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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
King Lear
 
Act V. Scene III.
 
The British Camp, near Dover.
 
Enter, in conquest, with drum and colours, EDMUND; LEAR and CORDELIA, prisoners; Officers, Soldiers, &c.
  Edm.  Some officers take them away: good guard,
Until their greater pleasures first be known
That are to censure them.        5
  Cor.        We are not the first
Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, am I cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false Fortune’s frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?        10
  Lear.  No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison;
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh        15
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon ’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,        20
In a wall’d prison, packs and sets of great ones
That ebb and flow by the moon.
  Edm.        Take them away.
  Lear.  Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?        25
He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven,
And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes;
The goujeres shall devour them, flesh and fell,
Ere they shall make us weep: we’ll see ’em starve first.
Come.  [Exeunt LEAR and CORDELIA, guarded.        30
  Edm.  Come hither, captain; hark,
Take thou this note;  [Giving a paper.]  go follow them to prison:
One step I have advanc’d thee; if thou dost
As this instructs thee, thou dost make thy way
To noble fortunes; know thou this, that men        35
Are as the time is; to be tender-minded
Does not become a sword; thy great employment
Will not bear question; either say thou’lt do ’t,
Or thrive by other means.
  Offi.        I’ll do ’t, my lord.        40
  Edm.  About it; and write happy when thou hast done.
Mark,—I say, instantly, and carry it so
As I have set it down.
  Offi.  I cannot draw a cart nor eat dried oats;
If it be man’s work I will do it.  [Exit.        45
 
Flourish.  Enter ALBANY, GONERIL, REGAN, Officers, and Attendants.
  Alb.  Sir, you have show’d to-day your valiant strain,
And fortune led you well; you have the captives
Who were the opposites of this day’s strife;
We do require them of you, so to use them        50
As we shall find their merits and our safety
May equally determine.
  Edm.        Sir, I thought it fit
To send the old and miserable king
To some retention, and appointed guard;        55
Whose age has charms in it, whose title more,
To pluck the common bosom on his side,
And turn our impress’d lances in our eyes
Which do command them. With him I sent the queen;
My reason all the same; and they are ready        60
To-morrow, or at further space, to appear
Where you shall hold your session. At this time
We sweat and bleed; the friend hath lost his friend,
And the best quarrels, in the heat, are curs’d
By those that feel their sharpness;        65
The question of Cordelia and her father
Requires a fitter place.
  Alb.        Sir, by your patience,
I hold you but a subject of this war,
Not as a brother.        70
  Reg.        That’s as we list to grace him:
Methinks our pleasure might have been demanded,
Ere you had spoke so far. He led our powers,
Bore the commission of my place and person;
The which immediacy may well stand up,        75
And call itself your brother.
  Gon.        Not so hot;
In his own grace he doth exalt himself
More than in your addition.
  Reg.        In my rights,        80
By me invested, he compeers the best.
  Gon.  That were the most, if he should husband you.
  Reg.  Jesters do oft prove prophets.
  Gon.        Holla, holla!
That eye that told you so look’d but a-squint.        85
  Reg.  Lady, I am not well; else I should answer
From a full-flowing stomach. General,
Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony;
Dispose of them, of me; the walls are thine;
Witness the world, that I create thee here        90
My lord and master.
  Gon.        Mean you to enjoy him?
  Alb.  The let-alone lies not in your good will.
  Edm.  Nor in thine, lord.
  Alb.        Half-blooded fellow, yes.        95
  Reg.  [To EDMUND.]  Let the drum strike, and prove my title thine.
  Alb.  Stay yet; hear reason. Edmund, I arrest thee
On capital treason; and, in thy arrest,
This gilded serpent.  [Pointing to GONERIL.]  For your claim, fair sister,
I bar it in the interest of my wife;        100
’Tis she is sub-contracted to this lord,
And I, her husband, contradict your bans.
If you will marry, make your love to me,
My lady is bespoke.
  Gon.        An interlude!        105
  Alb.  Thou art arm’d, Gloucester; let the trumpet sound:
If none appear to prove upon thy person
Thy heinous, manifest, and many treasons,
There is my pledge;  [Throws down a glove.]  I’ll prove it on thy heart,
Ere I taste bread, thou art in nothing less        110
Than I have here proclaim’d thee.
  Reg.        Sick! O sick!
  Gon.  [Aside.]  If not, I’ll ne’er trust medicine.
  Edm.  There’s my exchange:  [Throws down a glove.]  what in the world he is
That names me traitor, villain-like he lies.        115
Call by thy trumpet: he that dares approach,
On him, on you, who not? I will maintain
My truth and honour firmly.
  Alb.  A herald, ho!
  Edm.        A herald, ho! a herald!        120
  Alb.  Trust to thy single virtue; for thy soldiers,
All levied in my name, have in my name
Took their discharge.
  Reg.        My sickness grows upon me.
  Alb.  She is not well; convey her to my tent.  [Exit REGAN, led.        125
Come hither, herald,
 
Enter a Herald.
        Let the trumpet sound,—
And read out this.
  Offi.  Sound, trumpet!  [A trumpet sounds.        130
  Her.  If any man of quality or degree within the lists of the army will maintain upon Edmund, supposed Earl of Gloucester, that he is a manifold traitor, let him appear at the third sound of the trumpet. He is bold in his defence.
  Edm.  Sound!    [First Trumpet.
  Her.  Again!    [Second Trumpet.
  Her.  Again!    [Third Trumpet.
[Trumpet answers within.    
 
Enter EDGAR, armed, with a Trumpet before him.
        135
  Alb.  Ask him his purposes, why he appears
Upon this call o’ the trumpet.
  Her.        What are you?
Your name? your quality? and why you answer
This present summons?        140
  Edg.        Know, my name is lost;
By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit:
Yet am I noble as the adversary
I come to cope.
  Alb.        Which is that adversary?        145
  Edg.  What’s he that speaks for Edmund Earl of Gloucester?
  Edm.  Himself: what sayst thou to him?
  Edg.        Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice; here is mine:        150
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession: I protest,
Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart, thou art a traitor,        155
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father,
Conspirant ’gainst this high illustrious prince,
And, from the extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust below thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou ‘No,’        160
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
Thou liest.
  Edm.  In wisdom I should ask thy name;
But since thy outside looks so fair and war-like,        165
And that thy tongue some say of breeding breathes,
What safe and nicely I might well delay
By rule of knighthood, I disdain and spurn;
Back do I toss these treasons to thy head,
With the hell-hated lie o’erwhelm thy heart,        170
Which, for they yet glance by and scarcely bruise,
This sword of mine shall give them instant way,
Where they shall rest for ever. Trumpets, speak!  [Alarums.  They fight.  EDMUND falls.
  Alb.  Save him, save him!
  Gon.        This is practice, Gloucester:        175
By the law of arms thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquish’d,
But cozen’d and beguil’d.
  Alb.        Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stop it. Hold, sir;        180
Thou worse than any name, read thine own evil:
No tearing, lady; I perceive you know it.  [Gives the letter to EDMUND.
  Gon.  Say, if I do, the laws are mine, not thine:
Who can arraign me for ’t?  [Exit.
  Alb.        Most monstrous!        185
Know’st thou this paper?
  Edm.        Ask me not what I know.
  Alb.  Go after her: she’s desperate; govern her.  [Exit an Officer.
  Edm.  What you have charg’d me with, that have I done,
And more, much more; the time will bring it out:        190
’Tis past, and so am I. But what art thou
That hast this fortune on me? If thou’rt noble,
I do forgive thee.
  Edg.        Let’s exchange charity.
I am no less in blood than thou art, Edmund;        195
If more, the more thou hast wrong’d me.
My name is Edgar, and thy father’s son.
The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us:
The dark and vicious place where thee he got        200
Cost him his eyes.
  Edm.        Thou hast spoken right, ’tis true;
The wheel is come full circle; I am here.
  Alb.  Methought thy very gait did prophesy
A royal nobleness: I must embrace thee:        205
Let sorrow split my heart, if ever I
Did hate thee or thy father.
  Edg.        Worthy prince, I know ’t.
  Alb.  Where have you hid yourself?
How have you known the miseries of your father?        210
  Edg.  By nursing them, my lord. List a brief tale;
And, when ’tis told, O! that my heart would burst,
The bloody proclamation to escape
That follow’d me so near,—O! our lives’ sweetness,
That we the pain of death would hourly die        215
Rather than die at once!—taught me to shift
Into a madman’s rags, to assume a semblance
That very dogs disdain’d: and in this habit
Met I my father with his bleeding rings,
Their precious stones new lost; became his guide,        220
Led him, begg’d for him, sav’d him from despair;
Never,—O fault!—reveal’d myself unto him,
Until some half hour past, when I was arm’d;
Not sure, though hoping, of this good success,
I ask’d his blessing, and from first to last        225
Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw’d heart,—
Alack! too weak the conflict to support;
’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
Burst smilingly.
  Edm.  This speech of yours hath mov’d me,        230
And shall perchance do good; but speak you on;
You look as you had something more to say.
  Alb.  If there be more, more woeful, hold it in;
For I am almost ready to dissolve,
Hearing of this.        235
  Edg.        This would have seem’d a period
To such as love not sorrow; but another,
To amplify too much, would make much more,
And top extremity.
Whilst I was big in clamour came there a man,        240
Who, having seen me in my worst estate,
Shunn’d my abhorr’d society; but then, finding
Who ’twas that so endur’d, with his strong arms
He fasten’d on my neck, and bellow’d out
As he’d burst heaven; threw him on my father;        245
Told the most piteous tale of Lear and him
That ever ear receiv’d; which in recounting
His grief grew puissant, and the strings of life
Began to crack: twice then the trumpet sounded,
And there I left him tranc’d.        250
  Alb.        But who was this?
  Edg.  Kent, sir, the banish’d Kent; who in disguise
Follow’d his enemy king, and did him service
Improper for a slave.
 
Enter a Gentleman, with a bloody knife.
        255
  Gent.  Help, help! O help!
  Edg.        What kind of help?
  Alb.                Speak, man.
  Edg.  What means that bloody knife?
  Gent.        ’Tis hot, it smokes;        260
It came even from the heart of—O! she’s dead.
  Alb.  Who dead? speak, man.
  Gent.  Your lady, sir, your lady: and her sister
By her is poison’d; she confesses it.
  Edm.  I was contracted to them both: all three        265
Now marry in an instant.
  Edg.        Here comes Kent.
  Alb.  Produce the bodies, be they alive or dead:
This judgment of the heavens, that makes us tremble,
Touches us not with pity.  [Exit Gentleman.        270
 
Enter KENT.
        O! is this he?
The time will not allow the compliment
Which very manners urges.
  Kent.        I am come        275
To bid my king and master aye good-night;
Is he not here?
  Alb.        Great thing of us forgot!
Speak, Edmund, where’s the king? and where’s Cordelia?
Seest thou this object, Kent?  [The bodies of GONERIL and REGAN are brought in.        280
  Kent.  Alack! why thus?
  Edm.        Yet Edmund was belov’d:
The one the other poison’d for my sake,
And after slew herself.
  Alb.  Even so. Cover their faces.        285
  Edm.  I pant for life: some good I mean to do
Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send,
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my writ
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia.
Nay, send in time.        290
  Alb.        Run, run! O run!
  Edg.  To whom, my lord? Who has the office? send
Thy token of reprieve.
  Edm.  Well thought on: take my sword,
Give it the captain.        295
  Alb.        Haste thee, for thy life.  [Exit EDGAR.
  Edm.  He hath commission from my wife and me
To hang Cordelia in the prison, and
To lay the blame upon her own despair,
That she fordid herself.        300
  Alb.  The gods defend her! Bear him hence awhile.  [EDMUND is borne off.
 
Enter LEAR, with CORDELIA dead in his arms; EDGAR, Officer, and Others.
  Lear.  Howl, howl, howl, howl! O! you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vaults should crack. She’s gone for ever.        305
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
  Kent.        Is this the promis’d end?        310
  Edg.  Or image of that horror?
  Alb.        Fall and cease?
  Lear.  This feather stirs; she lives! if it be so,
It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt.        315
  Kent.  [Kneeling.]  O, my good master!
  Lear.  Prithee, away.
  Edg.        ’Tis noble Kent, your friend.
  Lear.  A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have sav’d her; now, she’s gone for ever!        320
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is ’t thou sayst? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a hanging thee.
  Off.  ’Tis true, my lord, he did.        325
  Lear.        Did I not, fellow?
I have seen the day, with my good biting falchion
I would have made them skip: I am old now,
And these same crosses spoil me. Who are you?
Mine eyes are not o’ the best: I’ll tell you straight.        330
  Kent.  If fortune brag of two she lov’d and hated,
One of them we behold.
  Lear.  This is a dull sight. Are you not Kent?
  Kent.        The same,
Your servant Kent. Where is your servant Caius?        335
  Lear.  He’s a good fellow, I can tell you that;
He’ll strike, and quickly too. He’s dead and rotten.
  Kent.  No, my good lord; I am the very man—
  Lear.  I’ll see that straight.
  Kent.  That, from your first of difference and decay,        340
Have follow’d your sad steps.
  Lear.        You are welcome hither.
  Kent.  Nor no man else; all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly:
Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves,
And desperately are dead.        345
  Lear.        Ay, so I think.
  Alb.  He knows not what he says, and vain it is
That we present us to him.
  Edg.        Very bootless.
 
Enter an Officer.
        350
  Off.  Edmund is dead, my lord.
  Alb.        That’s but a trifle here.
You lords and noble friends, know our intent;
What comfort to this great decay may come
Shall be applied: for us, we will resign,        355
During the life of this old majesty,
To him our absolute power:—[To EDGAR and KENT.]  You, to your rights;
With boot and such addition as your honours
Have more than merited. All friends shall taste
The wages of their virtue, and all foes        360
The cup of their deservings. O! see, see!
  Lear.  And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!        365
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!    [Dies.
  Edg.        He faints!—my lord, my lord!
  Kent.  Break, heart; I prithee, break.        370
  Edg.        Look up, my lord.
  Kent.  Vex not his ghost: O! let him pass; he hates him
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
  Edg.        He is gone, indeed.        375
  Kent.  The wonder is he hath endur’d so long:
He but usurp’d his life.
  Alb.  Bear them from hence. Our present business
Is general woe.  [To KENT and EDGAR.]  Friends of my soul, you twain
Rule in this realm, and the gor’d state sustain.        380
  Kent.  I have a journey, sir, shortly to go;
My master calls me, I must not say no.
  Alb.  The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young,        385
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.  [Exeunt, with a dead march.
 
 
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