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

Act II. Scene I.

King Lear

A Court within the Castle of the EARL OF GLOUCESTER.

Enter EDMUND and CURAN, meeting.

Edm.Save thee, Curan.

Cur.And you, sir. I have been with your father, and given him notice that the Duke of Cornwall and Regan his duchess will be here with him to-night.

Edm.How comes that?

Cur.Nay, I know not. You have heard of the news abroad? I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments?

Edm.Not I: pray you, what are they?

Cur.Have you heard of no likely wars toward, ’twixt the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany?

Edm.Not a word.

Cur.You may do then, in time. Fare you well, sir.[Exit.

Edm.The duke be here to-night! The better! best!

This weaves itself perforce into my business.

My father hath set guard to take my brother;

And I have one thing, of a queasy question,

Which I must act. Briefness and fortune, work!

Brother, a word; descend: brother, I say!

Enter EDGAR.

My father watches: O sir! fly this place;

Intelligence is given where you are hid;

You have now the good advantage of the night.

Have you not spoken ’gainst the Duke of Cornwall?

He’s coming hither, now, i’ the night, i’ the haste,

And Regan with him; have you nothing said

Upon his party ’gainst the Duke of Albany?

Advise yourself.

Edg.I am sure on ’t, not a word.

Edm.I hear my father coming; pardon me;

In cunning I must draw my sword upon you;

Draw; seem to defend yourself; now ’quit you well.

Yield;—come before my father. Light, ho! here!

Fly, brother. Torches! torches! So, farewell.[Exit EDGAR.

Some blood drawn on me would beget opinion[Wounds his arm.

Of my more fierce endeavour: I have seen drunkards

Do more than this in sport. Father! father!

Stop, stop! No help?

Enter GLOUCESTER, and Servants with torches.

Glo.Now, Edmund, where’s the villain?

Edm.Here stood he in the dark, his sharp sword out,

Mumbling of wicked charms, conjuring the moon

To stand auspicious mistress.

Glo.But where is he?

Edm.Look, sir, I bleed.

Glo.Where is the villain, Edmund?

Edm.Fled this way, sir. When by no means he could—

Glo.Pursue him, ho! Go after.[Exeunt some Servants.]‘By no means’ what?

Edm.Persuade me to the murder of your lordship;

But that I told him, the revenging gods

’Gainst parricides did all their thunders bend;

Spoke with how manifold and strong a bond

The child was bound to the father; sir, in fine,

Seeing how loathly opposite I stood

To his unnatural purpose, in fell motion,

With his prepared sword he charges home

My unprovided body, lanc’d mine arm:

But when he saw my best alarum’d spirits

Bold in the quarrel’s right, rous’d to the encounter,

Or whether gasted by the noise I made,

Full suddenly he fled.

Glo.Let him fly far:

Not in this land shall he remain uncaught;

And found—dispatch. The noble duke my master,

My worthy arch and patron, comes to-night:

By his authority I will proclaim it,

That he which finds him shall deserve our thanks,

Bringing the murderous coward to the stake;

He that conceals him, death.

Edm.When I dissuaded him from his intent,

And found him pight to do it, with curst speech

I threaten’d to discover him: he replied,

‘Thou unpossessing bastard! dost thou think,

If I would stand against thee, would the reposal

Of any trust, virtue, or worth, in thee

Make thy words faith’d? No: what I should deny,—

As this I would; ay, though thou didst produce

My very character,—I’d turn it all

To thy suggestion, plot, and damned practice:

And thou must make a dullard of the world,

If they not thought the profits of my death

Were very pregnant and potential spurs

To make thee seek it.’

Glo.Strong and fasten’d villain!

Would he deny his letter? I never got him.[Tucket within.

Hark! the duke’s trumpets. I know not why he comes.

All ports I’ll bar; the villain shall not ’scape;

The duke must grant me that: besides, his picture

I will send far and near, that all the kingdom

May have due note of him; and of my land,

Loyal and natural boy, I’ll work the means

To make thee capable.

Enter CORNWALL, REGAN, and Attendants.

Corn.How now, my noble friend! since I came hither,—

Which I can call but now,—I have heard strange news.

Reg.If it be true, all vengeance comes too short

Which can pursue the offender. How dost, my lord?

Glo.O! madam, my old heart is crack’d, it’s crack’d.

Reg.What! did my father’s godson seek your life?

He whom my father nam’d? your Edgar?

Glo.O! lady, lady, shame would have it hid.

Reg.Was he not companion with the riotous knights

That tend upon my father?

Glo.I know not, madam; ’tis too bad, too bad.

Edm.Yes, madam, he was of that consort.

Reg.No marvel then though he were ill affected;

’Tis they have put him on the old man’s death,

To have the expense and waste of his revenues.

I have this present evening from my sister

Been well-inform’d of them, and with such cautions

That if they come to sojourn at my house,

I’ll not be there.

Corn.Nor I, assure thee, Regan.

Edmund, I hear that you have shown your father

A child-like office.

Edm.’Twas my duty, sir.

Glo.He did bewray his practice; and receiv’d

This hurt you see, striving to apprehend him.

Corn.Is he pursu’d?

Glo.Ay, my good lord.

Corn.If he be taken he shall never more

Be fear’d of doing harm; make your own purpose,

How in my strength you please. For you, Edmund,

Whose virtue and obedience doth this instant

So much commend itself, you shall be ours:

Natures of such deep trust we shall much need;

You we first seize on.

Edm.I shall serve you, sir,

Truly, however else.

Glo.For him I thank your Grace.

Corn.You know not why we came to visit you,—

Reg.Thus out of season, threading dark-ey’d night:

Occasions, noble Gloucester, of some prize,

Wherein we must have use of your advice.

Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,

Of differences, which I best thought it fit

To answer from our home; the several messengers

From hence attend dispatch. Our good old friend,

Lay comforts to your bosom, and bestow

Your needful counsel to our businesses,

Which craves the instant use.

Glo.I serve you, madam.

Your Graces are right welcome.[Exeunt.