Act 2 Scene 4

Scene 4

[Enter Lear, Fool, and Gentleman.]


LEAR 
 ’Tis strange that they should so depart from home
 And not send back my messenger.

GENTLEMAN   As I learned,
 The night before there was no purpose in them
[5]  Of this remove.

KENT , [waking]   Hail to thee, noble master.

LEAR  Ha?
 Mak’st thou this shame thy pastime?

KENT   No, my lord.

[10]FOOL  Ha, ha, he wears cruel garters. Horses are tied
 by the heads, dogs and bears by th’ neck, monkeys
 by th’ loins, and men by th’ legs. When a man’s
 overlusty at legs, then he wears wooden
 netherstocks.

[15]LEAR 
 What’s he that hath so much thy place mistook
 To set thee here?

KENT   It is both he and she,
 Your son and daughter.


LEAR  No.

[20]KENT  Yes.

LEAR  No, I say.

KENT  I say yea.

LEAR  By Jupiter, I swear no.

KENT  By Juno, I swear ay.

[25]LEAR   They durst not do ’t.
 They could not, would not do ’t. ’Tis worse than
 murder
 To do upon respect such violent outrage.
 Resolve me with all modest haste which way
[30]  Thou might’st deserve or they impose this usage,
 Coming from us.

KENT   My lord, when at their home
 I did commend your Highness’ letters to them,
 Ere I was risen from the place that showed
[35]  My duty kneeling, came there a reeking post,
 Stewed in his haste, half breathless, panting forth
 From Goneril his mistress salutations;
 Delivered letters, spite of intermission,
 Which presently they read; on whose contents
[40]  They summoned up their meiny, straight took
 horse,
 Commanded me to follow and attend
 The leisure of their answer, gave me cold looks;
 And meeting here the other messenger,
[45]  Whose welcome, I perceived, had poisoned mine,
 Being the very fellow which of late
 Displayed so saucily against your Highness,
 Having more man than wit about me, drew.
 He raised the house with loud and coward cries.
[50]  Your son and daughter found this trespass worth
 The shame which here it suffers.

FOOL  Winter’s not gone yet if the wild geese fly that
 way.


 Fathers that wear rags
[55]   Do make their children blind,
 But fathers that bear bags
  Shall see their children kind.
 Fortune, that arrant whore,
 Ne’er turns the key to th’ poor.
[60]  But, for all this, thou shalt have as many dolors for
 thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.

LEAR 
 O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!
 Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow!
 Thy element’s below.—Where is this daughter?

[65]KENT  With the Earl, sir, here within.

LEAR , [to Fool and Gentleman]  Follow me not. Stay
 here. [He exits.]

GENTLEMAN 
 Made you no more offense but what you speak of?

KENT  None.
[70]  How chance the King comes with so small a number?

FOOL  An thou hadst been set i’ th’ stocks for that
 question, thou ’dst well deserved it.

KENT  Why, Fool?

FOOL  We’ll set thee to school to an ant to teach thee
[75]  there’s no laboring i’ th’ winter. All that follow
 their noses are led by their eyes but blind men, and
 there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him
 that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel
 runs down a hill lest it break thy neck with following;
[80]  but the great one that goes upward, let him
 draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better
 counsel, give me mine again. I would have none but
 knaves follow it, since a Fool gives it.
 That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
[85]   And follows but for form,
 Will pack when it begins to rain


  And leave thee in the storm.
 But I will tarry; the Fool will stay,
  And let the wise man fly.
[90]  The knave turns fool that runs away;
  The Fool no knave, perdie.

KENT  Where learned you this, Fool?

FOOL  Not i’ th’ stocks, fool.


[Enter Lear and Gloucester.]


LEAR 
 Deny to speak with me? They are sick? They are
[95]  weary?
 They have traveled all the night? Mere fetches,
 The images of revolt and flying off.
 Fetch me a better answer.

GLOUCESTER   My dear lord,
[100]  You know the fiery quality of the Duke,
 How unremovable and fixed he is
 In his own course.

LEAR 
 Vengeance, plague, death, confusion!
 “Fiery”? What “quality”? Why Gloucester,
[105]  Gloucester,
 I’d speak with the Duke of Cornwall and his wife.

GLOUCESTER 
 Well, my good lord, I have informed them so.

LEAR 
 “Informed them”? Dost thou understand me,
 man?

[110]GLOUCESTER  Ay, my good lord.

LEAR 
 The King would speak with Cornwall. The dear
 father
 Would with his daughter speak, commands, tends
 service.
[115]  Are they “informed” of this? My breath and
 blood!


 “Fiery”? The “fiery” duke? Tell the hot duke that—
 No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
 Infirmity doth still neglect all office
[120]  Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves
 When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
 To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,
 And am fallen out with my more headier will,
 To take the indisposed and sickly fit
[125]  For the sound man.  [Noticing Kent again.] Death on
 my state! Wherefore
 Should he sit here? This act persuades me
 That this remotion of the Duke and her
 Is practice only. Give me my servant forth.
[130]  Go tell the Duke and ’s wife I’d speak with them.
 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 you.
[He exits.]

[135]LEAR 
 O me, my heart, my rising heart! But down!

FOOL  Cry to it, nuncle, as the cockney did to the eels
 when she put ’em i’ th’ paste alive. She knapped
 ’em o’ th’ coxcombs with a stick and cried “Down,
 wantons, down!” ’Twas her brother that in pure
[140]  kindness to his horse buttered his hay.


[Enter Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester, Servants.]


LEAR  Good morrow to you both.

CORNWALL  Hail to your Grace.
[Kent here set at liberty.]

REGAN  I am glad to see your Highness.

LEAR 
 Regan, I think you are. I know what reason
[145]  I have to think so: if thou shouldst not be glad,
 I would divorce me from thy mother’s tomb,


 Sepulch’ring an adult’ress.  [To Kent.] O, are you
 free?
 Some other time for that.—Belovèd Regan,
[150]  Thy sister’s naught. O Regan, she hath tied
 Sharp-toothed unkindness, like a vulture, here.
 I can scarce speak to thee. Thou ’lt not believe
 With how depraved a quality—O Regan!

REGAN 
 I pray you, sir, take patience. I have hope
[155]  You less know how to value her desert
 Than she to scant her duty.

LEAR   Say? How is that?

REGAN 
 I cannot think my sister in the least
 Would fail her obligation. If, sir, perchance
[160]  She have restrained the riots of your followers,
 ’Tis on such ground and to such wholesome end
 As clears her from all blame.

LEAR  My curses on her.

REGAN  O sir, you are old.
[165]  Nature in you stands on the very verge
 Of his confine. You should be ruled and led
 By some discretion that discerns your state
 Better than you yourself. Therefore, I pray you
 That to our sister you do make return.
[170]  Say you have wronged her.

LEAR   Ask her forgiveness?
 Do you but mark how this becomes the house:
[He kneels.]
 “Dear daughter, I confess that I am old.
 Age is unnecessary. On my knees I beg
[175]  That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food.”

REGAN 
 Good sir, no more. These are unsightly tricks.
 Return you to my sister.


LEAR , [rising]   Never, Regan.
 She hath abated me of half my train,
[180]  Looked black upon me, struck me with her tongue
 Most serpentlike upon the very heart.
 All the stored vengeances of heaven fall
 On her ingrateful top! Strike her young bones,
 You taking airs, with lameness!

[185]CORNWALL   Fie, sir, fie!

LEAR 
 You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
 Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
 You fen-sucked fogs drawn by the powerful sun
 To fall and blister!

[190]REGAN 
 O, the blest gods! So will you wish on me
 When the rash mood is on.

LEAR 
 No, Regan, thou shalt never have my curse.
 Thy tender-hefted nature shall not give
 Thee o’er to harshness. Her eyes are fierce, but
[195]  thine
 Do comfort and not burn. ’Tis not in thee
 To grudge my pleasures, to cut off my train,
 To bandy hasty words, to scant my sizes,
 And, in conclusion, to oppose the bolt
[200]  Against my coming in. Thou better know’st
 The offices of nature, bond of childhood,
 Effects of courtesy, dues of gratitude.
 Thy half o’ th’ kingdom hast thou not forgot,
 Wherein I thee endowed.

[205]REGAN   Good sir, to th’ purpose.
[Tucket within.]

LEAR 
 Who put my man i’ th’ stocks?

CORNWALL   What trumpet’s that?


REGAN 
 I know ’t—my sister’s. This approves her letter,
 That she would soon be here.


[Enter Oswald, the Steward.]


[210]  Is your lady come?

LEAR 
 This is a slave whose easy-borrowed pride
 Dwells in the fickle grace of her he follows.—
 Out, varlet, from my sight!

CORNWALL   What means your Grace?

[215]LEAR 
 Who stocked my servant? Regan, I have good hope
 Thou didst not know on ’t.


[Enter Goneril.]


 Who comes here? O heavens,
 If you do love old men, if your sweet sway
 Allow obedience, if you yourselves are old,
[220]  Make it your cause. Send down and take my part.
  [To Goneril.] Art not ashamed to look upon this
 beard?

[Regan takes Goneril’s hand.]
 O Regan, will you take her by the hand?

GONERIL 
 Why not by th’ hand, sir? How have I offended?
[225]  All’s not offense that indiscretion finds
 And dotage terms so.

LEAR   O sides, you are too tough!
 Will you yet hold?—How came my man i’ th’
 stocks?

[230]CORNWALL 
 I set him there, sir, but his own disorders
 Deserved much less advancement.

LEAR   You? Did you?

REGAN 
 I pray you, father, being weak, seem so.
 If till the expiration of your month


[235]  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.

LEAR 
 Return to her? And fifty men dismissed?
[240]  No! Rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
 To wage against the enmity o’ th’ air,
 To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,
 Necessity’s sharp pinch. Return with her?
 Why the hot-blooded France, that dowerless took
[245]  Our youngest born—I could as well be brought
 To knee his throne and, squire-like, pension beg
 To keep base life afoot. Return with her?
 Persuade me rather to be slave and sumpter
 To this detested groom. [He indicates Oswald.]

[250]GONERIL   At your choice, sir.

LEAR 
 I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad.
 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 daughter,
[255]  Or, rather, a disease that’s in my flesh,
 Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil,
 A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle
 In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee.
 Let shame come when it will; I do not call it.
[260]  I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
 Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove.
 Mend when thou canst. Be better at thy leisure.
 I can be patient. I can stay with Regan,
 I and my hundred knights.

[265]REGAN  Not altogether so.
 I looked not for you yet, nor am provided
 For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister,
 For those that mingle reason with your passion


 Must be content to think you old, and so—
[270]  But she knows what she does.

LEAR   Is this well spoken?

REGAN 
 I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
 Is it not well? What should you need of more?
 Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
[275]  Speak ’gainst so great a number? How in one house
 Should many people under two commands
 Hold amity? ’Tis hard, almost impossible.

GONERIL 
 Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
 From those that she calls servants, or from mine?

[280]REGAN 
 Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack
 you,
 We could control them. If you will come to me
 (For now I spy a danger), I entreat you
 To bring but five-and-twenty. To no more
[285]  Will I give place or notice.

LEAR  I gave you all—

REGAN  And in good time you gave it.

LEAR 
 Made you my guardians, my depositaries,
 But kept a reservation to be followed
[290]  With such a number. What, must I come to you
 With five-and-twenty? Regan, said you so?

REGAN 
 And speak ’t again, my lord. No more with me.

LEAR 
 Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favored
 When others are more wicked. Not being the worst
[295]  Stands in some rank of praise.  [To Goneril.] I’ll go
 with thee.
 Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
 And thou art twice her love.

GONERIL   Hear me, my lord.


[300]  What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
 To follow in a house where twice so many
 Have a command to tend you?

REGAN   What need one?

LEAR 
 O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
[305]  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 wear’st,
[310]  Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true
 need—
 You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!
 You see me here, you gods, a poor old man
 As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
[315]  If it be you that stirs 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,
[320]  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.
[325]  I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
[Storm and tempest.]
 Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
 Or ere I’ll weep.—O Fool, I shall go mad!
[Lear, Kent, and Fool exit
with Gloucester and the Gentleman.]

CORNWALL  Let us withdraw. ’Twill be a storm.

REGAN 
 This house is little. The old man and ’s people
[330]  Cannot be well bestowed.


GONERIL 
 ’Tis his own blame hath put himself from rest,
 And must needs taste his folly.

REGAN 
 For his particular, I’ll receive him gladly,
 But not one follower.

[335]GONERIL 
 So am I purposed. Where is my lord of Gloucester?

CORNWALL 
 Followed the old man forth.


[Enter Gloucester.]


 He is returned.

GLOUCESTER  The King is in high rage.

CORNWALL  Whither is he going?

[340]GLOUCESTER 
 He calls to horse, but will I know not whither.

CORNWALL 
 ’Tis best to give him way. He leads himself.

GONERIL , [to Gloucester] 
 My lord, entreat him by no means to stay.

GLOUCESTER 
 Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
 Do sorely ruffle. For many miles about
[345]  There’s scarce a bush.

REGAN   O sir, to willful men
 The injuries that they themselves procure
 Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors.
 He is attended with a desperate train,
[350]  And what they may incense him to, being apt
 To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear.

CORNWALL 
 Shut up your doors, my lord. ’Tis a wild night.
 My Regan counsels well. Come out o’ th’ storm.
[They exit.]



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