Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act I
 
Scene V
 
 
[Court before the same]
Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool

  Lear.  Go you before to Gloucester with these letters. Acquaint my daughter no further with anything you know than comes from her demand out of the letter. If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.
  Kent.  I will not sleep, my lord, till I have delivered your letter.  Exit.
  Fool.  If a man’s brains were in ’s heels, were ’t not in danger of kibes? 1
  Lear.  Ay, boy.        4
  Fool.  Then, I prithee, be merry; thy wit shall not go slip-shod.
  Lear.  Ha, ha, ha!
  Fool.  Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly; 2 for though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.
  Lear.  What canst tell, boy?        8
  Fool.  She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab. Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’ the middle on ’s face?
  Lear.  No.
  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—        12
  Fool.  Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?
  Lear.  No.
  Fool.  Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has a house.
  Lear.  Why?        16
  Fool.  Why, to put ’s head in; not to give it away to his daughters, and leave his horns without a case.
  Lear.  I will forget my nature. So kind a father! Be my horses ready?
  Fool.  Thy asses are gone about ’em. The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
  Lear.  Because they are not eight?        20
  Fool.  Yes, indeed. Thou wouldst make a good Fool.
  Lear.  To take ’t again perforce! 3 Monster ingratitude!
  Fool.  If thou wert my Fool, nuncle, I’d have thee beaten for being old before thy time.
  Lear.  How’s that?        24
  Fool.  Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.
  Lear.  O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!
 
[Enter Gentleman]

How now! are the horses ready?
        28
  Gent.  Ready, my lord.
  Lear.  Come, boy.
  Fool.  She that’s a maid now, and laughs at my departure, Shall not be a maid long, unless things be cut shorter.  Exeunt.
 
Note 1. Chilblains. [back]
Note 2. A pun: with kindness, and after her kind. [back]
Note 3. Probably Lear is thinking of regaining his power. [back]
 

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