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

Act IV. Scene III.

King Lear

The French Camp, near Dover.

Enter KENT and a Gentleman.

Kent.Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back know you the reason?

Gent.Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his coming forth is thought of; which imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger, that his personal return was most required and necessary.

Kent.Who hath he left behind him general?

Gent.The Marshal of France, Monsieur la Far.

Kent.Did your letters pierce the queen to any demonstration of grief?

Gent.Ay, sir; she took them, read them in my presence;

And now and then an ample tear trill’d down

Her delicate cheek; it seem’d she was a queen

Over her passion; who, most rebel-like,

Sought to be king o’er her.

Kent.O! then it mov’d her.

Gent.Not to a rage; patience and sorrow strove

Who should express her goodliest. You have seen

Sunshine and rain at once; her smiles and tears

Were like a better way; those happy smilets

That play’d on her ripe lip seem’d not to know

What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence,

As pearls from diamonds dropp’d. In brief,

Sorrow would be a rarity most belov’d,

If all could so become it.

Kent.Made she no verbal question?

Gent.Faith, once or twice she heav’d the name of ‘father’

Pantingly forth, as if it press’d her heart;

Cried, ‘Sisters! sisters! Shame of ladies! sisters!

Kent! father! sisters! What, i’ the storm? i’ the night?

Let pity not be believed!’ There she shook

The holy water from her heavenly eyes,

And clamour-moisten’d, then away she started

To deal with grief alone.

Kent.It is the stars,

The stars above us, govern our conditions;

Else one self mate and make could not beget

Such different issues. You spoke not with her since?


Kent.Was this before the king return’d?

Gent.No, since.

Kent.Well, sir, the poor distress’d Lear’s i’ the town,

Who sometime, in his better tune, remembers

What we are come about, and by no means

Will yield to see his daughter.

Gent.Why, good sir?

Kent.A sovereign shame so elbows him: his own unkindness,

That stripp’d her from his benediction, turn’d her

To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights

To his dog-hearted daughters,—these things sting

His mind so venomously that burning shame

Detains him from Cordelia.

Gent.Alack! poor gentleman.

Kent.Of Albany’s and Cornwall’s powers you heard not?

Gent.’Tis so, they are afoot.

Kent.Well, sir, I’ll bring you to our master Lear,

And leave you to attend him. Some dear cause

Will in concealment wrap me up awhile;

When I am known aright, you shall not grieve

Lending me this acquaintance. I pray you, go

Along with me.[Exeunt.