Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > King Lear
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
King Lear
 
Act I. Scene I.
 
A Room of State in KING LEAR’S Palace.
 
Enter KENT, GLOUCESTER, and EDMUND.
  Kent.  I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
  Glo.  It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the dukes he values most; for equalities are so weighed that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety.
  Kent.  Is not this your son, my lord?        5
  Glo.  His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am brazed to it.
  Kent.  I cannot conceive you.
  Glo.  Sir, this young fellow’s mother could; whereupon she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
  Kent.  I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.
  Glo.  But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account: though this knave came somewhat saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?        10
  Edm.  No, my lord.
  Glo.  My Lord of Kent: remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.
  Edm.  My services to your lordship.
  Kent.  I must love you, and sue to know you better.
  Edm.  Sir, I shall study deserving.        15
  Glo.  He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.
 
Sennet.  Enter LEAR, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants.
  Lear.  Attend the Lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.
  Glo.  I shall, my liege.  [Exeunt GLOUCESTER and EDMUND.
  Lear.  Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.        20
Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
In three our kingdom; and ’tis our fast intent
To shake all cares and business from our age,
Conferring them on younger strengths, while we
Unburden’d crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,        25
And you, our no less loving son of Albay,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daughtes’ several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter’s love,        30
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answer’d. Tell me, my daughters,—
Since now we will divest us both of rule,
Interest of territory, cares of state,—
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?        35
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
Our eldest-born, speak first.
  Gon.  Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;        40
Beyond what can be valu’d, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e’er lov’d, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.        45
  Cor.  [Aside.]  What shall Cordelia do? Love, and be silent.
  Lear.  Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
With shadowy forests and with champains rich’d,
With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,
We make thee lady: to thine and Albany’s issue        50
Be this perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
  Reg.  I am made of that self metal as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;        55
Only she comes too short: that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense possesses
And find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness’ love.        60
  Cor.        [Aside.]  Then, poor Cordelia!
And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s
More richer than my tongue.
  Lear.  To thee and thine, hereditary ever,
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,        65
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although our last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw        70
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
  Cor.  Nothing, my lord.
  Lear.  Nothing?
  Cor.  Nothing.
  Lear.  Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.        75
  Cor.  Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.
  Lear.  How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest you may mar your fortunes.        80
  Cor.        Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say        85
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.        90
  Lear.  But goes thy heart with this?
  Cor.        Ay, good my lord.
  Lear.  So young, and so untender?
  Cor.  So young, my lord, and true.
  Lear.  Let it be so; thy truth then be thy dower:        95
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs
From whom we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,        100
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom        105
Be as well neighbour’d, pitied, and reliev’d,
As thou my sometime daughter.
  Kent.        Good my liege,—
  Lear.  Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.        110
I lov’d her most, and thought to set my rest
On her kind nursery. Hence, and avoid my sight!
So be my grave my peace, as here I give
Her father’s heart from her! Call France.
Who stirs?        115
Call Burgundy. Cornwall and Albany,
With my two daughters’ dowers digest the third;
Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence, and all the large effects        120
That troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly course,
With reservation of a hundred knights,
By you to be sustain’d, shall our abode
Make with you by due turn. Only we shall retain
The name and all th’ addition to a king;        125
The sway, revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours: which to confirm,
This coronet part between you.
  Kent.        Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honour’d as my king,        130
Lov’d as my father, as my master follow’d,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers,—
  Lear.  The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
  Kent.  Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart: be Kent unmannerly        135
When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour’s bound
When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state;
And, in thy best consideration, check        140
This hideous rashness: answer my life my judgment,
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least;
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
Reverbs no hollowness.
  Lear.        Kent, on thy life, no more.        145
  Kent.  My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,
Thy safety being the motive.
  Lear.        Out of my sight!
  Kent.  See better, Lear; and let me still remain        150
The true blank of thine eye.
  Lear.  Now, by Apollo,—
  Kent.        Now, by Apollo, king,
Thou swear’st thy gods in vain.
  Lear.        O vassal! miscreant!  [Laying his hand on his sword.        155
  Alb. & Corn.  Dear sir, forbear.
  Kent.  Do;
Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift;
Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,        160
I’ll tell thee thou dost evil.
  Lear.        Hear me, recreant!
On thine allegiance, hear me!
Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow,—
Which we durst never yet,—and, with strain’d pride        165
To come betwixt our sentence and our power,—
Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,—
Our potency made good, take thy reward.
Five days we do allot thee for provision
To shield thee from diseases of the world;        170
And, on the sixth, to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom: if, on the tenth day following
Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions,
The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,
This shall not be revok’d.        175
  Kent.  Fare thee well, king; sith thus thou wilt appear,
Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
[To CORDELIA.]  The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
That justly think’st, and hast most rightly said!
[To REGAN and GONERIL.]  And your large speeches may your deeds approve,        180
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes! bids you all adieu;
He’ll shape his old course in a country new.  [Exit.
 
Flourish.  Re-enter GLOUCESTER, with FRANCE, BURGUNDY, and Attendants.
  Glo.  Here’s France and Burgundy, my noble lord.        185
  Lear.  My Lord of Burgundy,
We first address toward you, who with this king
Hath rivall’d for our daughter. What, in the least,
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?        190
  Bur.        Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offer’d,
Nor will you tender less.
  Lear.        Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us we did hold her so,        195
But now her price is fall’n. Sir, there she stands:
If aught within that little-seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure piec’d,
And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,
She’s there, and she is yours.        200
  Bur.        I know no answer.
  Lear.  Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate,
Dower’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our oath,
Take her, or leave her?        205
  Bur.        Pardon me, royal sir;
Election makes not up on such conditions.
  Lear.  Then leave her, sir; for, by the power that made me,
I tell you all her wealth.—[To FRANCE.]  For you, great king,
I would not from your love make such a stray        210
To match you where I hate; therefore, beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is asham’d
Almost to acknowledge hers.
  France.        This is most strange,        215
That she, who even but now was your best object,
The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
The best, the dearest, should in this trice of time
Commit a thing so monstrous, to dismantle
So many folds of favour. Sure, her offence        220
Must be of such unnatural degree
That monsters it, or your fore-vouch’d affection
Fall into taint; which to believe of her,
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Could never plant in me.        225
  Cor.        I yet beseech your majesty—
If for I want that glib and oily art
To speak and purpose not; since what I well intend,
I’ll do ’t before I speak—that you make known
It is no vicious blot nor other foulness,        230
No unchaste action, or dishonour’d step,
That hath depriv’d me of your grace and favour,
But even for want of that for which I am richer,
A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
That I am glad I have not, though not to have it        235
Hath lost me in your liking.
  Lear.        Better thou
Hadst not been born than not to have pleas’d me better.
  France.  Is it but this? a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke        240
That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love is not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.        245
  Bur.        Royal Lear,
Give but that portion which yourself propos’d,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.
  Lear.  Nothing: I have sworn; I am firm.        250
  Bur.  I am sorry, then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.
  Cor.        Peace be with Burgundy!
Since that respects of fortune are his love,
I shall not be his wife.        255
  France.  Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken; and most lov’d, despis’d!
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon:
Be it lawful I take up what’s cast away.
Gods, gods! ’tis strange that from their cold’st neglect        260
My love should kindle to inflam’d respect.
Thy dowerless daughter, king, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France:
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgundy
Shall buy this unpriz’d precious maid of me.        265
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind:
Thou losest here, a better where to find.
  Lear.  Thou hast her, France; let her be thine, for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again, therefore be gone        270
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.  [Flourish.  Exeunt LEAR, BURGUNDY, CORNWALL, ALBANY, GLOUCESTER, and Attendants.
  France.  Bid farewell to your sisters.
  Cor.  The jewels of our father, with wash’d eyes
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;        275
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are nam’d. Use well our father:
To your professed bosoms I commit him:
But yet, alas! stood I within his grace,
I would prefer him to a better place.        280
So farewell to you both.
  Reg.  Prescribe not us our duties.
  Gon.        Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath receiv’d you
At fortune’s alms; you have obedience scanted,        285
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
  Cor.  Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides;
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides.
Well may you prosper!
  France.        Come, my fair Cordelia.  [Exit FRANCE and CORDELIA.        290
  Gon.  Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
  Reg.  That’s most certain, and with you; next month with us.
  Gon.  You see how full of changes his age is; the observation we have made of it hath not been little: he always loved our sister most; and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.
  Reg.  ’Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly known himself.
  Gon.  The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then, must we look to receive from his age, not alone the imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but, therewithal the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.        295
  Reg.  Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this of Kent’s banishment.
  Gon.  There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him. Pray you, let us hit together: if our father carry authority with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his will but offend us.
  Reg.  We shall further think on ’t.
  Gon.  We must do something, and i’ the heat.  [Exeunt.
 
 
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