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

Act II. Scene II.

King Lear

Before GLOUCESTER’S Castle.

Enter KENT and OSWALD, severally.

Osw.Good dawning to thee, friend: art of this house?


Osw.Where may we set our horses?

Kent.I’ the mire.

Osw.Prithee, if thou lovest me, tell me.

Kent.I love thee not.

Osw.Why, then I care not for thee.

Kent.If I had thee in Lipsbury pinfold, I would make thee care for me.

Osw.Why dost thou use me thus? I know thee not.

Kent.Fellow, I know thee.

Osw.What dost thou know me for?

Kent.A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking knave; a whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.

Osw.Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that is neither known of thee nor knows thee!

Kent.What a brazen-faced varlet art thou, to deny thou knowest me! Is it two days since I tripped up thy heels and beat thee before the king? Draw, you rogue; for, though it be night, yet the moon shines: I’ll make a sop o’ the moonshine of you.[Drawing his sword.]Draw, you whoreson, cullionly, barber-monger, draw.

Osw.Away! I have nothing to do with thee.

Kent.Draw, you rascal; you come with letters against the king, and take vanity the puppet’s part against the royalty of her father. Draw, you rogue, or I’ll so carbonado your shanks: draw, you rascal; come your ways.

Osw.Help, ho! murder! help!

Kent.Strike, you slave; stand, rogue, stand; you neat slave, strike.[Beating him.

Osw.Help, oh! murder! murder!

Enter EDMUND with his rapier drawn.

Edm.How now! What’s the matter?[Parting them.

Kent.With you, goodman boy, if you please: come,

I’ll flesh ye; come on, young master.


Glo.Weapons! arms! What’s the matter here?

Corn.Keep peace, upon your lives:

He dies that strikes again. What is the matter?

Reg.The messengers from our sister and the king.

Corn.What is your difference? speak.

Osw.I am scarce in breath, my lord.

Kent.No marvel, you have so bestirred your valour. You cowardly rascal, nature disclaims in thee: a tailor made thee.

Corn.Thou art a strange fellow; a tailor make a man?

Kent.Ay, a tailor, sir: a stone-cutter or a painter could not have made him so ill, though they had been but two hours o’ the trade.

Corn.Speak yet, how grew your quarrel?

Osw.This ancient ruffian, sir, whose life I have spar’d at suit of his grey beard,—

Kent.Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with him. Spare my grey beard, you wagtail?

Corn.Peace, sirrah!

You beastly knave, know you no reverence?

Kent.Yes, sir; but anger hath a privilege.

Corn.Why art thou angry?

Kent.That such a slave as this should wear a sword,

Who wears no honesty. Such smiling rogues as these,

Like rats, oft bite the holy cords a-twain

Which are too intrinse t’ unloose; smooth every passion

That in the natures of their lords rebel;

Bring oil to fire, snow to their colder moods;

Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks

With every gale and vary of their masters,

Knowing nought, like dogs, but following.

A plague upon your epileptic visage!

Smile you my speeches, as I were a fool?

Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain,

I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot.

Corn.What! art thou mad, old fellow?

Glo.How fell you out? say that.

Kent.No contraries hold more antipathy

Than I and such a knave.

Corn.Why dost thou call him knave? What is his fault?

Kent.His countenance likes me not.

Corn.No more, perchance, does mine, nor his, nor hers.

Kent.Sir, ’tis my occupation to be plain:

I have seen better faces in my time

Than stands on any shoulder that I see

Before me at this instant.

Corn.This is some fellow,

Who, having been prais’d for bluntness, doth affect

A saucy roughness, and constrains the garb

Quite from his nature: he cannot flatter, he,

An honest mind and plain, he must speak truth:

An they will take it, so; if not, he’s plain.

These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness

Harbour more craft and more corrupter ends

Than twenty silly-ducking observants,

That stretch their duties nicely.

Kent.Sir, in good sooth, in sincere verity,

Under the allowance of your grand aspect,

Whose influence, like the wreath of radiant fire

On flickering Phœbus’ front,—

Corn.What mean’st by this?

Kent.To go out of my dialect, which you discommend so much. I know, sir, I am no flatterer: he that beguiled you in a plain accent was a plain knave; which for my part I will not be, though I should win your displeasure to entreat me to ’t.

Corn.What was the offence you gave him?

Osw.I never gave him any:

It pleas’d the king his master very late

To strike at me, upon his misconstruction;

When he, conjunct, and flattering his displeasure,

Tripp’d me behind; being down, insulted, rail’d,

And put upon him such a deal of man,

That worthied him, got praises of the king

For him attempting who was self-subdu’d;

And, in the fleshment of this dread exploit,

Drew on me here again.

Kent.None of these rogues and cowards

But Ajax is their fool.

Corn.Fetch forth the stocks!

You stubborn ancient knave, you reverend braggart,

We’ll teach you.

Kent.Sir, I am too old to learn,

Call not your stocks for me; I serve the king,

On whose employment I was sent to you;

You shall do small respect, show too bold malice

Against the grace and person of my master,

Stocking his messenger.

Corn.Fetch forth the stocks! As I have life and honour,

There shall he sit till noon.

Reg.Till noon! Till night, my lord; and all night too.

Kent.Why, madam, if I were your father’s dog,

You should not use me so.

Reg.Sir, being his knave, I will.

Corn.This is a fellow of the self-same colour

Our sister speaks of. Come, bring away the stocks.[Stocks brought out.

Glo.Let me beseech your Grace not to do so.

His fault is much, and the good king his master

Will check him for ’t: your purpos’d low correction

Is such as basest and contemned’st wretches

For pilferings and most common trespasses

Are punish’d with: the king must take it ill,

That he, so slightly valu’d in his messenger,

Should have him thus restrain’d.

Corn.I’ll answer that.

Reg.My sister may receive it much more worse

To have her gentleman abus’d, assaulted,

For following her affairs. Put in his legs.[KENT is put in the stocks.

Come, my good lord, away.[Exeunt all but GLOUCESTER and KENT.

Glo.I am sorry for thee, friend; ’tis the duke’s pleasure,

Whose disposition, all the world well knows,

Will not be rubb’d nor stopp’d: I’ll entreat for thee.

Kent.Pray, do not, sir. I have watch’d and travell’d hard;

Some time I shall sleep out, the rest I’ll whistle.

A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels:

Give you good morrow!

Glo.The duke’s to blame in this; ’twill be ill taken.[Exit.

Kent.Good king, that must approve the common saw,

Thou out of heaven’s benediction com’st

To the warm sun.

Approach, thou beacon to this under globe,

That by thy comfortable beams I may

Peruse this letter. Nothing almost sees miracles

But misery: I know ’tis from Cordelia,

Who hath most fortunately been inform’d

Of my obscured course; and shall find time

From this enormous state, seeking to give

Losses their remedies. All weary and o’er-watch’d,

Take vantage, heavy eyes, not to behold

This shameful lodging.

Fortune, good night, smile once more; turn thy wheel![He sleeps.