King Lear

by William Shakespeare

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ACT IV - Scene VI.

The country near Dover.

Enter Gloucester, and Edgar [like a Peasant].

When shall I come to th' top of that same hill?

You do climb up it now. Look how we labour.

Methinks the ground is even.

Horrible steep.
Hark, do you hear the sea?

No, truly.

Why, then, your other senses grow imperfect
By your eyes' anguish.

So may it be indeed.
Methinks thy voice is alter'd, and thou speak'st
In better phrase and matter than thou didst.

Y'are much deceiv'd. In nothing am I chang'd
But in my garments.

Methinks y'are better spoken.

Come on, sir; here's the place. Stand still. How fearful
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down
Hangs one that gathers sampire- dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark,
Diminish'd to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge
That on th' unnumb'red idle pebble chafes
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.

Set me where you stand.

Give me your hand. You are now within a foot
Of th' extreme verge. For all beneath the moon
Would I not leap upright.

Let go my hand.
Here, friend, is another purse; in it a jewel
Well worth a poor man's taking. Fairies and gods
Prosper it with thee! Go thou further off;
Bid me farewell, and let me hear thee going.

Now fare ye well, good sir.

With all my heart.

[aside]. Why I do trifle thus with his despair
Is done to cure it.

O you mighty gods! He kneels.
This world I do renounce, and, in your sights,
Shake patiently my great affliction off.
If I could bear it longer and not fall
To quarrel with your great opposeless wills,
My snuff and loathed part of nature should
Burn itself out. If Edgar live, O, bless him!
Now, fellow, fare thee well.

He falls [forward and swoons].

Gone, sir, farewell.-
And yet I know not how conceit may rob
The treasury of life when life itself
Yields to the theft. Had he been where he thought,
By this had thought been past.- Alive or dead?
Ho you, sir! friend! Hear you, sir? Speak!-
Thus might he pass indeed. Yet he revives.
What are you, sir?

Away, and let me die.

Hadst thou been aught but gossamer, feathers, air,
So many fadom down precipitating,
Thou'dst shiver'd like an egg; but thou dost breathe;
Hast heavy substance; bleed'st not; speak'st; art sound.
Ten masts at each make not the altitude
Which thou hast perpendicularly fell.
Thy life is a miracle. Speak yet again.

But have I fall'n, or no?

From the dread summit of this chalky bourn.
Look up a-height. The shrill-gorg'd lark so far
Cannot be seen or heard. Do but look up.

Alack, I have no eyes!
Is wretchedness depriv'd that benefit
To end itself by death? 'Twas yet some comfort
When misery could beguile the tyrant's rage
And frustrate his proud will.

Give me your arm.
Up- so. How is't? Feel you your legs? You stand.

Too well, too well.

This is above all strangeness.
Upon the crown o' th' cliff what thing was that
Which parted from you?

A poor unfortunate beggar.

As I stood here below, methought his eyes
Were two full moons; he had a thousand noses,
Horns whelk'd and wav'd like the enridged sea.
It was some fiend. Therefore, thou happy father,
Think that the clearest gods, who make them honours
Of men's impossibility, have preserv'd thee.

I do remember now. Henceforth I'll bear
Affliction till it do cry out itself
'Enough, enough,' and die. That thing you speak of,
I took it for a man. Often 'twould say
'The fiend, the fiend'- he led me to that place.

Bear free and patient thoughts.

Enter Lear, mad, [fantastically dressed with weeds].

But who comes here?
The safer sense will ne'er accommodate
His master thus.

No, they cannot touch me for coming;
I am the King himself.

O thou side-piercing sight!

Nature 's above art in that respect. There's your press
money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper. Draw me
a clothier's yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace; this piece
of toasted cheese will do't. There's my gauntlet; I'll prove it
on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird! i'
th' clout, i' th' clout! Hewgh! Give the word.

Sweet marjoram.


I know that voice.

Ha! Goneril with a white beard? They flatter'd me like a dog,
and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones
were there. To say 'ay' and 'no' to everything I said! 'Ay' and
'no' too was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me
once, and the wind to make me chatter; when the thunder would
not peace at my bidding; there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em
out. Go to, they are not men o' their words! They told me I was
everything. 'Tis a lie- I am not ague-proof.

The trick of that voice I do well remember.
Is't not the King?

Ay, every inch a king!
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man's life. What was thy cause?
Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No.
The wren goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloucester's bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets.
To't, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers.
Behold yond simp'ring dame,
Whose face between her forks presageth snow,
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure's name.
The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to't
With a more riotous appetite.
Down from the waist they are Centaurs,
Though women all above.
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiend's.
There's hell, there's darkness, there's the sulphurous pit;
burning, scalding, stench, consumption. Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!
Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my
imagination. There's money for thee.

O, let me kiss that hand!

Let me wipe it first; it smells of mortality.

O ruin'd piece of nature! This great world
Shall so wear out to naught. Dost thou know me?

I remember thine eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny at me?
No, do thy worst, blind Cupid! I'll not love. Read thou this
challenge; mark but the penning of it.

Were all the letters suns, I could not see one.

[aside] I would not take this from report. It is,
And my heart breaks at it.


What, with the case of eyes?

O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor no
money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse
in a light. Yet you see how this world goes.

I see it feelingly.

What, art mad? A man may see how the world goes with no eyes.
Look with thine ears. See how yond justice rails upon yond
simple thief. Hark in thine ear. Change places and, handy-dandy,
which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a
farmer's dog bark at a beggar?

Ay, sir.

And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold
the great image of authority: a dog's obeyed in office.
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back.
Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind
For which thou whip'st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
Through tatter'd clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
Arm it in rags, a pygmy's straw does pierce it.
None does offend, none- I say none! I'll able 'em.
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power
To seal th' accuser's lips. Get thee glass eyes
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not. Now, now, now, now!
Pull off my boots. Harder, harder! So.

O, matter and impertinency mix'd!
Reason, in madness!

If thou wilt weep my fortunes, take my eyes.
I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.
Thou must be patient. We came crying hither;
Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air
We wawl and cry. I will preach to thee. Mark.

Alack, alack the day!

When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools. This' a good block.
It were a delicate stratagem to shoe
A troop of horse with felt. I'll put't in proof,
And when I have stol'n upon these sons-in-law,
Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!

Enter a Gentleman [with Attendants].

O, here he is! Lay hand upon him.- Sir,
Your most dear daughter-

No rescue? What, a prisoner? I am even
The natural fool of fortune. Use me well;
You shall have ransom. Let me have a surgeon;
I am cut to th' brains.

You shall have anything.

No seconds? All myself?
Why, this would make a man a man of salt,
To use his eyes for garden waterpots,
Ay, and laying autumn's dust.

Good sir-

I will die bravely, like a smug bridegroom. What!
I will be jovial. Come, come, I am a king;
My masters, know you that?

You are a royal one, and we obey you.

Then there's life in't. Nay, an you get it, you shall get it
by running. Sa, sa, sa, sa!

Exit running.[Attendants follow.]

A sight most pitiful in the meanest wretch,
Past speaking of in a king! Thou hast one daughter
Who redeems nature from the general curse
Which twain have brought her to.

Hail, gentle sir.

Sir, speed you. What's your will?

Do you hear aught, sir, of a battle toward?

Most sure and vulgar. Every one hears that
Which can distinguish sound.

But, by your favour,
How near's the other army?

Near and on speedy foot. The main descry
Stands on the hourly thought.

I thank you sir. That's all.

Though that the Queen on special cause is here,
Her army is mov'd on.

I thank you, sir

Exit [Gentleman].

You ever-gentle gods, take my breath from me;
Let not my worser spirit tempt me again
To die before you please!

Well pray you, father.

Now, good sir, what are you?

A most poor man, made tame to fortune's blows,
Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
Am pregnant to good pity. Give me your hand;
I'll lead you to some biding.

Hearty thanks.
The bounty and the benison of heaven
To boot, and boot!

Enter [Oswald the] Steward.

A proclaim'd prize! Most happy!
That eyeless head of thine was first fram'd flesh
To raise my fortunes. Thou old unhappy traitor,
Briefly thyself remember. The sword is out
That must destroy thee.

Now let thy friendly hand
Put strength enough to't.

[Edgar interposes.]

Wherefore, bold peasant,
Dar'st thou support a publish'd traitor? Hence!
Lest that th' infection of his fortune take
Like hold on thee. Let go his arm.

Chill not let go, zir, without vurther 'cagion.

Let go, slave, or thou diest!

Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor voke pass. An chud
ha' bin zwagger'd out of my life, 'twould not ha' bin zo long as
'tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not near th' old man. Keep out,
che vore ye, or Ise try whether your costard or my ballow be the
harder. Chill be plain with you.

Out, dunghill!

They fight.

Chill pick your teeth, zir. Come! No matter vor your foins.

[Oswald falls.]

Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body,
And give the letters which thou find'st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
Upon the British party. O, untimely death! Death!

He dies.

I know thee well. A serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.

What, is he dead?

Sit you down, father; rest you.
Let's see his pockets; these letters that he speaks of
May be my friends. He's dead. I am only sorry
He had no other deathsman. Let us see.
Leave, gentle wax; and, manners, blame us not.
To know our enemies' minds, we'ld rip their hearts;
Their papers, is more lawful.

Reads the letter.

'Let our reciprocal vows be rememb'red. You have many
opportunities to cut him off. If your will want not, time and
place will be fruitfully offer'd. There is nothing done, if he
return the conqueror. Then am I the prisoner, and his bed my
jail; from the loathed warmth whereof deliver me, and supply the
place for your labour.

'Your (wife, so I would say) affectionate servant,

O indistinguish'd space of woman's will!
A plot upon her virtuous husband's life,
And the exchange my brother! Here in the sands
Thee I'll rake up, the post unsanctified
Of murtherous lechers; and in the mature time
With this ungracious paper strike the sight
Of the death-practis'd Duke, For him 'tis well
That of thy death and business I can tell.

The King is mad. How stiff is my vile sense,
That I stand up, and have ingenious feeling
Of my huge sorrows! Better I were distract.
So should my thoughts be sever'd from my griefs,
And woes by wrong imaginations lose
The knowledge of themselves.

A drum afar off.

Give me your hand.
Far off methinks I hear the beaten drum.
Come, father, I'll bestow you with a friend.


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