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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene VII.

King Lear

A Room in GLOUCESTER’S Castle.


Corn.Post speedily to my lord your husband; show him this letter: the army of France is landed. Seek out the traitor Gloucester.[Exeunt some of the Servants.

Reg.Hang him instantly.

Gon.Pluck out his eyes.

Corn.Leave him to my displeasure. Edmund, keep you our sister company: the revenges we are bound to take upon your traitorous father are not fit for your beholding. Advise the duke, where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us. Farewell, dear sister: farewell, my Lord of Gloucester.


How now? Where’s the king?

Osw.My Lord of Gloucester hath convey’d him hence:

Some five or six and thirty of his knights,

Hot questrists after him, met him at gate;

Who, with some other of the lord’s dependants,

Are gone with him toward Dover, where they boast

To have well-armed friends.

Corn.Get horses for your mistress.

Gon.Farewell, sweet lord, and sister.

Corn.Edmund, farewell.[Exeunt GONERIL, EDMUND, and OSWALD.
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,

Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.[Exeunt other Servants.

Though well we may not pass upon his life

Without the form of justice, yet our power

Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men

May blame but not control. Who’s there? The traitor?

Re-enter Servants, with GLOUCESTER.

Reg.Ingrateful fox! ’tis he.

Corn.Bind fast his corky arms.

Glo.What mean your Graces? Good my friends, consider

You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends

Corn.Bind him, I say.[Servants bind him.

Reg.Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!

Glo.Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.

Corn.To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt find—[REGAN plucks his beard.

Glo.By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done

To pluck me by the beard.

Reg.So white, and such a traitor!

Glo.Naughty lady,

These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,

Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:

With robbers’ hands my hospitable favours

You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?

Corn.Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?

Reg.Be simple-answer’d, for we know the truth.

Corn.And what confederacy have you with the traitors

Late footed in the kingdom?

Reg.To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king?


Glo.I have a letter guessingly set down,

Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,

And not from one oppos’d.


Reg.And false.

Corn.Where hast thou sent the king?

Glou.To Dover.

Reg.Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charg’d at peril—

Corn.Wherefore to Dover? Let him answer that.

Glo.I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the course.

Reg.Wherefore to Dover?

Glo.Because I would not see thy cruel nails

Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister

In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.

The sea, with such a storm as his bare head

In hell-black night endur’d, would have buoy’d up,

And quench’d the stelled fires;

Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.

If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that dern time,

Thou shouldst have said, ‘Good porter, turn the key,’

All cruels else subscrib’d: but I shall see

The winged vengeance overtake such children.

Corn.See ’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.

Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.

Glo.He that will think to live till he be old,

Give me some help! O cruel! O ye gods![GLOUCESTER’S eye put out.

Reg.One side will mock another; the other too.

Corn.If you see vengeance.—

First Serv.Hold your hand, my lord:

I have serv’d you ever since I was a child,

But better service have I never done you

Than now to bid you hold.

Reg.How now, you dog!

First Serv.If you did wear a beard upon your chin,

I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?

Corn.My villain![Draws.

First Serv.Nay then, come on, and take the chance of anger.[Draws.They fight.CORNWALL is wounded.

Reg.Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus![Takes a sword and runs at him behind.

First Serv.O! I am slain. My lord, you have one eye left

To see some mischief on him. O![Dies.

Corn.Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly!

Where is thy lustre now?

Glo.All dark and comfortless. Where’s my son Edmund?

Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature

To quit this horried act.

Reg.Out, treacherous villain!

Thou call’st on him that hates thee; it was he

That made the overture of thy treasons to us,

Who is too good to pity thee.

Glo.O my follies! Then Edgar was abus’d.

Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!

Reg.Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell

His way to Dover.[Exit one with GLOUCESTER.]How is ’t, my lord? How look you?

Corn.I have receiv’d a hurt. Follow me, lady.

Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave

Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace:

Untimely comes this hurt. Give me your arm.[Exit CORNWALL led by REGAN.

Sec. Serv.I’ll never care what wickedness I do

If this man come to good.

Third Serv.If she live long,

And, in the end, meet the old course of death,

Women will all turn monsters.

Sec. Serv.Let’s follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam

To lead him where he would: his roguish madness

Allows itself to any thing.

Third Serv.Go thou; I’ll fetch some flax, and whites of eggs,

To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him![Exeunt severally.