Document: All > Shakespeare > Tragedies > King Lear > Act I, scene IV
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[Enter KENT, disguised]
KENT: If but as well I other accents borrow,
That can my speech defuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I razed my likeness. Now, banish'd Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemn'd,
So may it come, thy master, whom thou lovest,
Shall find thee full of labours.
[Horns within. Enter KING LEAR, Knights, and
KING LEAR: Let me not stay a jot for dinner; go get it ready.
[Exit an Attendant]
How now! what art thou?
KENT: A man, sir.
KING LEAR: What dost thou profess? what wouldst thou with us?
KENT: I do profess to be no less than I seem; to serve
him truly that will put me in trust: to love him
that is honest; to converse with him that is wise,
and says little; to fear judgment; to fight when I
cannot choose; and to eat no fish.
KING LEAR: What art thou?
KENT: A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the king.
KING LEAR: If thou be as poor for a subject as he is for a
king, thou art poor enough. What wouldst thou?
KING LEAR: Who wouldst thou serve?
KING LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow?
KENT: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance
which I would fain call master.
KING LEAR: What's that?
KING LEAR: What services canst thou do?
KENT: I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious
tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message
bluntly: that which ordinary men are fit for, I am
qualified in; and the best of me is diligence.
KING LEAR: How old art thou?
KENT: Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor
so old to dote on her for any thing: I have years
on my back forty eight.
KING LEAR: Follow me; thou shalt serve me: if I like thee no
worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.
Dinner, ho, dinner! Where's my knave? my fool?
Go you, and call my fool hither.
[Exit an Attendant]
You, you, sirrah, where's my daughter?
OSWALD: So please you,--
KING LEAR: What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
[Exit a Knight]
Where's my fool, ho? I think the world's asleep.
How now! where's that mongrel?
Knight: He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.
KING LEAR: Why came not the slave back to me when I called him.
Knight: Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner, he would
KING LEAR: He would not!
Knight: My lord, I know not what the matter is; but, to my
judgment, your highness is not entertained with that
ceremonious affection as you were wont; there's a
great abatement of kindness appears as well in the
general dependants as in the duke himself also and
KING LEAR: Ha! sayest thou so?
Knight: I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, if I be mistaken;
for my duty cannot be silent when I think your
KING LEAR: Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception: I
have perceived a most faint neglect of late; which I
have rather blamed as mine own jealous curiosity
than as a very pretence and purpose of unkindness:
I will look further into't. But where's my fool? I
have not seen him this two days.
Knight: Since my young lady's going into France, sir, the
fool hath much pined away.
KING LEAR: No more of that; I have noted it well. Go you, and
tell my daughter I would speak with her.
[Exit an Attendant]
Go you, call hither my fool.
[Exit an Attendant]
O, you sir, you, come you hither, sir: who am I,
OSWALD: My lady's father.
KING LEAR: 'My lady's father'! my lord's knave: your
whoreson dog! you slave! you cur!
OSWALD: I am none of these, my lord; I beseech your pardon.
KING LEAR: Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
OSWALD: I'll not be struck, my lord.
KENT: Nor tripped neither, you base football player.
[Tripping up his heels]
KING LEAR: I thank thee, fellow; thou servest me, and I'll
KENT: Come, sir, arise, away! I'll teach you differences:
away, away! if you will measure your lubber's
length again, tarry: but away! go to; have you
[Pushes OSWALD out]
KING LEAR: Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee: there's
earnest of thy service.
[Giving KENT money]
Fool: Let me hire him too: here's my coxcomb.
[Offering KENT his cap]
KING LEAR: How now, my pretty knave! how dost thou?
Fool: Sirrah, you were best take my coxcomb.
KENT: Why, fool?
Fool: Why, for taking one's part that's out of favour:
nay, an thou canst not smile as the wind sits,
thou'lt catch cold shortly: there, take my coxcomb:
why, this fellow has banished two on's daughters,
and did the third a blessing against his will; if
thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.
How now, nuncle! Would I had two coxcombs and two daughters!
KING LEAR: Why, my boy?
Fool: If I gave them all my living, I'ld keep my coxcombs
myself. There's mine; beg another of thy daughters.
KING LEAR: Take heed, sirrah; the whip.
Fool: Truth's a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped
out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink.
KING LEAR: A pestilent gall to me!
Fool: Sirrah, I'll teach thee a speech.
KING LEAR: Do.
Fool: Mark it, nuncle:
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest;
Leave thy drink and thy whore,
And keep in-a-door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.
KENT: This is nothing, fool.
Fool: Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer; you
gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of
KING LEAR: Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.
Fool: [To KENT] Prithee, tell him, so much the rent of
his land comes to: he will not believe a fool.
KING LEAR: A bitter fool!
Fool: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a
bitter fool and a sweet fool?
KING LEAR: No, lad; teach me.
Fool: That lord that counsell'd thee
To give away thy land,
Come place him here by me,
Do thou for him stand:
The sweet and bitter fool
Will presently appear;
The one in motley here,
The other found out there.
KING LEAR: Dost thou call me fool, boy?
Fool: All thy other titles thou hast given away; that
thou wast born with.
KENT: This is not altogether fool, my lord.
Fool: No, faith, lords and great men will not let me; if
I had a monopoly out, they would have part on't:
and ladies too, they will not let me have all fool
to myself; they'll be snatching. Give me an egg,
nuncle, and I'll give thee two crowns.
KING LEAR: What two crowns shall they be?
Fool: Why, after I have cut the egg i' the middle, and eat
up the meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou
clovest thy crown i' the middle, and gavest away
both parts, thou borest thy ass on thy back o'er
the dirt: thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown,
when thou gavest thy golden one away. If I speak
like myself in this, let him be whipped that first
finds it so.
Fools had ne'er less wit in a year;
For wise men are grown foppish,
They know not how their wits to wear,
Their manners are so apish.
KING LEAR: When were you wont to be so full of songs, sirrah?
Fool: I have used it, nuncle, ever since thou madest thy
daughters thy mothers: for when thou gavest them
the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,
Then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep,
And go the fools among.
Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach
thy fool to lie: I would fain learn to lie.
KING LEAR: An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.
Fool: I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are:
they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt
have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am
whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any
kind o' thing than a fool: and yet I would not be
thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides,
and left nothing i' the middle: here comes one o'
KING LEAR: How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on?
Methinks you are too much of late i' the frown.
Fool: Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to
care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a
figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool,
thou art nothing.
Yes, forsooth, I will hold my tongue; so your face
bids me, though you say nothing. Mum, mum,
He that keeps nor crust nor crum,
Weary of all, shall want some.
[Pointing to KING LEAR]
That's a shealed peascod.
GONERIL: Not only, sir, this your all-licensed fool,
But other of your insolent retinue
Do hourly carp and quarrel; breaking forth
In rank and not-to-be endured riots. Sir,
I had thought, by making this well known unto you,
To have found a safe redress; but now grow fearful,
By what yourself too late have spoke and done.
That you protect this course, and put it on
By your allowance; which if you should, the fault
Would not 'scape censure, nor the redresses sleep,
Which, in the tender of a wholesome weal,
Might in their working do you that offence,
Which else were shame, that then necessity
Will call discreet proceeding.
Fool: For, you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it's had it head bit off by it young.
So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.
KING LEAR: Are you our daughter?
GONERIL: Come, sir,
I would you would make use of that good wisdom,
Whereof I know you are fraught; and put away
These dispositions, that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.
Fool: May not an ass know when the cart
draws the horse? Whoop, Jug! I love thee.
KING LEAR: Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied--Ha! waking? 'tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Fool: Lear's shadow.
KING LEAR: I would learn that; for, by the
marks of sovereignty, knowledge, and reason,
I should be false persuaded I had daughters.
Fool: Which they will make an obedient father.
KING LEAR: Your name, fair gentlewoman?
GONERIL: This admiration, sir, is much o' the savour
Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you
To understand my purposes aright:
As you are old and reverend, you should be wise.
Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires;
Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd and bold,
That this our court, infected with their manners,
Shows like a riotous inn: epicurism and lust
Make it more like a tavern or a brothel
Than a graced palace. The shame itself doth speak
For instant remedy: be then desired
By her, that else will take the thing she begs,
A little to disquantity your train;
And the remainder, that shall still depend,
To be such men as may besort your age,
And know themselves and you.
KING LEAR: Darkness and devils!
Saddle my horses; call my train together:
Degenerate bastard! I'll not trouble thee.
Yet have I left a daughter.
GONERIL: You strike my people; and your disorder'd rabble
Make servants of their betters.
KING LEAR: Woe, that too late repents,--
O, sir, are you come?
Is it your will? Speak, sir. Prepare my horses.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous when thou show'st thee in a child
Than the sea-monster!
ALBANY: Pray, sir, be patient.
KING LEAR: [To GONERIL] Detested kite! thou liest.
My train are men of choice and rarest parts,
That all particulars of duty know,
And in the most exact regard support
The worships of their name. O most small fault,
How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show!
That, like an engine, wrench'd my frame of nature
From the fix'd place; drew from heart all love,
And added to the gall. O Lear, Lear, Lear!
Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
[Striking his head]
And thy dear judgment out! Go, go, my people.
ALBANY: My lord, I am guiltless, as I am ignorant
Of what hath moved you.
KING LEAR: It may be so, my lord.
Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase;
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away, away!
ALBANY: Now, gods that we adore, whereof comes this?
GONERIL: Never afflict yourself to know the cause;
But let his disposition have that scope
That dotage gives it.
[Re-enter KING LEAR]
KING LEAR: What, fifty of my followers at a clap!
Within a fortnight!
ALBANY: What's the matter, sir?
KING LEAR: I'll tell thee:
Life and death! I am ashamed
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus;
That these hot tears, which break from me perforce,
Should make thee worth them. Blasts and fogs upon thee!
The untented woundings of a father's curse
Pierce every sense about thee! Old fond eyes,
Beweep this cause again, I'll pluck ye out,
And cast you, with the waters that you lose,
To temper clay. Yea, it is come to this?
Let is be so: yet have I left a daughter,
Who, I am sure, is kind and comfortable:
When she shall hear this of thee, with her nails
She'll flay thy wolvish visage. Thou shalt find
That I'll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off for ever: thou shalt,
I warrant thee.
[Exeunt KING LEAR, KENT, and Attendants]
GONERIL: Do you mark that, my lord?
ALBANY: I cannot be so partial, Goneril,
To the great love I bear you,--
GONERIL: Pray you, content. What, Oswald, ho!
[To the Fool]
You, sir, more knave than fool, after your master.
Fool: Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool
A fox, when one has caught her,
And such a daughter,
Should sure to the slaughter,
If my cap would buy a halter:
So the fool follows after.
GONERIL: This man hath had good counsel:--a hundred knights!
'Tis politic and safe to let him keep
At point a hundred knights: yes, that, on every dream,
Each buzz, each fancy, each complaint, dislike,
He may enguard his dotage with their powers,
And hold our lives in mercy. Oswald, I say!
ALBANY: Well, you may fear too far.
GONERIL: Safer than trust too far:
Let me still take away the harms I fear,
Not fear still to be taken: I know his heart.
What he hath utter'd I have writ my sister
If she sustain him and his hundred knights
When I have show'd the unfitness,--
How now, Oswald!
What, have you writ that letter to my sister?
OSWALD: Yes, madam.
GONERIL: Take you some company, and away to horse:
Inform her full of my particular fear;
And thereto add such reasons of your own
As may compact it more. Get you gone;
And hasten your return.
No, no, my lord,
This milky gentleness and course of yours
Though I condemn not, yet, under pardon,
You are much more attask'd for want of wisdom
Than praised for harmful mildness.
ALBANY: How far your eyes may pierce I can not tell:
Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
GONERIL: Nay, then--
ALBANY: Well, well; the event.