue forever and
 live the beloved of your brother. Edgar.
 Hum? Conspiracy? “Sleep till I wake him, you
 should enjoy half his revenue.” My son Edgar! Had
[60]  he a hand to write this? A heart and brain to breed it
 in?—When came you to this? 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
 of my closet.

[65]GLOUCESTER  You know the character to be your

EDMUND  If the matter were good, my lord, I durst
 swear it were his; but in respect of that, I would
 fain think it were not.

[70]GLOUCESTER  It is his.

EDMUND  It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is
 not in the contents.

GLOUCESTER  Has he never before sounded you in this

[75]EDMUND  Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft
 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 revenue.

GLOUCESTER  O villain, villain! His very opinion in the
[80]  letter. Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish
 villain! Worse than brutish!—Go, sirrah, seek
 him. I’ll apprehend him.—Abominable villain!—
 Where is he?

EDMUND  I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please
[85]  you to suspend your indignation against my brother
 till you can derive from him better testimony of his
 intent, you should run a certain course; where, if

 you violently proceed against him, mistaking his
 purpose, it would make a great gap in your own
[90]  honor and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience.
 I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath
 writ this to feel my affection to your Honor, and to
 no other pretense of danger.

GLOUCESTER  Think you so?

[95]EDMUND  If your Honor judge it meet, I will place you
 where you shall hear us confer of this, and by an
 auricular assurance have your satisfaction, and that
 without any further delay than this very evening.

GLOUCESTER  He cannot be such a monster.

[100]EDMUND  Nor is not, sure.

GLOUCESTER  To his father, that so tenderly and entirely
 loves him! Heaven and Earth! Edmund, seek him
 out; wind me into him, I pray you. Frame the
 business after your own wisdom. I would unstate
[105]  myself to be in a due resolution.

EDMUND  I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the
 business as I shall find means, and acquaint you

GLOUCESTER  These late eclipses in the sun and moon
[110]  portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of
 nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds
 itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools,
 friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities, mutinies;
 in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and
[115]  the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain
 of mine comes under the prediction: there’s son
 against father. The King falls from bias of nature:
 there’s father against child. We have seen the best of
 our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and
[120]  all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our
 graves.—Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall
 lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble
 and true-hearted Kent banished! His offense, honesty!
 ’Tis strange. [He exits.]

[125]EDMUND  This is the excellent foppery of the world, that
 when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of
 our own behavior) we make guilty of our disasters
 the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains
 on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves,
[130]  thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance;
 drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced
 obedience of planetary influence; and all that we
 are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable
 evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
[135]  disposition on the charge of a star! My father
 compounded with my mother under the Dragon’s
 tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it
 follows I am rough and lecherous. Fut, I should
 have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the
[140]  firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar

[Enter Edgar.]

 and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old
 comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a
 sigh like Tom o’ Bedlam.—O, these eclipses do
 portend these divisions. Fa, sol, la, mi.

[145]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?

[150]EDMUND  I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed
 unhappily, as of unnaturalness between the
 child and the parent, death, dearth, dissolutions of
 ancient amities, divisions in state, menaces and
 maledictions against king and nobles, needless diffidences,
[155]  banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts,
 nuptial breaches, and I know not what.

EDGAR  How long have you been a sectary

EDMUND  Come, come, when saw you my father last?

[160]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 in him by word nor countenance?

[165]EDGAR  None at all.

EDMUND  Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended
 him, and at my entreaty forbear his presence
 until some little time hath qualified the heat
 of his displeasure, which at this instant so rageth in
[170]  him that with the mischief of your person it would
 scarcely allay.

EDGAR  Some villain hath done me wrong.

EDMUND  That’s my fear. I pray you have a continent
 forbearance till the speed of his rage goes slower;
[175]  and, as I say, retire with me to my lodging, from
 whence I will fitly bring you to hear my lord speak.
 Pray you go. There’s my key. If you do stir abroad,
 go armed.

EDGAR  Armed, brother?

[180]EDMUND  Brother, I advise you to the best. I am no
 honest man if there be any good meaning toward
 you. I have told you what I have seen and heard, but
 faintly, nothing like the image and horror of it. Pray
 you, away.

[185]EDGAR  Shall I hear from you anon?

EDMUND  I do serve you in this business. [Edgar exits.]
 A credulous father and a brother noble,
 Whose nature is so far from doing harms
 That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty
[190]  My practices ride easy. I see the business.
 Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.
 All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.
[He exits.]

There is 1 Comment

Edmund’s “curiosity” is what reflects the life and attitude of people and environment around him (that keeps the folk moving)


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