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LEAR, king of Britain

GONERILL, his eldest daughter

REGAN, his second daughter

CORDELIA, his youngest daughter

THE DUKE OF ALBANY, married to Gonerill

THE DUKE OF CORNWALL, married to Regan


EDGAR, his elder son and heir

EDMOND, his illegitimate son

THE EARL OF KENT (later disguised as CAIUS)

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, suitor to Cordelia

THE KING OF FRANCE, suitor to Cordelia

OSWALD, Gonerill's steward

CURAN, a courtier

OLD MAN, Gloucester's tenant

FOOL, in the king's service


Knights, gentlemen, soldiers, attendants, messengers, servants

SCENE: Britain


A Room in King Lear's Palace


 I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.

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 weighted that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moiety.

Is not this your son, my lord?

His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge:
I have so often blushed to acknowledge him,
That now I am brazed to't.

I cannot conceive you.

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?

I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper.

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 something saucily to 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, Edmond?

No, my lord.

My lord of Kent; remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.

My services to your lordship.

I must love you and sue to know you better.

Sir, I shall study deserving.

He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again. The king is coming.


REGAN, CORDELIA, and Attendants

Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.

I shall, my lord.


Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
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
Unburdened crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,
And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
We have this hour a constant will to publish
Our daugthers' several dowers, that future strife
May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy,
Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
And here are to be answered. 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,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where nature doth with merit challenge? Gonerill,
Our eldest born, speak first.

Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.

What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.

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 issues
Be perpetual. What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall?

I am made of that self-mettle as my sister
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names me very deed of love.
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys
Which the most precious square of sense possesses,
An find I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love.

Then poor Cordelia,
And yet not so, since I am sure my love's
More ponderous than my tongue.

To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
No less in space validity, and pleasure
Than that conferred on Gonerill. Now our joy,
Although our last and least, to whose young love
The vines of Fance and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess'd. What can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

Nothing, my lord.



Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond, no more nor less.

How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,
Lest you may mar your fortunes.

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved 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
They love you all? Happily, 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.

But goes thy heart with this?

Ay, my good lord.

So young, and so untender?

So young, my lord, and true.

Let it be so, thy truth then be thy dower.
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,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this forever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighboured, pitied, and relieved,
As thou my sometime daughter.

Good my liege -

Peace, Kent!
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
I loved 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?
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
That troop with majesty. Ourself by monthly course,
With reservation of an hundred knights
By you to be sustained, shall our abode
Make with you by due turn; only we shall retain
The name and all th' addition to a king: the sway,
Revenue, execution of the rest,
Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,
This coronet part between you.

Royal Lear,
Whom I have ever honoured as my king,
Loved as my father, as my master followed,
As my great patron thought on in my prayers -

The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.

Let it fall rather, though the fork invade
The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly
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
This hideous rashness. Answer my life, my judgement:
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
Reverb no hollowness.

Kent, on thy life no more.

My life I never held but as a pawn
To wage against thine enemies, ne'er feared to lose it,
Thy safety being motive.

Out of my sight!

See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

Now by Apollo -

Now by Apollo, king,
Thou swear'st thy gods in vain.

O vassal! Miscreant!

Dear sir, forbear.

Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestow
Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift,
Or whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,
I'll tell thee thou dost evil.

Hear me, recreant,
On thine allegiance hear me.
That thou bast sought to make us break our vows,
Which we durst never yet; and with strained pride,
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 disasters of the world,
And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
Upon our kingdom; if on the tenth day following
Thy banished trunk be found in our dominions
The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter,
This shall not be revoked.

Fare thee well, king, since 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 Gonerill and Regan) And your large speeches may your deeds approve,
That good effects may spring from words of love.
Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu,
He'll shape this old course in a country new.



and Attendants

Here's France and Burgundy, my noble lord.

My lord of Burgundy,
We first address toward you, who with this king
Hath rivalled for our daughter. What in the least
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love?

Most royal majesty,
I crave no more than hath your highness offered,
Nor will you tender less?

Right noble Burgundy,
When she was dear to us, we did hold her so,
But now her price is fallen. Sir, there she stands.
If aught within that little seeming substance,
Or all of it, with our displeasure pieced
And nothing more, may fitly like your grace,
She's there, and she is yours.

I know no answer.

Will you with those infirmities she owes,
Unfriended, new adopted to our hate,
Dowered with our curse, and strangered with our oath,
Take her, or leave her?

Pardon me, royal sir,
Election makes not up in such conditions.

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
To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
T'avert your liking a more worthier way
Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed
Almost t'acknowledge hers.

This is most strange,
That she whom 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
Must be of such unnatural degree
That monsters it, or your fore-vouched affection
Fall into taint; which to believe of her
Must be a faith that reason without miracle
Should never plant in me.

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, murder, or foulness,
No unchaste action or dishonoured step
That hath deprived 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,
Hath lost me in your liking.

Better thou
Hadst not been born than not t'have pleased me better.

Is it but this? A tardiness in nature,
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love's not love
When it is mingled with regards that stands
Aloof from th'entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.

Royal king,
Give but that portion which yourself proposed,
And here I take Cordelia by the hand,
Duchess of Burgundy.

Nothing, I have sworn; I am firm.

I am sorry then, you have so lost a father
That you must lose a husband.

Peace be with Burgundy;
Since that respect and fortunes are his love,
I shall not be his wife.

Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich being poor,
Most choice forsaken, and most loved despised,
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon.
Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.
God, gods! 'Tis strange, that from their cold'st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed 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
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind;
Thou losest here a better where to find.

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,
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.



Bid farewell to your sisters.

The jewels of our father, with washed eyes
Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are,
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Love 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.
So farewell to you both.

Prescribe not us our duty.

Let your study
Be to content your lord, who hath received you
At fortune's alms; you have obedience scanted,
And well are worth the want that you have wanted.

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides;
Who covers faults, at last with shame derides.
Well my you prosper.

Come, my fair Cordelia.


Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly
Appertains to us both. I think our father will hence tonight.

That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.

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 judgement he hath now cast
her off appears too grossly.

'Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly
known himself.

The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash;
then must we look from his age to receive not alone the
imperfections of long-engraffed condition, but therewithal the
unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with them.

Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this
of Kent's banishment.

There is further compliment of leave-taking between
France and him. Pray you, let us sit together. If our father carry
authority with such disposition as he bears, this last surrender
of his will but offend us.

We shall further think of it.

We must do something, and i'th'heat.



A Hall in the Earl of Gloucester's Castle

Enter EDMOND, with a letter

Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me?
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why 'bastard'? Wherefore 'base"?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With 'base'? with 'baseness'? 'bastardy'? 'base, base'?
Who in the lusty stealth of nature take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
Go to th' creating a whole tribe of fops
Got 'tween a sleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father's love is to the bastard, Edmond,
As to th'legitimate. Fine word, 'legitimate'.
Well, my legitimate, (Take out a letter) if this letter speed
And my invention thrive, Edmond the base
Shall to th'legitimate. I grow; I prosper;
Now gods, stand up for bastards!


Kent banished thus? and France in choler parted?

And the king gone tonight? Prescribed his power,

Confined to exhibition? All this done

Upon the gad? Edmond, how now? What news?


So please your lordship, none. (Putting up the letter)


Why so earnestly seek you to put up that letter?


I know no news, my lord.


What paper were you reading?


Nothing, my lord.


No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of it

into your pocket? The quality of nothing hath not such need to

hide itself. Let's see. Come, if it be nothing, I shall not need



I shall offend either to detain or give it. The contents, as

in part I understand them, are too blame.


Let's see, let's see.


I hope for my bother's justification he wrote this but as

an essay or taste of my virtue.


'This policy and reverence of age makes the

world bitter to the best of our times, keeps our fortunes from us

till our oldness cannot relish them. I begin to find an idle and

fond bondage in the oppression of aged tyranny, who sways not

as it hath power but as it is suffered. Come to me, that of this I

may speak more. If our father would sleep till I waked him, you

should enjoy half his revenue forever and live the beloved of

your brother. EDGAR.' Hum! Conspiracy! "Sleep till I waked

him, you should enjoy half his revenue." My son Edgar, had he

a hand to write this? a heart and brain to breed it in? When

came you to this? Who brought it?


It was not brought me, my lord; there's the cunning of it

I found it thrown in at the casement of my closet.


You know the character to be your brother's?


If the matter were good, my lord, I durst swear it were

his, but in respect of that, I would fain think it were not.


It is his.


It is his hand, my lord, but I hope his heart is not in the



Has he never before sounded you in this business?


Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to

be fit that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declined, the father

should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue.


O villain, villain - his very opinion in the letter!

Abhorred villain, unnatural, detested, brutish villain - worse

than brutish! Go, sirrah, seek him: I'll apprehend him.

Abominable villain, where is he?


I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you

suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive

from him better testimony of his intent, you should run a

certain course; where if you violently proceed against him,

mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own

honour and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience. I dare

pawn down my life for him and to no other pretence of danger.


Think you so?


If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you

shall hear us confer of this and by an auricular assurance have

your satisfactions, and that without any further delay than this

very evening.


He cannot be such a monster. Edmund, seek him

out: wind me into him, I pray you. Frame the business after

your own wisdom. I would unstate myself to be in a due



I will seek him, sir, presently, convey the business as I

shall find means, and acquaint you withal.


These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no

good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus

and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects.

Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide. In cities

mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the

bond cracked 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes

under the prediction: there's son against father. The king falls

from bias of nature, there's father against child. We have seen

the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and

all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find

out this villain, Edmond, it shall lose thee nothing. Do it

carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished; his

offence, honesty. 'Tis strange.



This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we

are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we

make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if

we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion,

knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance,

drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of

planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine

thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay

his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father

compounded with my mother under the Dragon's tail, and my

nativity was under Ursa major, so that it follows, I am rough and

lecherous. I should have been that I am had the maidenliest

star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardising. Edgar -


and pat he comes, like the catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue

is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. - O

these eclipses do portend these divisions. Fa, sol, la, me.


How now, brother Edmond, what serious contemplation

are you in?


I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other

day, what should follow these eclipses.


Do you busy yourself with that?


I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily.

When saw you my father last?


The night gone by.


Spake you with him?


Ay, two hours together.


Parted you in good terms? Found you no displeasure in

him by word nor countenance?


None at all.


Bethink yourself wherein you may have offended him,

and at my entreaty forbear his presence until some little time

hath qualified the heat of his displeasure, which at this instant

so rageth in him that with the mischief of your person it would

scarcely allay.


Some villain hath done me wrong.


That's my fear. I pray you have a continent forbearance

till the speed of his rage goes slower; and as I say, retire with

me to my lodging, from whence I will fitly bring you to hear my

lord speak. Pray ye, go: there's my key. If you do stir abroad, go armed.


Armed, brother?


Brother, I advise you to the best. I am no honest man, if

there be any good meaning toward you. I have told you what I

have seen and heard - but faintly, nothing like the image and

horror of it. Pray you, away.


Shall I hear from you anon?


I do serve you in this business.

Exit (EDGAR)

A credulous father and a brother noble,

Whose nature is so far from doing harms

That he suspects none; on whose foolish honesty

My practices ride easy. I see the business.

Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit.

All with me's meet that I can fashion fit.



A Room in the Castle of Albany and Gonerill

Enter GONERILL and OSWALD her steward


Did my father strike my gentleman for chiding of his fool?


Ay, madam.


By day and night, he wrongs me; every hour

He flashes into one gross crime or other

That sets us all at odds. I'll not endure it.

His knights grow riotous, and himself upbraids us

On every trifle. When he returns from hunting,

I will not speak with him. Say I am sick.

If you come slack of former services,

You shall do well; the fault of it I'll answer.

(Horns within)


He's coming, madam, I hear him.


Put on what weary negligence you please,

You and your fellows: I'd have it come to question.

If he distaste it, let him to my sister,

Whose mind and mine I know in that are one.

Remember what I have said.


Well, madam.


And let his knights have colder looks among you:

What grows of it no matter. Advise your fellows so.

I'll write straight to my sister to hold my course.

Prepare for dinner.