Act 1 Scene 4

Scene 4

[Enter Kent in disguise.]

 If but as well I other accents borrow
 That can my speech diffuse, my good intent
 May carry through itself to that full issue
 For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
[5]  If thou canst serve where thou dost stand
 So may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st,
 Shall find thee full of labors.

[Horns within. Enter Lear, Knights, and Attendants.]

LEAR  Let me not stay a jot for dinner. Go get it ready.
[An Attendant exits.]
[10]  How now, what art thou?

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
[15]  him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that
 is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says
 little, to fear judgment, to fight when I cannot
 choose, and to eat no fish.

LEAR  What art thou?

[20]KENT  A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the

LEAR  If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he’s for a
 king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?

KENT  Service.

[25]LEAR  Who wouldst thou serve?

KENT  You.

LEAR  Dost thou know me, fellow?

KENT  No, sir, but you have that in your countenance
 which I would fain call master.

[30]LEAR  What’s that?

KENT  Authority.

LEAR  What services canst do?

KENT  I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a
 curious tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message
[35]  bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for I
 am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.

LEAR  How old art thou?

KENT  Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing,
 nor so old to dote on her for anything. I have years
[40]  on my back forty-eight.

LEAR  Follow me. Thou shalt serve me—if I like thee
 no worse after dinner. I will not part from thee
 yet.—Dinner, ho, dinner!—Where’s my knave, my
 Fool? Go you and call my Fool hither.
[An Attendant exits.]

[Enter Oswald, the Steward.]

[45]  You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?

OSWALD  So please you— [He exits.]

LEAR  What says the fellow there? Call the clotpole
 back. [ A Knight exits.] Where’s my Fool? Ho! I think
 the world’s asleep.

[Enter Knight again.]

[50]  How now? Where’s that mongrel?

KNIGHT  He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.

LEAR  Why came not the slave back to me when I
 called him?

KNIGHT  Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner,
[55]  he would not.

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.
[60]  There’s a great abatement of kindness appears as

 well in the general dependents as in the Duke
 himself also, and your daughter.

LEAR  Ha? Sayst thou so?

KNIGHT  I beseech you pardon me, my lord, if I be
[65]  mistaken, for my duty cannot be silent when I think
 your Highness wronged.

LEAR  Thou but remembrest me of mine own conception.
 I have perceived a most faint neglect of late,
 which I have rather blamed as mine own jealous
[70]  curiosity than as a very pretense and purpose of
 unkindness. I will look further into ’t. But where’s
 my Fool? I have not seen him this two days.

KNIGHT  Since my young lady’s going into France, sir,
 the Fool hath much pined away.

[75]LEAR  No more of that. I have noted it well.—Go you
 and tell my daughter I would speak with her. [ An
 Attendant exits.] 
Go you call hither my Fool.
[Another exits.]

[Enter Oswald, the Steward.]

 O you, sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?

OSWALD  My lady’s father.

[80]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?
[Lear strikes him.]

[85]OSWALD  I’ll not be strucken, my lord.

KENT , [tripping him]  Nor tripped neither, you base
 football player?

LEAR  I thank thee, fellow. Thou serv’st me, and I’ll
 love thee.

[90]KENT , [to Oswald]  Come, sir, arise. Away. I’ll teach you
 differences. Away, away. If you will measure your
 lubber’s length again, tarry. But away. Go to. Have
 you wisdom? So. [Oswald exits.]

LEAR  Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. There’s
[95]  earnest of thy service. [He gives Kent a purse.]

[Enter Fool.]

FOOL  Let me hire him too.  [To Kent.] Here’s my
 coxcomb. [He offers Kent his cap]

LEAR  How now, my pretty knave, how dost thou?

FOOL , [to Kent]  Sirrah, you were best take my
[100]  coxcomb.

LEAR  Why, my boy?

FOOL  Why? For taking one’s part that’s out of favor.
  [To Kent.] Nay, an thou canst not smile as the
 wind sits, thou ’lt catch cold shortly. There, take my
[105]  coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two on ’s
 daughters and did the third a blessing against his
 will. If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my
 coxcomb.—How now, nuncle? Would I had two
 coxcombs and two daughters.

[110]LEAR  Why, my boy?

FOOL  If I gave them all my living, I’d keep my coxcombs
 myself. There’s mine. Beg another of thy

LEAR  Take heed, sirrah—the whip.

[115]FOOL  Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be
 whipped out, when the Lady Brach may stand by th’
 fire and stink.

LEAR  A pestilent gall to me!

FOOL  Sirrah, I’ll teach thee a speech.

[120]LEAR  Do.

FOOL  Mark it, nuncle:

 Have more than thou showest.
 Speak less than thou knowest,
 Lend less than thou owest,
[125]  Ride more than thou goest,
 Learn more than thou trowest,
 Set less than thou throwest;

 Leave thy drink and thy whore
 And keep in-a-door,
[130]  And thou shalt have more
 Than two tens to a score.

KENT  This is nothing, Fool.

FOOL  Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer.
 You gave me nothing for ’t.—Can you make no use
[135]  of nothing, nuncle?

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 Fool.

[140]LEAR  A bitter Fool!

FOOL  Dost know the difference, my boy, between a
 bitter fool and a sweet one?

LEAR  No, lad, teach me.

FOOL   That lord that counseled thee
[145]   To give away thy land,
 Come place him here by me;
  Do thou for him stand.
 The sweet and bitter fool
  Will presently appear:
[150]  The one in motley here,
  The other found out there.

LEAR  Dost thou call me “fool,” boy?

FOOL  All thy other titles thou hast given away. That
 thou wast born with.

[155]KENT  This is not altogether fool, 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, they will not let me have all the fool
 to myself; they’ll be snatching.—Nuncle, give me
[160]  an egg, and I’ll give thee two crowns.

LEAR  What two crowns shall they be?

FOOL  Why, after I have cut the egg i’ th’ middle and eat
 up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou

 clovest thy crown i’ th’ middle and gav’st away
[165]  both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on thy back o’er
 the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown
 when thou gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak
 like myself in this, let him be whipped that first
 finds it so. [ Sings.]
[170]  Fools had ne’er less grace in a year,
  For wise men are grown foppish
 And know not how their wits to wear,
  Their manners are so apish.

LEAR  When were you wont to be so full of songs,
[175]  sirrah?

FOOL  I have used it, nuncle, e’er since thou mad’st thy
 daughters thy mothers. For when thou gav’st them
 the rod and put’st down thine own breeches,
 Then they for sudden joy did weep,
[180]   And I for sorrow sung,
 That such a king should play bo-peep
  And go the fools among.
 Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
 thy Fool to lie. I would fain learn to lie.

[185]LEAR  An you lie, sirrah, we’ll have you whipped.

FOOL  I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are.
 They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou ’lt
 have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am
 whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any
[190]  kind o’ thing than a Fool. And yet I would not be
 thee, nuncle. Thou hast pared thy wit o’ both sides
 and left nothing i’ th’ middle. Here comes one o’ the

[Enter Goneril.]

 How now, daughter? What makes that frontlet on?
[195]  Methinks you are too much of late i’ th’ 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. I am better than thou art now. I
 am a Fool. Thou art nothing.  [To Goneril.] Yes,
[200]  forsooth, I will hold my tongue. So your face bids
 me, though you say nothing.
 Mum, mum,
 He that keeps nor crust nor crumb,
 Weary of all, shall want some.
[He points at Lear.]
[205]  That’s a shelled peascod.

 Not only, sir, this your all-licensed Fool,
 But other of your insolent retinue
 Do hourly carp and quarrel, breaking forth
 In rank and not-to-be-endurèd riots. Sir,
[210]  I had thought by making this well known unto you
 To have found a safe redress, but now grow fearful,
 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
[215]  Would not ’scape censure, nor the redresses sleep
 Which in the tender of a wholesome weal
 Might in their working do you that offense,
 Which else were shame, that then necessity
 Will call discreet proceeding.

[220]FOOL  For you know, nuncle,

 The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
 That it’s had it head bit off by it young.
 So out went the candle, and we were left darkling.

LEAR  Are you our daughter?

 I would you would make use of your good wisdom,
 Whereof I know you are fraught, and put away
 These dispositions which of late transport you
 From what you rightly are.

FOOL  May not an ass know when the cart draws the
[230]  horse? Whoop, Jug, I love thee!

 Does any here know me? This is not Lear.
 Does Lear walk thus, speak thus? Where are his
 Either his notion weakens, his discernings
[235]  Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
 Who is it that can tell me who I am?

FOOL  Lear’s shadow.

 I would learn that, for, by the marks of
[240]  Knowledge, and reason, I should be false persuaded
 I had daughters.

FOOL  Which they will make an obedient father.

LEAR  Your name, fair gentlewoman?

 This admiration, sir, is much o’ th’ savor
[245]  Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
 To understand my purposes aright.
 As you are old and reverend, should be wise.
 Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires,
 Men so disordered, so debauched and bold,
[250]  That this our court, infected with their manners,
 Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust
 Makes it more like a tavern or a brothel
 Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
 For instant remedy. Be then desired,
[255]  By her that else will take the thing she begs,
 A little to disquantity your train,
 And the remainders that shall still depend
 To be such men as may besort your age,
 Which know themselves and you.

[260]LEAR   Darkness and
 Saddle my horses. Call my train together.
[Some exit.]

 Degenerate bastard, I’ll not trouble thee.
 Yet have I left a daughter.

 You strike my people, and your disordered rabble
 Make servants of their betters.

[Enter Albany.]

 Woe that too late repents!—O, sir, are you
 Is it your will? Speak, sir.—Prepare my horses.
[Some exit.]
[270]  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.
[275]  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 Cordelia show,
[280]  Which, like an engine, wrenched my frame of
 From the fixed place, drew from my heart all love
 And added to the gall! O Lear, Lear, Lear!
[He strikes his head.]
 Beat at this gate that let thy folly in
[285]  And thy dear judgment out. Go, go, my people.
[Some exit.]

 My lord, I am guiltless as I am ignorant
 Of what hath moved you.

LEAR   It may be so, my lord.—
 Hear, Nature, hear, dear goddess, hear!
[290]  Suspend thy purpose if thou didst intend

 To make this creature fruitful.
 Into her womb convey sterility.
 Dry up in her the organs of increase,
 And from her derogate body never spring
[295]  A babe to honor her. If she must teem,
 Create her child of spleen, that it may live
 And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.
 Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
 With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
[300]  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!
[Lear and the rest of his train exit.]

 Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?

[305]  Never afflict yourself to know more of it,
 But let his disposition have that scope
 As dotage gives it.

[Enter Lear and the Fool.]

 What, fifty of my followers at a clap?
 Within a fortnight?

[310]ALBANY   What’s the matter, sir?

 I’ll tell thee. [ To Goneril.] Life and death! I am
 That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus,
 That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
[315]  Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon
 Th’ untented woundings of a father’s curse
 Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
 Beweep this cause again, I’ll pluck you out

[320]  And cast you, with the waters that you loose,
 To temper clay. Yea, is ’t come to this?
 Ha! 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
[325]  She’ll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
 That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
 I have cast off forever. [He exits.]

GONERIL   Do you mark that?

 I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
[330]  To the great love I bear you—

GONERIL  Pray you, content.—What, Oswald, ho!—
 You, sir, more knave than Fool, after your master.

FOOL  Nuncle Lear, Nuncle Lear, tarry. Take the Fool
 with thee.

[335]  A fox, when one has caught her,
 And such a daughter,
 Should sure to the slaughter,
 If my cap would buy a halter.
 So the Fool follows after.
[He exits.]

 This man hath had good counsel. A hundred
 ’Tis politic and safe to let him keep
 At point a hundred knights! Yes, that on every
[345]  Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
 He may enguard his dotage with their powers
 And hold our lives in mercy.—Oswald, I say!

ALBANY  Well, you may fear too far.

GONERIL  Safer than trust too far.
[350]  Let me still take away the harms I fear,
 Not fear still to be taken. I know his heart.
 What he hath uttered I have writ my sister.
 If she sustain him and his hundred knights
 When I have showed th’ unfitness—

[Enter Oswald, the Steward.]

[355]  How now, Oswald?
 What, have you writ that letter to my sister?

OSWALD  Ay, madam.

 Take you some company and away to horse.
 Inform her full of my particular fear,
[360]  And thereto add such reasons of your own
 As may compact it more. Get you gone,
 And hasten your return.  [Oswald exits.] No, no, my
 This milky gentleness and course of yours,
[365]  Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
 You are much more at task for want of wisdom
 Than praised for harmful mildness.

 How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell.
 Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.

[370]GONERIL  Nay, then—

ALBANY  Well, well, th’ event.
[They exit.]

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