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

Act IV. Scene II.

King Lear

Before the DUKE OF ALBANY’S Palace.


Gon.Welcome, my lord; I marvel our mild husband

Not met us on the way.[Enter OSWALD.]Now, where’s your master?

Osw.Madam, within; but never man so chang’d.

I told him of the army that was landed;

He smil’d at it: I told him you were coming;

His answer was, ‘The worse:’ of Gloucester’s treachery,

And of the loyal service of his son,

When I inform’d him, then he call’d me sot,

And told me I had turn’d the wrong side out:

What most he should dislike seems pleasant to him;

What like, offensive.

Gon.[To EDMUND.]Then, shall you go no further.

It is the cowish terror of his spirit

That dares not undertake; he’ll not feel wrongs

Which tie him to an answer. Our wishes on the way

May prove effects. Back, Edmund, to my brother;

Hasten his musters and conduct his powers:

I must change arms at home, and give the distaff

Into my husband’s hands. This trusty servant

Shall pass between us; ere long you are like to hear,

If you dare venture in your own behalf,

A mistress’s command. Wear this; spare speech;[Giving a favour.

Decline your head: this kiss, if it durst speak,

Would stretch thy spirits up into the air.

Conceive, and fare thee well.

Edm.Yours in the ranks of death.

Gon.My most dear Gloucester![Exit EDMUND.

O! the difference of man and man!

To thee a woman’s services are due:

My fool usurps my bed.

Osw.Madam, here comes my lord.[Exit.


Gon.I have been worth the whistle.

Alb.O Gonerill

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face. I fear your disposition:

That nature, which contemns its origin,

Cannot be border’d certain in itself;

She that herself will sliver and disbranch

From her material sap, perforce must wither

And come to deadly use.

Gon.No more; the text is foolish.

Alb.Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;

Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?

Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform’d?

A father, and a gracious aged man,

Whose reverence the head-lugg’d bear would lick,

Most barbarous, most degenerate! have you madded.

Could my good brother suffer you to do it?

A man, a prince, by him so benefited!

If that the heavens do not their visible spirits

Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,

It will come,

Humanity must perforce prey on itself,

Like monsters of the deep.

Gon.Milk-liver’d man!

That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;

Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning

Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know’st

Fools do those villains pity who are punish’d

Ere they have done their mischief. Where’s thy drum?

France spreads his banners in our noiseless land,

With plumed helm thy slayer begins threats,

Whilst thou, a moral fool, sitt’st still, and criest

‘Alack! why does he so?’

Alb.See thyself, devil!

Proper deformity seems not in the fiend

So horrid as in woman.

Gon.O vain fool!

Alb.Thou changed and self-cover’d thing, for shame,

Be-monster not thy feature. Were ’t my fitness

To let these hands obey my blood,

They are apt enough to dislocate and tear

Thy flesh and bones; howe’er thou art a fiend,

A woman’s shape doth shield thee.

Gon.Marry, your manhood.—Mew!

Enter a Messenger.

Alb.What news?

Mess.O! my good lord, the Duke of Cornwall’s dead;

Slain by his servant, going to put out

The other eye of Gloucester.

Alb.Gloucester’s eyes!

Mess.A servant that he bred, thrill’d with remorse,

Oppos’d against the act, bending his sword

To his great master; who, thereat enrag’d,

Flew on him, and amongst them fell’d him dead;

But not without that harmful stroke, which since

Hath pluck’d him after.

Alb.This shows you are above,

You justicers, that these our nether crimes

So speedily can venge! But, O poor Gloucester!

Lost he his other eye?

Mess.Both, both, my lord.

This letter, madam, craves a speedy answer;

’Tis from your sister.

Gon.[Aside.]One way I like this well;

But being widow, and my Gloucester with her,

May all the building in my fancy pluck

Upon my hateful life: another way,

This news is not so tart.[To Messenger.]I’ll read and answer.[Exit.

Alb.Where was his son when they did take his eyes?

Mess.Come with my lady hither.

Alb.He is not here.

Mess.No, my good lord; I met him back again.

Alb.Knows he the wickedness?

Mess.Ay, my good lord; ’twas he inform’d against him,

And quit the house on purpose that their punishment

Might have the freer course.

Alb.Gloucester, I live

To thank thee for the love thou show’dst the king,

And to revenge thine eyes. Come hither, friend:

Tell me what more thou knowest.[Exeunt.